HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki AlFaisal Al Saud, Vice-Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, speaks about the biggest festival of Formula E racing action, culture, international music acts and entertainment Saudi Arabia has ever seen.
Why Formula E, and why now for Saudi Arabia?
Our ambitious new future is one built on social, economic and technological development and Formula E comes to Saudi at a pivotal time as progress plans are being implemented. The transformation includes a sustainable sports industry, one economic pillar which holds the keys to unlocking the country’s vast potential.
The Kingdom is innovating too, opening up new sectors for development from tourism to technology while sport and entertainment lie at the heart of the transformation. So, it’s very fitting as Formula E spans all these. That’s why we have a long-term partnership.
How important an event is this for the Kingdom?
This will be a festival that will unite and excite, both through the sporting action and the incredible line-up of culture and arts, entertainment and some of the world’s biggest names in music, David Guetta, OneRepublic, The Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab and Jason Derulo. We want to bring fans and families from around the world together here in Ad Diriyah.
This will be the first time Saudi Arabia has invited international fans to travel to the Kingdom, tell us more about that?
The Ad Diriyah E Prix will see fans from around the globe able to come to Saudi Arabia without restriction to watch this epic sporting and entertainment spectacle, with action on the track and global superstars performing on stage, through our new event visa platform called Sharek, with that your ticket is your visa.
To date, hundreds of international tourists have purchased their ticket at http://fiaformulae.com/Ad-Diriyah and secured their visa. We have travellers coming from 70 countries worldwide.
That global mix of race fans and adventurous tourists hail from Europe, Central and South America, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, including China, Japan and Singapore.
So far, the USA holds the top spot for the largest number of visa holders, followed by the United Kingdom, Russia and Germany.
Will this put Saudi Arabia on the global sporting map?
We recognize the power of sport more than ever and the potential for the nation to play an even bigger part on the world stage.
Formula E joins sporting powerhouses such as WWE, ATP Tennis and European Tour Golf who have forged long-term partnerships with the KSA as we seek to achieve our goals under Vision 2030.
This is the first time Formula E has been staged in the Middle East, but that’s not the only debut happening is it?
Formula E is a race of firsts, both for us and for the motorsport. It will be the first time the championship has been staged in the Middle East, the first time the teams compete in the Gen 2 car, the first-time women drive competitively in the Kingdom and the first-time fans from around the world can visit Saudi. With all these firsts come opportunities, a new car, new experiences and new ways for Saudi and motorsport to work together.
Is there a passion for racing in Saudi Arabia?
The passion for motorsport in the Kingdom runs deep, we love cars and now happily we can all love driving. I speak as one who was so swept up by that love, I became a professional racing driver and pursued my dreams on the track. That strong connection to the sport lives in the hearts of many fans in Saudi Arabia, young and old, male and female.
HRH Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Faisal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation talk about their passion and the importance of the 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix.
What do you think the impact of the ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix will be on Saudi Arabia?
Our staging of Formula E this year is the start of a legacy that over the next 10 years can inspire so much, from the sheer thrill of sport and the togetherness of sharing such moments as families, as fans and as a community, to the opportunity to reach beyond the track.
Over the course of the 10-year partnership with Formula E, Saudi Arabia is signaling its commitment to the future of sustainable technology. Education and opportunity will grow from the seeds planted here in Ad Diriyah. This will change lives and will change perceptions, both for the sport and of Saudi Arabia.
Formula E is all about electric cars, but Saudi Arabia doesn’t have this yet in the Kingdom, so why the partnership?
In January, our Saudi Electric Company signed a deal with Nissan, the Tokyo Electricity Holding Company, and Takawaka Toco, to develop charging stations for Saudi Arabia. Our authorities are well-advanced too with regulation for licensing electric vehicles to drive on our roads.
And very recently, our Public Investment Fund (PIF) invested with Lucid, a US-based electric car maker, as well as owning a stake in Tesla. So, we are putting our money where our mouths are. You will see electric vehicles in Saudi Arabia in the very near future.
Alongside our investment in cleaner driving, we have invested also in safer driving for all in Saudi Arabia.
A future-facing motorsport set in a truly historic setting, tell us more about the venue, Ad Diriyah and the technical aspects of hosting this race?
The seeds planted in Ad Diriyah are already growing, the track is taking shape, all with the approval of UNESCO, it is progress and preservation in one. For us, this stunning location is a jewel and our country’s roots run deep here, and we are excited to share this treasure with the world.
This is year one but we will set the bar high, we want all who come to be amazed by what they see. We are determined that fans and families will be amazed, they will be entertained, and they will be happy they were part of the first step in our journey with Formula E.
What does this mean to you, as the head of the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation?
This event marks an evolution in racing in the Kingdom. The passion is deep, from karting to rallying, it has grown. This year saw fans watch the epic Race of Champions, staged in Saudi Arabia for the first time at the King Fahd International Stadium here in Riyadh in February – that was the first time in the event’s 30-year history that it had taken place in the Middle East.
The Ad Diriyah E Prix is another milestone in our burgeoning motorsports industry in the Kingdom. And as the drivers accelerate up the longest stretch of any track in Formula E so will our dreams for motorsport accelerate.
We truly are racing into the future with Vision 2030.