Education and opportunity will grow from seeds planted at Ad Diriyah

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Faisal, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation. — Courtesy: The General Sports Authority media office

Riyadh — The 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix at the stunning UNESCO heritage site of Ad Diriyah is almost here and will be the biggest festival of racing action, culture, music and entertainment the Kingdom has ever seen.

But its legacy will live beyond the three days of December 13 to 15. Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Faisal, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, explains why:

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.

Formula E is more than just a race to be the best – its mission is to be a competitive platform to test and develop road relevant technologies, it helps to refine the design and functionality of electric vehicle components and it wants to accelerate the transition and uptake of clean transportation on a global scale.

We embrace this vision and we will be working closely with the Championship to inspire the next generation of technicians and engineers within Saudi Arabia. Children who watch this exciting first race should be working in the industry over the course of our next decade together. Ideally, speaking selfishly as the head of the Saudi motorsport federation, they’ll be competing and winning for the pride of Saudi Arabia on the track too.

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?

Our electric dream is young here in Saudi, but we are invested and we are investing.

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 are invested also in safer driving for all in Saudi Arabia. That is why we wholeheartedly support the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign of the Federation Internationale De L’Automobile.

In fact, there could not be a better time for this message to come to Saudi Arabia as a new generation of drivers takes to our roads. Good habits encouraged today will ensure our future will be a safer one for all behind the wheel.

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.

The race will be totally unique and in technical terms will be another step change. For the championship we are creating the world’s first four-storey semi-permanent structure to house teams and engineering crews. And it is our intention that many young minds in Saudi Arabia will see and share in the amazing knowledge and skills that will be on display there during the Ad Diriyah E Prix.

Where we stand now will be transformed too, in no small part thanks to the energy and drive given to us under Vision 2030 and Crown Prince Muhamad Bin Salman. Our team spirit will see the dream realised with stands for thousands of fans from Saudi Arabia and from across the world. This historic site will see entertainment, concerts, food and beverage outlets from simple to world-class fine dining. This will be an event for all with packages to suit all budgets.

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.