Saudi Arabia’s biggest celebration of motor racing returns with Formula E back at Ad Diriyah

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Black Eyed Peas in concert at Ad Diriyah. (Supplied)
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David Guetta thrilled fans in Ad Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
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Saudis flocked the 2018 'Saudia' Ad Diriyah E-Prix. (Supplied)
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Thrilling track action at the ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix last year. (Supplied)
Updated 25 June 2019

Saudi Arabia’s biggest celebration of motor racing returns with Formula E back at Ad Diriyah

  • The event will take place on Nov. 22 and 23
  • Two major races will take place in this year’s E-Prix, which made its Middle East debut in the Kingdom last year

RIYADH: This year’s Formula E season will kick off with a doubleheader in Ad Diriyah in November, backed by a huge festival of off-track action, music, culture and heritage.

The 2019 “Saudia” Ad Diriyah E-Prix promises to eclipse the inaugural 2018 edition, with two races, instead of one, being staged at the stunning UNESCO world heritage site of Ad Diriyah, and with crowds of up to 100,000 expected to attend.

Last year’s sell-out E-Prix featured music icons such as David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, One Republic and the Black-Eyed Peas, performing as part of the racing championship’s debut in the Middle East.

2019 will see Porsche and Mercedes competing for the first time, boosting the number of cars on the track. Plus, Ad Diriyah will be ready to welcome even more international tourists, after the surrounding At-Turaif district finalizes its ambitious development program.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), said: “Formula E’s arrival in the Kingdom was a watershed moment for us, one that thousands witnessed together.

“The 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix excited our nation through its exhilarating action, heroes and entertainment. Thanks to the ambitions of Vision 2030, it was the biggest festival of sport, music and culture the Kingdom has ever seen.

“This year we look forward to igniting an even bigger season of motor racing for Formula E, to welcome even more international visitors, and to create another unforgettable moment for our people.”

In a recent interview with the UAE’s The National newspaper, DJ David Guetta hailed the 2018 event, which included the country’s first unsegregated concerts.

“I’m really proud that I’ve done this. There is obviously a very big effort in Saudi to open to music and to artists. And as an artist, I play for the people and the people were obviously so happy,” he said.

“It was incredible to see men and women dancing and letting go of everything. It was a great honor for me to be part of this.”

Last year saw travelers from 80 different countries flock to the event, taking advantage of the first-ever 30-day tourism visas issued under the new online Sharek immigration system. For 2019 the process has been enhanced to make visiting the Kingdom even easier.

Second staging

The 2019 E-Prix will be the second of a 10-year partnership between Formula E, the GSA and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). The event will be staged again by promoter CBX, which successfully created the racetrack and venue in the heart of the heritage site.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, president of SAMF, said: “In 2018 the track proved itself a world-class venue for motorsport, hailed by racers as one of the most exiting they have faced.

“This year sees even more teams enter the championship, with Porsche and Mercedes entering the fray. Last year Ad Diriyah was the launchpad for the new ‘Gen 2’ race cars and the exciting ‘Attack Zone’ innovation. This year will be the first time drivers will have an additional 10 kilowatts (kW) of power available when using the ‘Attack Mode,’ rising from 225kW to 235kW.

“Add to that, a double header — two races instead of one — with a total of 24 cars competing. This will fire up Saudi Arabia’s passion for motorsports, and we are ready to welcome Formula E back.”

 


Saudi-born tennis players to battle it out as part of Diriyah Tennis Cup

Updated 10 December 2019

Saudi-born tennis players to battle it out as part of Diriyah Tennis Cup

  • Michael Mmoh of USA and Ammar Al-Haqbani of Saudi Arabia to play
  • Both Saudi-born players will feature on the same court that will host big name global superstars

RIYADH: Two of the most exciting Saudi-born tennis stars will go head-to-head when in a showpiece exhibition match as part of Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco.

Michael Mmoh (USA) and Ammar Al-Haqbani (KSA) – both 21 – will compete in front of an eager home crowd ahead of the final match of the $3 million tournament that has attracted eight of the world’s best players and the eyes of world tennis.

The special exhibition match will take place at 2pm Saturday, December 14th at the Diriyah Arena ahead of the final’s day of the Kingdom’s inaugural international tennis event.  

Both Saudi-born players will feature on the same court that will host big name global superstars, including three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka, big-hitting US champion John Isner, and 2019’s most exciting breakthrough player, Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

American Michael Mmoh said: “I can’t wait to be coming back to Saudi Arabia and play in front of the local fans. It’s going to be a very special experience for me. 

“Having some of the best players in the world coming to the Kingdom can really inspire new fans to pick up a racquet and get on a court for the first time and play this great game.”

Ammar echoed that view, saying: “The Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco will have a significant impact on tennis in Saudi, especially for local tennis lovers and young talents who want to be professionals.

“Watching closely as these big names compete at the Diriyah Arena will be a huge inspiration for them to work more and build their professional path  in order to compete on the global stage in the future.”

Named after basketball icon Michael Jordan, Michael Mmoh was born in Riyadh; his father Tony – who peaked at world number 105 – Nigerian, who was a former Saudi-Arabian Davis Cup captain, and his mother from Ireland but an Australian citizen. When leaving the Kingdom aged 13, Michael’s first big move within the tennis world was, when he enrolled in the prestigious IMG Academy student-athlete school in Bradenton (Florida).

That decision and the hard work that followed paid off, with Michael climbing his way to world number two in the junior rankings. By 2018, he had broken into the Top 100 men’s players worldwide. Injury hampered his 2019, but it’s a year he hopes to end with a bang at Ad Diriyah as he closes back in on the Top 100 and seeks to add to his sixth ATP Challenger Tour titles in 2020.

His opponent Ammar Haqbani has followed just as interesting a path. One of three tennis-playing children of US-based Saudi diplomat Faleh Haqbani, Ammar started his tennis career aged five years old. He participated in his first United States Tennis Association (USTA) competition three years later, later scaling the heights to become the seventh best player on the USTA’s Mid-Atlantic section standings, and 135th globally in the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) ranking.

Ammar is a leader in the Saudi national team in the Davis Cup since 2015 and has been a dominant figure in GCC regional tournaments for seven years. He was also the first Saudi Arabian player to win a gold medal in an international tennis competition.

Held on the outskirts of Riyadh, the three-day Diriyah Cup tournament will welcome eight leading ATP players: Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland), John Isner (USA), Daniil Medvedev (Russia), David Goffin (Belgium), the Frenchmen Gaël Monfils and Lucas Pouille (France), Fabio Fognini (Italy), and Jan-Lennard Struff from Germany.

The Cup is one of several sporting spectacles taking place as part of the Kingdom’s 2019 Diriyah Season festival, which has already featured the Clash of the Dunes heavyweight boxing bout between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz.

Its 15,000-seater venue is set upon the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ad Diriyah, where the ancient mud-wall city will offer a breath-taking backdrop for three-days of hard-court tennis.