Events like Formula E can turn Saudi Arabia into global sporting hub: DGDA CEO Jerry Inzerillo

Jerry Inzerillo, Diriyah Gate Development Authority CEO, said he hopes to continue attracting world class sporting events such as Formula E to Saudi Arabia. (Supplied/DGDA)
Updated 22 November 2019

Events like Formula E can turn Saudi Arabia into global sporting hub: DGDA CEO Jerry Inzerillo

  • Plans for Diriyah as tourist destination are closely aligned with Saudi leadership’s Vision 2030
  • This year’s edition of Diriyah Season — of which Formula E forms a part — sees the venue hosting four major international sporting events

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia, with the help of locations like Diriyah, can become a global sporting hub in the future, according to the CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA).
Speaking ahead of the new season of Formula E in Diriyah on Nov. 22-23 — the motor racing series featuring battery powered cars — Jerry Inzerillo said he hopes to continue attracting world class sporting events to Saudi Arabia.
“If the popularity of ticket sales — such as those for ‘Clash on the Dunes’ on December 7 — are anything to go by, we sold all 15,000 tickets in 36 hours, we will be successful in our mission,” he said.
“Diriyah is a very special place, and an emotional one. The spectacular setting, with the backdrop of UNESCO Heritage Site At Turaif, and Salwa Palace give all events a very unique quality and this definitely sets us apart from more modern stadiums and urban venues,” he added.
Inzerillo said the plans for Diriyah as a tourist destination are closely aligned with the Saudi leadership’s Vision 2030 for tourism in the Kingdom.
“The E-visa has opened up the Kingdom to many new visitors, and we have been overwhelmed by the number of applications over the past month.
“We are aiming to attract 27 million visitors per year by 2030 – 20 million from Saudi Arabia and the rest from overseas.
“With a deep-rooted and rich history, cultural elements will form the glue of Diriyah. We will open eight new museums, which will sit alongside vibrant residential areas, world-class hotels and a huge number of entertainment and sports projects including an Aman resort and a Greg Norman championship golf course. In total, we are aiming for 90+ historical activities and 86 prioritized assets,” he said.
This year’s edition of Diriyah Season — of which Formula E forms a part — sees the venue hosting four major international sporting events, something that has been a challenging, but exciting, project for Inzerillo.
“We are including a strong element of entertainment in all that we do. I am very grateful to my talented team, who are working around the clock to ensure that all our planned events – from the Formula E, the heavyweight boxing championship and the five weeks of Diriyah Season — are delivered without a glitch,” he said.
The DGDA CEO is also envisaging this year’s Formula E weekend will surpass the success of last year’s event.
“We welcomed 40,000 people to Formula E last year, and this year will far exceed that number. We learned from last year and have successfully hosted many major events since then, so are confident we are race ready.
“As with everything we do, we are aiming for bigger and better this year. Watch this space,” he said.
Inzerillo believes the hosting of high profile events such as Formula E can spread a new image of the Kingdom to the world.
“I hope that these events will show the world that Saudi Arabia has taken massive and quick strides in opening up its heritage and its stories to the world.
“It is wonderful to me to be able to start to present a new story for Saudi, to continue to build on those that they have been told for years. Hosting all of these great sporting events also plays to the Vision 2030 — and what better place to have them all than in the birthplace of the Kingdom,” he said.
While his focus has partly been on attracting regional and global visitors to the Kingdom for events like Formula E, Inzerillo’s plans also include enticing Saudi citizens as well.
“Diriyah is a place for the Saudi people, created by Saudi hands, by bringing awareness and exposure to the stories around Diriyah, we are reconnecting Saudis to their culture and heritage, to find, or to reacquaint themselves with their identity.
“We are also proud to be able to tell a new story, one of openness, vibrancy and generosity. And of course, the weekend will be fun, memorable and filled with world-class entertainment.”

New Sharqiya Baja to take place Thursday

Updated 12 December 2019

New Sharqiya Baja to take place Thursday

ALKHOBAR: The new Sharqiya Baja 2019, the fifth and final round of the inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, will take place at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday with a timed super special stage of 4.32 km. 

Ahead of a field of 51 cars, nine NUTVs, 10 motorcycles, 23 quads and one truck will be two further days of competitive action through the deserts of the Eastern Province and 474.86 competitive kilometers in a compact route of 746.58 km. 

 Several international drivers, most notably Spaniard Carlos Sainz, Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach, Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Czech Miroslav Zapletal will use the opportunity to finalize their preparations for January’s Dakar Rally.

In contrast, the massive Saudi contingent is spread across several categories and sporting disciplines, and the series finale will decide the outcome of the drivers’ championship and the winner of the quad section.

 Saudi Arabia’s leading drivers, Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota Hilux) and Yasir Seaidan (X-raid Buggy), have fought a fascinating tussle for supremacy in the new series.

 Seaidan won the Aseer Rally opener and finished behind his rival at the Qassim Rally, the AlUla-Neom event and the Riyadh Rally. 

 The pair are now separated by just three points, heading into the showdown on Half Moon Bay.

An outright victory would give either driver the title, with 25 points awarded to the winner, 18 for second place and 15 for third. The two drivers, however, face strong opposition from a plethora of Saudi rivals. 

 ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossari is a distant third in the series in his Nissan Navara, and can confirm that position by staying ahead of Mutair Al-Shammeri, Khalid Al-Feraihi and Faris Al-Shammeri. 

 Salman Al-Shammeri has already clinched the T2 title by scoring maximum points in the category for series production cross-country vehicles in three of the four rallies. His closest challenger is Yousef Al-Suwaidi, winner of the T2 in the Qassim Rally.

 Saleh Al-Saif confirmed success in the T3 before the recent event in Riyadh, and tackled that rally in the NUTV class, while Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb have cruised to the T4 title in a Mercedes truck. 

Yousef Al-Dhaif has an unassailable lead over Fahad Al-Naim and Khalil and Majid Al-Tuwaijri in the NUTV Championship, but the latter trio will be battling to finish as runners-up in the popular category. Motorcycle honors have already gone to Mishal Alghuneim with Abdullah Al-Helal finishing the series in second place, but a host of riders still have a shot at claiming third overall.

Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi won the quad section at the Qassim and AlUla-Neom rallies, but a retirement in Riyadh has left the door open for Riyadh Al-Oraifan to snatch the title in the Eastern Province. He trails his fellow Yamaha rider by 21 points, with 25 available for the outright win.

 Several riders can still finish third, but Abdul Aziz Al-Shayban heads into the ceremonial start on Half Moon Bay leading Riyadh event-winner Sufiyan Al-Omar by six points. 

The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab. 

 The new Baja runs with the support of the SAMF, the General Sports Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia Outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

 The event is being considered as an official candidate for future inclusion in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.