Saudi Arabia is perfect location for Formula E’s first-ever night race, says promoter

Boutagy said that CBX works closely with the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and the Ministry of Sports to organize what is now established as an annual fixture on the international racing calendar. (Supplied)
Boutagy said that CBX works closely with the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and the Ministry of Sports to organize what is now established as an annual fixture on the international racing calendar. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 January 2021

Saudi Arabia is perfect location for Formula E’s first-ever night race, says promoter

Saudi Arabia is perfect location for Formula E’s first-ever night race, says promoter
  • For the third year in a row, the championship season will begin in Diriyah, with two races taking place on Feb. 26 and 27
  • The event features electric cars and sustainability is a key consideration; the track lighting will be powered by renewable energy

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is the perfect location for the first night races in FIA Formula E history, according to Carlo Boutagy, the CEO of CBX, official promoter of the Diriyah E-Prix.

It comes as Formula E marks its first season as an official FIA World Championship, which is a significant and exciting step for the sport, he added.

The upcoming Formula E season, its seventh, is the third in a row to get underway in the Kingdom. As was the case in season six it will begin with a doubleheader of races in Diriyah, on Feb 26 and 27.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Boutagy said that CBX works closely with the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) and the Ministry of Sports to organize what is now established as an annual fixture on the international racing calendar.

He revealed that the idea of a night race was suggested by Saudi Minister of Sports Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al Faisal. Boutagy said it had not been tried before in Formula E but is a popular development in many other sports and events.

The cars in Formula E are powered by electricity, and it was previously announced that the Diriyah night races will be lit by low-consumption LED technology powered by fully renewable energy sources.

Boutagy said that not only is the event a real first for the sport, but that hosting it in such a sustainable way complements Saudi aspirations for sustainability, which are a key element of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development plan.

“We feel extremely honored to be working with Formula E and other key stakeholders to stage this historic event,” he added.

He said that collaboration is important to realize the vision of hosting the large-scale international event, not least because it is the only night race of the season, which creates many unique challenges.

In particular Boutagy praised SAMF for its cooperation, but added that organizing such an event involves a huge amount of teamwork among multiple partners, from the federation and Formula E to the delivery team on the ground and the large number of marshals and volunteers who will work at the event during the race weekend.

“It can be easy to underestimate just how many people are involved in staging an international event on this level,” he added. “We become one team with one unified goal.”

Now that the Diriyah E-Prix is an established part of the Formula E season, the challenge is to innovate and improve, said Boutagy.

“Every year we work closely with the Ministry of Sports and SAMF to challenge ourselves to bring something new to our event, to Formula E and, most importantly, to our fans — and our aim is to go bigger and better each year,” he said.

In season five for example, the first year that Formula E came to Diriyah, CBX hosted a post-race “rookie test” that featured a number of female drivers. It also organized the first major post-race concert in the country.

Season six was bigger yet, as the event expanded to two days and two races. The double-header format continues this season, with the added innovation of the night races and lights powered by renewable energy.

“We are quite literally shining a light on sustainability,” Boutagy added. “We are already excited about what we will bring to our fans in season eight.”

The growing popularity and success of the Diriyah E-Prix naturally raises the question of whether other countries in the region might be given the chance to host Formula E races. Boutagy said that this will be a decision for the Formula E authorities and other promoters but added: “I am confident that once they see the outcome of this race they will be keen to roll it out in further locations.”

He also noted that the night-race concept is particularly well suited to Saudi Arabia and other potential race venues in the Middle East.

“We tend to live at night due to the heat during the day, so we expect to see record attendances for our event in the coming years,” said Boutagy.

“Of course, we would not want to see every race in the calendar becoming a night race, as the uniqueness of the event is partly what makes it so special. But we certainly look forward to hosting the night race in Saudi Arabia for years to come — and we promise our fans a truly spectacular event.”


DeChambeau: Power gives him advantage for Saudi International

DeChambeau: Power gives him advantage for Saudi International
Updated 19 January 2021

DeChambeau: Power gives him advantage for Saudi International

DeChambeau: Power gives him advantage for Saudi International
  • Physically transformed 2020 US Open champion relishing head-to-head with World No. 1 Dustin Johnson

JEDDAH: Big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau believes the length of Royal Greens Golf & Country Club’s tee-to-green puts him in prime position to pip world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and claim victory at next month’s Saudi International.

The 2020 US Open champion, famed worldwide for his colossal tee shots, the longest in Tour history, is King Abdullah Economic City-bound for his second crack at taking the Saudi crown that alluded him in 2019.

He was pipped to the title by Johnson, who returns alongside the biggest names in golf for the third annual hosting of the European Tour event next month.

However, 27-year-old DeChambeau heads to the Kingdom a different golfer this year, having not only transformed his physique and game to out-drive all other professional players, but as a Major champion, after clinching the US Open back in September.

He believes these two factors could prove critical in his quest for first place in two weeks’ time.

He said: “I feel like I have an even better advantage on the golf course because it is a bit of a bomber’s paradise, and I love that opportunity.

“When I played there, I finished sixth. I have a lot of great memories about the golf course and the character of the holes and being on the Red Sea, it was pretty unique and something that I want to experience again.

“I will tell you, though, that hitting it far there will be an advantage with some of the par 5s and I think it will fit me well, a lot better than the other golf courses.”

Much of the build-up around November’s delayed hosting of the Masters was focused on DeChambeau and how the Augusta course suited his big-hitting style of play.

However, it was to be his 2018 Ryder Cup teammate Johnson who eventually came out on top, further cementing his position as the world’s best. The fact that he will be teeing off against “DJ” next month is something that only adds to the excitement for DeChambeau, as he continues on his own mission to one day achieve top spot in World Golf rankings.

“Having a world No. 1 playing puts a little fire in my belly,” said DeChambeau. “I want to go over there and play and beat him. I was fortunate enough to clip him by one or two in Kapalua and if I keep doing that, if I keep beating him in every event, eventually the tables will turn.”

In his quest to be the world’s best, DeChambeau has famously reworked his entire game — and physique. In 2020 alone he gained 40 pounds to build his strength, and as a result extended his length off the tee by anywhere from 30 to 70 yards.

Although the tournament will be held without fans due to coronavirus disease restrictions, it will be shown live on KSA Sports, and DeChambeau is gearing up to show the Kingdom exactly what he has been working towards.