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.”


Man Utd get better of Liverpool in five-goal thriller

Man Utd get better of Liverpool in five-goal thriller
Updated 25 January 2021

Man Utd get better of Liverpool in five-goal thriller

Man Utd get better of Liverpool in five-goal thriller
  • The English champions lost a league game at Anfield for the first time

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Bruno Fernandes’s stunning free-kick inflicted more misery on Liverpool as Manchester United progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a thrilling 3-2 win at Old Tafford on Sunday.

Both sides struggled to create chances in a cagey 0-0 draw when they met in the Premier League last weekend.

But there was no repeat of that caution in a wide-open contest that ended Liverpool’s hopes of a first domestic cup win under Jurgen Klopp for another season.

The English champions lost a league game at Anfield for the first time in nearly four years to Burnley on Thursday to fall six points behind United at the top of the table.

In response, Klopp named a strong side despite making five changes as Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino returned.

Liverpool’s only goals in their previous five games came against an Aston Villa youth team in the last round of the FA Cup after Dean Smith’s side were struck down by a coronavirus outbreak.

But shades of the side that stormed to a first league title in 30 years last season were restored even if Klopp’s wait for a first win at Old Trafford goes on.

Firmino and Salah combined perfectly for the opener on 18 minutes as the Brazilian’s pass opened up the United defense and the Egyptian provided a dinked finish over Dean Henderson.

United have made a habit of coming from behind to win this season and took just eight minutes to hit back.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed Fernandes a rare rest from the start, but still picked a side packed with firepower featuring Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba.

Rashford’s raking cross-field pass just evaded James Milner and Greenwood did not look like a striker lacking confidence as he fired past Alisson Becker for his first goal in 11 games.

A number of injuries to center-backs have disrupted Liverpool’s season with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez expected to miss the rest of the season, while Joel Matip has struggled to stay fit.

Klopp has been forced to field two midfielders in Jordan Henderson and Fabinho together at the heart of the defense in recent weeks and the performance of 19-year-old Rhys Williams showed why the German has been reluctant to rely on his young center-backs.

Williams failed to cut out Greenwood’s through ball for Rashford three minutes into the second half and the England international composed himself before slotting past the advancing Alisson.

This time, United’s momentum was short-lived as Milner should have levelled for Liverpool when he spooned a glorious chance over from close range, but quickly made amends by teeing up Salah to smash home his second just before the hour mark.

Both managers turned to their match winners off the bench for the final half-hour as Klopp first turned to Sadio Mane before Fernandes made his entrance.

Trent Alexander-Arnold stung the palms of Henderson, who then saved twice from Salah as Liverpool’s attack began to click back into gear.

But it was Fernandes who won the game with a brilliant free-kick 12 minutes from time.

This week will be the first anniversary of the Portuguese’s arrival from Sporting Lisbon that has transformed United’s fortunes.

A year ago, United trailed Liverpool by 30 points in the Premier League having played two games more.

The past seven days have shown they are now more than a match for their old rivals.

Fernandes’s strike was a worthy winner of a thrilling tie as he used Pogba to unsight Alisson and fired the ball low into the Brazilian’s left-hand corner.

United will face West Ham in the last 16 next month.