Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal welcomes return of Formula E as Saudi embraces new era of motorsports

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal welcomes return of Formula E as Saudi embraces new era of motorsports
Saudi Arabia is looking forward to welcoming Formula E back to the Kingdom for a third time. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal welcomes return of Formula E as Saudi embraces new era of motorsports

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal welcomes return of Formula E as Saudi embraces new era of motorsports
  • The 2021 Diriyah E-Prix races will take place at night on Feb. 26 and 27
  • It is yet to be decided what access fans will be given - if any - to these events

DUBAI: After a year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is already shaping up to be a momentous one for motorsports fans in Saudi Arabia.

The new year was only three days old when the Dakar Rally kicked into gear through Saudi Arabia’s desert terrain, and Dec. 5 has been slated as the day Formula 1 comes to the Kingdom with the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah. In between, Formula E is set for a third edition in February.

For the Saudi authorities and organizers, the hosting of these events represents a welcome return as the nation, and the world, takes small steps to add some familiarity to an otherwise unpredictable world.

“I am delighted to welcome the Dakar Rally back to the Kingdom for a second year running. We are undoubtedly living through challenging times and hosting the largest off-road endurance race in the world hasn’t been without its difficulties,” said Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, President, Saudi Arabian Motor Federation.

“The 2021 instalment has been full of excitement and adrenaline and is the perfect start to a busy year for motorsport in Saudi. There is much to be excited about for fans of motorsport here in the Kingdom, not least the return of the Diriyah E-Prix next month.”

In 2018, the inaugural Diriyah E-Prix marked Saudi Arabia’s first foray into major international motorsport competitions, and a year later the event became the Middle East’s first double-header. This year, it will be the first ever night race for the all-electric ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. 

“Ultimately, our vision is to create a legacy that will connect with the future audience and inspire the community over the next 10 years towards Vision 2030 and beyond,” Prince Khalid added.

“For us, Formula E is an opportunity to be a competitive platform to test and develop road relevant technologies, help to refine the design and functionality of electric vehicle components and accelerate the transition and uptake of clean transportation on a global scale. Saudis have a true burning passion for motorsport and have brought that to each of our last two E-Prix weekends. We can’t wait to welcome them back for 2021 and are counting down the days.”

Whether fans will be present at Diriyah, and in what numbers, will depend on the latest health safety precautions that will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

“We are currently finalizing multiple measures to ensure the safety of drivers, spectators and event staff members across the entirety of the race weekend,” said Prince Khalid.

“We will be implementing a bubble system that will require negative COVID-19 tests and restrict contact between different parties. These procedures will be in line with the global health and safety protocols and will no doubt pave the way for further high-profile events heading for the Kingdom later this year.”

One thing, however, seems certain. With the races taking place at night, they are set to look spectacular even for those watching on the small screen.

“We are delighted to host Formula E’s first ever night races and give fans something they haven’t witnessed before,” Prince Khalid said.

“The team has developed an extensive lighting system for achieving near-daylight conditions at night to provide a safe environment for drivers on the racetrack, even at high speeds. 

Prince Khalid believes there are many factors that have driven the country to the front of the grid when it comes to hosting motor sporting events, the most important being the passion of the Saudi people themselves.

“Saudis come alive in the face of elite level competition, creating a spectacle that allows us to attract many of the world’s biggest events here. Sporting powerhouses like Formula E and Formula 1 see that passion and how it aligns with their own goals, making us an ideal fit,” he said.

“We’re also blessed with a young, digitally-engaged population, who watch live sport from around the world and play a key role in the online conversation around it. Sport is a truly global passion and Saudis play an active part in that.”

Prince Khalid says that, under Vision 2030, the government is encouraging a new generation of Saudis to get involved in sport, and he has called on motorsports fans to embrace these high-profile events, starting from February.

“They can firstly secure their seats to watch both races live and we will be making an announcement on ticket sales soon,” he said, adding the races will be broadcast live on KSA Sports.

As the Dakar Rally concludes tomorrow along the shores of the Red Sea, eyes will quickly turn towards Diriyah and Formula E before the long countdown begins towards the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the end of the year. As head of SAMF, Prince Khaled couldn’t be prouder. 

“These major international events are the result of a lot of hard work and visionary leadership, but are born out of our Kingdom’s deep-rooted love for motorsports and racing, which is the very reason they turn out to be hugely successful,” he said. “I don’t think many people would have imagined even as recently as only five or 10 years ago that Saudi Arabia would one day host a Dakar Rally, Formula E or Formula 1 race weekend. Now, in 2021, we’re hosting all three.”


Saudi showjumpers riding high

Saudi showjumpers riding high
With SR130,000 ($34,600) in cash prizes, the three-day competition, held without spectators due to the coronavirus restrictions, has been organized by the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation (SAEF) in partnership with the Ministry of National Guard and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 46 min 50 sec ago

Saudi showjumpers riding high

Saudi showjumpers riding high
  • Elite riders saddle up for $34,600 National Guard Ministry cup at Jeddah Trio Ranch

JEDDAH: The Saudi National Guard Ministry’s showjumping cup competition kicked off on Thursday at the Jeddah Trio Ranch, with Abdullah Al-Sharbatly and Dalma Malhas leading a top-class equestrian lineup.

With SR130,000 ($34,600) in cash prizes, the three-day competition, held without spectators due to the coronavirus restrictions, has been organized by the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation (SAEF) in partnership with the Ministry of National Guard and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority.
The competition consists of nine rounds, with three rounds each day. About 130 horses were registered in the competition. The fences were set at 1.15m for the small grade where about 80 riders competed on the first day.
Almost 40 equestrians took part in the 1.20m-1.25m medium grade. Another 20 competitors battled in the 1.30m-1.35m grade on the first day of competition.
“We have seven competitions under the names of seven ministries. After good international and Olympic results, support has doubled for equestrian sports, particularly showjumping,” a member of the SAEF technical committee, Ali Al-Sahli, told Arab News.
One rider, Naif Al-Sudairi, said that equestrianism in Saudi Arabia is making rapid advances on many levels.
“With Saudi Vision 2030, we now have more tournaments in all regions of the country, and the competition has heated up,” he told Arab News. “This can motivate the riders to improve and show our best in the run-up to international competitions.”
He added that he is looking forward to representing Saudi Arabia in the global equestrian events.

First day
In the small round on the first day of the competition, Khaled Al-Hady came first with 20 points. His horse, Doberlina Van de Kapel, came second with 18 points. Mohammed Hassan Al-Hadi was ranked third with 16 points, while Princess Al-Anoud Al-Saud secured fourth place with 14 points, and Waleed Al-Ghamdi was fifth with 12 points. Faisal Al-Ouda and Abdul Aziz Al-Hamazani came sixth and seventh, respectively.
In the medium class, Mohammed Al-Malki topped the ranking with 30 points followed by Khalid Al-Mobty, who collected 28 points. Badr Al-Fard came third with 26 points, and Abdullah Al-Sheikh was fourth with 24 points. Ahmed Bakarman came fifth with 22 points.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The competition consists of nine rounds, with three rounds each day.

• The fences were set at 1.15m for the small grade where about 80 riders competed on the first day.

• Almost 40 equestrians took part in the 1.20m-1.25m medium grade.

• Another 20 competitors battled in the 1.30m-1.35m grade on the first day of competition.

Malhas, who secured an individual bronze at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, after completing the round in 38 seconds without a single penalty, came ninth with 14 points. She is also the first Saudi female equestrian to take part in the individual hurdles at the 2018 World Equestrian Championship held in the US city of Tryon.


In the big round, Al-Sharbatly, who won the individual silver medal at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games, came first with 40 points, followed by Abed Sanosy with 38 points. Fahad Al-Ghamdi was third with 36 points, while Badr Al-Fard was fourth with 34 points, and Talal Al-Juaid came fifth with 32 points. Sultan Al-Qarza’e and Khaled Al-Mobty came sixth and seventh, respectively.

Riders’ journey
Muneer Al-Ayoubi, who has been riding for over 20 years, told Arab News that showjumping requires understanding between rider and horse.
“I have been participating in showjumping (activities) for more than two years. It is the most difficult type of horse-riding activities,” he said. “Unlike horse racing and endurance riding, contestants have to keep training their horses. The rider and the horse should appear as if they were one soul.”
Arwa Mutabagani, owner and managing director of Jeddah Trio Ranch, said that they have riders of different levels from all over Saudi Arabia.
Speaking about the preparation to host the competition, Mutabagani said: “The horses arrive a couple of days before the competition, so we have to be ready. On-site, we have 150 horses participating, so we have different locations to host all these numbers. We made the warm-up arena ready for the riders to prepare their horses for the show.”
An Italian equestrian expert was brought in to handle the timing and ensure there are no complaints, she said. Mutabagani said that she is training a number of female riders to become champions. Family support is essential in this type of sport, she added.
“To reach a top position, dedication, family and team support, and sacrifices are all elements that should go together. You also have to have a good instructor, a good horse, and you have to have the right competition that can help you move to higher levels,” she said.
She mentioned her daughter, Dalma Malhas, as an example, saying: “When she was competing, she was young and spent weekends at the shows and not with her peers. So, you have to sacrifice being a normal teenager to reach the top.”
Meanwhile, Mohrah Faisal, a female equestrian who took part in the small round, said that she is grateful to SAEF for supporting female riders. “We did not have such an opportunity in the past. Now I hope I can represent the Kingdom at the Olympics.”
She said that her family believed in her passion for equestrianism once they saw her succeeding in many local competitions.
Wafa Hasson, another Saudi female rider, said she competed in the UAE two years ago after SAEF gave women riders the green light, which helped them improve.
Female riders are still looking for opportunities to learn. “I want to go as far as I can. I don’t really have a limit, I just want to see what I can achieve and I will do my best to achieve it.”
Ghalia Al-Musa, another participant, said that she has been riding for 13 years, and her mother is still her biggest supporter.
“SAEF allowed female riders to compete along with male riders in 2019, and it was good news for all female riders. In the same year, SAEF selected the best female riders to represent Saudi Arabia in the Arab Women Sports Tournament in Sharjah, UAE. We came second as a team and I came fourth as an individual,” she told Arab News.
Al-Musa also hopes to represent Saudi Arabia in international events, including the Olympics.
Heavy rain in Jeddah on Friday forced the organizing committee of the National Guard showjumping cup to combine the second and third day of competition on Saturday (10 a.m. to 11 p.m.) when the competition will come  to an end.