DUBAI: The third Diriyah E-Prix starting on Feb. 26 near Riyadh will feature the electric-car championship’s first-ever night race as the 2021 Formula E season gets underway.
Winding through the ancient streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Diriyah, the race has already delivered on-track thrills in each of its two previous race weekends.
In the 2018-19 season, Antonio Felix da Costa of Portugal became the Diriyah E-Prix’s first-ever winner. The following season’s double-header produced two British winners, Sam Bird and Alexander Sims.
For the organizers, this year’s races maintain the commitment to sustainability.
“Formula E is one of the fastest-growing spectator sports in the world,” said Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF).
“We are driven by the high-octane thrill of each and every race, the competitive nature of each season, the unique and individual personalities of the drivers, and the fact Formula E does things differently — it is a sport that is all about the new and taking a fresh approach. That is core to Formula E, with its commitment to sustainable racing and promoting electric mobility for a better, cleaner future.”
The season-opening 2021 Diriyah E-Prix will be held under eco-friendly LED technology lighting, with the two night races being the first of their kind in Formula E as 12 teams and 24 drivers take to the 2.495 km street circuit.
Prince Khalid added that putting on an environmentally aware event aligns with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and modern Saudi Arabia.
“As a nation, we are always looking to innovate, and next weekend’s night races are part of that,” he said. “To race around the ancient ruins of Diriyah in the most modern of electric cars, under revolutionary, sustainable LED lighting with the world watching is testament to our wider ambitions for 2030 and beyond. Both races promise to be spectacles unlike any other.”
This will be the second time the Saudi leg of the Formula E season kicks off the race calendar. It will be followed by race weekends across the world, held in cities including Rome, Monaco, Marrakesh and Santiago.
Samer Issa-El-Khoury, managing partner at CBX, which is responsible for delivering the track at Diriyah, said that while the initial circuit design for the first race in 2018 was challenging enough, adding in the night element has thrown up many key considerations regarding lighting.
“Having a night race on the streets of Diriyah needs a particular and challenging engineering solution in terms of lighting,” Issa-El-Khoury said.
“We need to make sure we have homogenous lux levels across the whole sporting side of the race track. Also, in many areas of the circuit we have very narrow turns and an abundance of palm trees, so we have to make sure there are no obstructions on the lights.
“It is true that night races have taken in other motorsports across other championships, but the difference with the Diriyah Formula E race is that the street track is completely lit using LED technology, which is a first for a street circuit worldwide and across all categories of an FIA-sanctioned motorsports event,” he added.
“LEDs tend to last much longer, are more energy efficient and have less maintenance intensive technology. Using LED technology is in line with formula E’s sustainability plan.”
Due to coronavirus restrictions, fans will be unable to attend next weekend’s races. However, the action will be broadcast live on the Kingdom's sports channels.
Fans can also get involved in the races via FIA Formula E’s social media channels, with the interactive feature FANBOOST allowing online followers to vote for their favorite driver and award them an extra boost of power during the race, allowing them to directly improve their chances of winning.