Ahead of the launch of Extreme E this weekend, Prince Khaled bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), gives his views on the new electric SUV series, the inaugural Desert X Prix in AlUla, and the general development of motorsport in the Kingdom
How excited are you ahead of this weekend’s first-ever Extreme E race?
We are all excited — the organizers, the teams and drivers, everyone at SAMF and, of course, motorsport and sports fans across the country. The event is capturing people’s imagination, and it will be shown live on TV both here and across the world. It’s a fabulous showcase for our country. We’re very grateful for the leadership and guidance of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It is their strong belief that sports play a big role in enriching our economy and ensuring the wellbeing of our society, and we’re pleased that motorsport is playing such a huge role.
What are you looking forward to most?
At an event level, I can’t wait to see these incredible electric-powered SUVs racing across AlUla, which has to be one of the most stunning venues for a motorsport event. I think it will blow people away. There are so many fantastic drivers and teams involved, too. You only have to look at some of the names that Extreme E has attracted, from owners such as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosburg through to some of the best men and women racers.
More broadly speaking, I’m looking forward to the latest exciting moment in our motorsport history. We’ve come so far, and Saudi Arabia is well and truly at the top table when it comes to hosting global motorsport events. The fact that Extreme E chose AlUla as the location of its first-ever event is proof of that. There is a strong relationship built on our shared values and passion for exciting sports that also carries a more important message regarding the climate.
Can you tell us about your plans for motorsport in Saudi Arabia?
We’re very ambitious. We want to be the home of motorsport in the Middle East, rallying our own people, creating opportunities and forging relationships with fans and partners from around the world. We want to give to motorsport in a similar way that motorsport gives to us. Our schedule is already a busy one. This year alone is the busiest yet for motorsport in our country. We are staging the Dakar Rally, Formula E, Extreme E now, Formula 1 in December and many other events. It is a year-round schedule that reflects a year-round passion that our people have for motorsport.
Why is motorsport important to the country’s sporting investment?
Our people love motorsport. It’s the second most popular sport in the country, and I see the eyes of our people and their reaction when they’re at our races or following across television and social media. So, we know Saudis are engaged and keen to experience these events and partnerships. For the country, these partnerships are helping encourage healthier lifestyles and inspiring people to get involved. Across sports in general, we know this is working because participation is up, particularly among women and girls. The plans are working. They’re having a real impact.
Finally, what can you tell us about your alignment with Extreme E’s message regarding climate change?
Clearly, we’re a country that relies a lot on oil. As part of our Vision 2030 ambitions, we are shifting our economy to alternative energies and resources. In the last few days, the crown prince announced the Green Saudi Arabia and Green Middle East initiatives, which aim to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent by planting 50 billion trees, combating pollution and land degradation and preserving marine life. Extreme E enables us to shine a light on such an important subject matter. We’re initiating a conversation that we intend to continue having for years to come.