RIYADH: The president of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, Prince Khaled bin Sultan Al-Faisal Al-Saud, has revealed that a long-term vision for building a new ecosystem for the Kingdom’s motorsports will be launched soon.
Prince Khaled spoke during a press conference hosted on the sidelines of the Diriyah E-Prix double-header, which represented rounds two and three of the ninth season of the FIA Formula E World Championship.
“We have in the federation a 20-year program that we are going to launch hopefully soon, as we want to have mechanics, we want to have engineers, we want to bring the know-how to Saudi,” he said. “We want to build cars and, hopefully, we can have engineers and team managers, race drivers. So, hopefully, by 15 years, 20 years from now we can have all of that.”
Prince Khaled added: “Our ambition is not to just host events, we want to inspire, and we want to have a bigger role and engagement with the events.”
The 20-year program aims to propel the Kingdom’s motorsports sector by training and equipping a new generation of Saudi youths to become leaders in the industry. The program also intends to build wider strategic partnerships with many of the major players in motorsports.
“We want to see a Saudi racing team, we want to see a car that is being produced, and now we see partnerships,” Prince Khaled said. “This is our ambition. We want to be more involved and inspire and allow people to showcase themselves in such events.”
He singled out the plan to build a car manufacturing hub in King Abdullah Economic City as a key part of the “complete ecosystem” coming to Saudi Arabia, pointing out that “we are attracting the racing teams that are building rally cars.”
The federation president explained that the first steps of the program revolve around building infrastructure. He highlighted that the Diriyah racetrack is a temporary street circuit and that there is a large project in the pipeline in Qiddiya.
“We want to start building the infrastructure so hopefully, when Qiddiya is completed, we can have at least drivers that are 12, 13, 14 years old that we can put them in single-seaters or motorbikes and, in school, they will give special courses and we will send them to the Formula E management,” Prince Khaled said.
The program aims to empower the future of Saudi motorsports by beginning with the youth. It will create the infrastructure to support not only future race car drivers but also organizers and team principals. This support will start in schools, engaging with students and facilitating training programs across the Kingdom.
“We want to speak to them about aerodynamics and engineering, we are targeting now from the grassroots,” Prince Khaled said.
He also highlighted that the federation launched the Saudi star program last year using electric cars, attracting many children from the ages of five to 12 years. Alongside this, a portable training school is being used. This project started in Jeddah and will later be moved to Riyadh and then the Eastern Province.
Many of the steps that make up the 20-year program are already underway, but the ambitious plan will take time.
“What we are doing now is we have the support from governments and we have been allocated lands in different regions of Saudi Arabia, and we have reached out to sponsors and local companies. We are putting plans and building academies and go-karting tracks for karts and motorbike tracks for the bikes,” Prince Khaled said.
He also highlighted the advances made in Saudi motorsports since the initial Diriyah E-Prix in 2018. He said that, five years ago, the organization of the event relied heavily on assistance from Bahrain, which had been hosting an F1 grand prix for many years, but the race is now 100 percent Saudi-run.
“Our ambition is we want to see a Saudi lady or a Saudi man on top of the podium, or a Saudi racing team or a team principal, that is what we want to do,” Prince Khaled said.
Finally, he outlined that through the dedicated and detailed plan for the future, Saudis that are passionate about the motorsports sector will have the opportunities to progress.
“We are moving there and that is why it is a 20-year program. Hopefully, by 20 years from now, we (will) have a Saudi champion or a Saudi winning team of completely 100 percent racing cars produced in Saudi Arabia. It’s ambitious and hopefully we can see it very soon,” he said.