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Saudi Arabia ready to host week full of Formula E activities: "Hopefully we'll see some rain!"

On Friday and Saturday, the second and third races in the Formula E championship are scheduled in Saudi Arabia. We look ahead to the race and surrounding events with Formula E race promoter Carlo Boutagy.

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The Dakar Rally is barely over, and the motorsport world will be turning its attention to Saudi Arabia and Riyadh for the next stop on the 2024 Formula E calendar, with not one, but two races across the weekend on Friday and Saturday.

Among those on the grid in Riyadh will be Nyck de Vries - both a former winner of the E-Prix and the title itself, which is good news for Carlo Boutagy, the Canadian-born Lebanese and Bahraini national who has been instrumental in placing Saudi Arabia on the motorsport map.

"It is good that Nyck de Vries is back in Formula E, because he is a champion and ideally I would like to see as many champions back on the grid as possible," he says.

"That adds even more spectacle to a race weekend that starts as early as Thursday, that's when we have an important meeting scheduled, a summit.

"We will talk about sustainability in motorsport, with speakers including Prince Khaled, [Formula E founder] Alejandro Agag addressing over 200 guests.

"The FE and Zero Summit have already organised this in other countries and it is good that we have these events. This is because it helps to share and transfer knowledge with each other, allowing us to work together for a sustainable future.

"You want to make noise with the sustainability ideas people have in mind, and on Wednesday we will already start the weekend with a Gala Dinner raising funds for the Charitable Society of Autism Families, Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation."

Boutagy, who was previously active in Formula 1, believes the growth of FE is going extremely well - as signified by the facts the calendar is expanding to new venues in 2024, and the sheer number of manufacturers involved.

"Formula E is going to race in Tokyo this year, which is very cool and shows how well the sport is doing," he adds.

"After all, we race all over the world and everywhere you can see that the awareness of the series is still growing."

Rain in Saudi Arabia

"What you also have to remember is that we have the highest number of different manufacturers in our class. Brands such as McLaren, Porsche, Jaguar, Nissan and Maserati are all active in Formula E, which shows that car brands also see Formula E as an ideal class to develop in terms of sustainability.

"Looking at our own event in Riyadh, again this year we sold out the Saturday and that while we were able to offer 20% more hospitality tickets.

"In fact, we were able to safely grow the maximum capacity and still everything sold out immediately. This is partly because we also have a great fan village, where a well-known artist will perform before the start of the race.

"We do everything we can to give the fan a unique experience and we succeed every year. As a result, the series keeps gaining prominence here in Saudi Arabia as well.

In addition to keeping a close eye on the developments of the auto industry, on Friday and Saturday, fans will be focused primarily on the performance of the drivers.

If it is up to Boutagy, the drivers are going to have to reckon with a striking factor. "I hope it will rain during the races!

"Now of course I can hear you laughing, but I'm dead serious. In fact, during the first race we hosted here, it started raining!

"I hope to see that again, although the chances of it happening are not very high."

"The main thing is that it will be a nice racing event and that the fans can enjoy lots of overtaking."

That Saudi Arabia has embraced racing may be obvious. In addition to Formula E and the Dakar Rally, we have also become familiar with the F1 race in Jeddah, which is part of the Middle Eastern country's vision for the future: Vision2030.

"Vision2030 has the key tenet of diversifying its revenues away from dependency on its oil production, and this is itself is driving sustainable enterprise, in the areas of leisure, tourism, and automotive mobility," Boutagy says.

"Major investments in Lucid; their own brand Ceer; and the ongoing commitment to Formula E are testimony to this."

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