FIA president praises growth of motorsport industry in Oman

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem (center) with officials from the Omani government on his recent visit to Muscat. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 May 2024

FIA president praises growth of motorsport industry in Oman

  • Mohammed Ben Sulayem held talks with senior government officials during visit

MUSCAT: FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has held talks with senior government officials in Oman to discuss the growth of motorsports and efforts to bring sustainable mobility initiatives to the country.

Ben Sulayem reaffirmed the FIA’s support for Oman’s development projects and said: “I was delighted to learn more about the growth of motorsport in Oman during the various meetings. The government is supporting grassroots development plans to ensure that motor sport will thrive in the years to come.”

He added: “I applaud the excellent work that is being undertaken by the Oman Automobile Association under the direction of Chairman Brigadier Salem Al-Maskiry in the areas of both sport and mobility.”

The president’s visit was hosted by the Oman Automobile Association, which was founded in 1979 and currently has over 10,500 members.

During the trip, he met with Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Sayyid Theyazin Bin Haitham Al-Said, Secretary General Royal Court Affairs Nasr Hamoud Al-Kindi, and Minister of Housing and Urban Planning Khalfan Bin Saeed Al-Shueili.

He also enjoyed a visit to the Royal Opera House and shared a convivial dinner with Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Zubair, president of the Oman Olympic Committee.

Later this year, the OAA will host the iRracing FIA F4 Esports tournament, which will feature the Middle East and North Africa International Karting Trophy.

Drifting and remote-control racing are also thriving sports in Oman. The country has benefited from FIA grant funding in recent years, including for safety training for both baja and cross country competitions.

On the mobility side, the FIA and OAA co-hosted an environmental seminar which featured more than 30 participants from 14 regional sport and mobility clubs. The event provided a unique opportunity for the FIA and its members to share knowledge and experiences about environmental challenges in MENA countries.

Presentations and discussions focused on the FIA’s environmental strategy and the tools available to support clubs in organizing more sustainable events.

Club representatives also took part in a session aimed at furthering understanding of climate change, empowering them to become proactive contributors to taking action.

Cappellini plots Team Abu Dhabi fightback in Italy

Updated 12 June 2024

Cappellini plots Team Abu Dhabi fightback in Italy

  • Racing legend says Al-Qemzi, Comparato are in the mood to start recovery in Sardinia

SARDINIA: Team Abu Dhabi manager Guido Cappellini says multiple world powerboat racing titlists Thani Al-Qemzi and Alberto Comparato are ready to launch a fightback at this weekend’s Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy.

Cappellini believes three days of testing in San Nazzaro, in similar conditions to those that lie ahead in Olbia, have put veteran Al-Qemzi and young Italian teammate Comparato in the mood to recover from a difficult start to the 2024 UIM F1H2O World Championship.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure that we get better results in round three,” said the Italian racing legend, who has guided Team Abu Dhabi to 17 world championship titles since taking charge in 2015.

“Thani won in Sardinia two years ago on a circuit which is demanding in a particular way, and we have tried to test in the same kind of conditions in San Nazzaro to increase his confidence. He is working well with Alberto, they are supporting each other, so we hope this will pay off.”

The F1H2O series returns after an 11-week break since round two in Vietnam.

The Victory Team’s Erik Stark holds an eight-point lead in the drivers’ title race from Team Vietnam’s defending world champions and rankings leaders Jonas Andersson and Estonia’s Stefan Arand.

Al-Qemzi has vast experience, having recorded 10 Grand Prix victories and 45 podium finishes since his debut in 2000.

The Emirati driver will be eager to give himself a fighting chance in Saturday’s qualifying sessions, after taking his career points haul in the championship past the 1,000 mark with a battling sixth-place finish in Vietnam.

Comparato is equally determined to reignite his first season with Team Abu Dhabi and will draw inspiration from 10-time world champion Cappellini who had great success in Sardinia and knows race conditions.

Formula E Season 11 calendar reveals return to Saudi Arabia at new circuit

Updated 11 June 2024

Formula E Season 11 calendar reveals return to Saudi Arabia at new circuit

  • The electric car event’s longest championship season to date will include 17 races at 11 locations
  • The Kingdom will host races in Diriyah for a seventh time on Feb. 14-15 on a new track, details of which are yet to be announced

RIYADH: The provisional calendar for Season 11 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, unveiled on Tuesday, confirms a return to Diriyah early next year and reveals the event’s longest season, with the largest number of races and locations to date.
It once again includes a race double-header in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 14-15. This will be the seventh time the Kingdom has been part of the Formula E championship and the races will take place on a new track in Diriyah, the precise details of which will be announced later.
The 11th season of the pioneering all-electric racing event will for the first time consist of 17 races at 11 locations. In addition to the new track in Diriyah, the provisional calendar, subject to validation by the FIA World Motorsport Council, reveals a new race location in Miami; a double-header of races in Monaco, marking a first for the principality in any motorsport championship; a double-header in Tokyo; and the return of Jakarta to the calendar.
“For Season 11 we’re taking electric racing to the next level and doing things that have never been done before in motorsport,” said Jeff Dodds, the CEO of Formula E.
“Our world-leading GEN3 EVO will debut in front of hundreds of millions of fans around the globe, while adding two brand new locations and combinations of double-headers to grow our sport further.
“The new and improved calendar offers a perfect blend of circuits for drivers to push their upgraded cars to the limit, while staying true to our street-racing DNA and the on-track action it produces.”
The Season 11 campaign will begin in Sao Paulo on Dec. 7, following preseason testing from Nov. 4-7 in Valencia, as the all-new GEN3 EVO race car — capable of going from 0-60 mph in just 1.82 seconds, 36 percent faster than the current GEN3 vehicles — is put through its paces and tested in public for the first time.
The new circuit in Diriyah will host the first double-header of the season, and on April 12 the championship returns to Miami for the first time since the first season, at the Homestead-Miami Speedway venue, which has hosted NASCAR and IndyCar races for decades.
Monaco will will host back-to-back races on the full Circuit de Monaco for the first time, and following the inaugural Tokyo E-Prix in March this year, for which public roads in the world’s most populous city were closed for an automotive event for the first time, it will host a double header of races on May 17 and 18.
Jakarta returns to the calendar after a one-year hiatus, and the season will conclude with a double-header finale at ExCeL London. One location is yet to be confirmed, as final discussions with a new venue continue ahead of final confirmation of the calendar following the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council Meeting.
“We’re thrilled to offer a calendar with some fresh new highlights while building on our legacy locations,” said Alberto Longo, co-founder and chief championship officer of Formula E.
“Returning to Miami gives us a home in one of the US’s most iconic and sports-mad cities, while securing a double-header in Monaco is a dream come true. We can’t wait to build on the success of Tokyo and deliver a double-header, while returning to Jakarta and entertaining our huge Indonesian fanbase, too.
“With 17 races across the season and our most advanced race car debuting on-track, we’re offering our fans cutting-edge sport we could only have hoped for when founding the championship just over 10 years ago.”
Marek Nawarecki, director of the FIA Circuit Sport Department, said: “The 2024-25 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship calendar features a range of circuits that will truly showcase the qualities of the brand new GEN3 EVO car, set to be introduced next season.
“I’m glad that Formula E capitalizes on the success of the Tokyo and Shanghai races while also returning to some of its iconic venues and retaining a good amount of street circuits, which is in its core DNA. I’m also hopeful that this new season will again play host to some fascinating action on track.”

Max Verstappen wins ‘crazy’ rain-hit Canadian Grand Prix

Updated 09 June 2024

Max Verstappen wins ‘crazy’ rain-hit Canadian Grand Prix

  • The series leader and three-time champion rode his luck through changing wet and dry conditions

MONTREAL: Max Verstappen returned to form and completed a hat-trick of Canadian Grand Prix wins on Sunday when he triumphed for Red Bull in a thrilling, tactical and incident-filled race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“Pretty crazy race,” said the Dutchman at the finish. “A lot happening. We stayed calm.”
The series leader and three-time champion rode his luck through changing wet and dry conditions and two safety car interventions to win by 3.879 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ George Russell.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton came home fourth, after being passed by Russell in the closing laps. Oscar Piastri was fourth in the second McLaren ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin.
It was a 60th career victory for Verstappen and his 50th from the last 75 races.
Local hope Lance Stroll was seventh in the second Aston Martin ahead of RB’s Daniel Ricciardo and the two Alpines of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon.
“What a race guys,” Verstappen told his team on the radio. “Not easy, but we did it! A great job by everyone. We made all the right calls. I enjoyed that one.”
“A lot of fun,” said Norris, whose result together with Piastri, brought McLaren their first points in Canada since 2014 on the 56th anniversary of the team’s first win, with Bruce McLaren, at the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix.
“An ugly race on my behalf and I am sorry for that,” Russell said, conceding he was disappointed not to convert his pole position into victory.
Five cars, including both Ferraris and both Williams, failed to finish.
On a day of showers, only the two Haas cars chose full wet tires to start as Russell, on intermediates, pulled clear of Verstappen. The entire field slithered through the opening laps. Hamilton passed Ricciardo to sixth.
When the sun returned, a dry line emerged and lap times tumbled, Russell and Verstappen swapping fastest laps at the front, nearly eight seconds clear of Norris.
Russell resisted Verstappen before the champion ran wide at turn two and fell within Norris’s reach, the McLaren man passing on lap 20, using Drag Reduction System (DRS) to sweep by. He then passed Russell on lap 21.
Behind the top four, Alonso in fifth resisted Hamilton before Sargeant crashed his Williams, prompting a safety car intervention. Norris stayed out, but Verstappen, Russell and Piastri pitted for inters, as did Alonso and Hamilton.
As the marshals struggled to remove Sargeant’s car, Norris pitted from the lead and re-joined third behind Verstappen and Russell, a harsh setback for the McLaren man.
“The safety car helped me in Miami but now it held me. It happens that’s racing,” Norris who enjoyed good fortune on the way to his maiden win in May, said after the race.
The race resumed on lap 30 with Leclerc gambling on hard tires, but as rain arrived again he dropped to 19th. Alonso then ran off and Hamilton surged to fifth, just behind Piastri.
As the track dried, Leclerc pitted again, before retiring.
As the other leaders pitted, Norris staying out to pad his lead and build an ‘over-cut’ before pitting on lap 47.
He took mediums, but as he re-joined , Verstappen speared through.
“The ride is bad, like a locked suspension,” grumbled the Dutchman with 20 laps to go in dry conditions. “I can’t touch any kerbs, it almost knocks me out.”
Another crash on lap 54 brought out a second safety car, Albon and a spinning Carlos Sainz tangling after Perez had smashed into the barriers and broken his rear wing.
Mercedes promptly pitted both cars, Russell for mediums and Hamilton for hards. They were fourth and fifth behind Verstappen and the two McLarens when racing resumed and the late drama unfolded.

Russell takes Canadian Grand Prix pole, edging F1 points leader Verstappen on tiebreaker

Updated 09 June 2024

Russell takes Canadian Grand Prix pole, edging F1 points leader Verstappen on tiebreaker

  • Russell and Verstappen had identical laps of 1 minute 12.000 seconds, with the Mercedes driver getting the top spot Sunday by setting the time first
  • After a wild, stormy Friday in Montreal, a mix of sun and clouds made for more favorable conditions Saturday

MONTREAL: George Russell edged Formula 1 points leader Max Verstappen on a tiebreaker for the pole position Saturday in the Canadian Grand Prix.
Russell and Verstappen had identical laps of 1 minute 12.000 seconds at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with the Mercedes driver getting the top spot Sunday by setting the time first. It’s the second time F1 qualifying has ended in a tie since the start of three-decimal timing.
Now Russell faces the challenge of keeping Red Bull star Verstappen behind him in the race.
“Why not? Of course. Let’s go for it,” Russell said. “The car has been feeling amazing. Since we brought some upgrades to Monaco, we’ve sort of really been in that fight now. We’re going for it tomorrow.”
The 26-year-old Russell claimed his second career pole.
“Such a buzz. It’s been a while since we’ve experienced this feeling,” Russell said. “So much hard work going on behind the scenes … we’ve almost felt like all of that hard work hasn’t been paying off. But I think these last two race weekends has really shown that.”
Verstappen won the pole last year and led every lap of the race amid a historically dominant season. This year, he’s facing more challengers.
“When you look at the whole grid, there are quite a few surprises,” Verstappen said. “Just shows that everyone is closing up, and it’s really details that make the difference. It’s good for Formula 1.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris was third at 1:12.02.
Both Ferraris failed to reach the third qualifying session for the first time since 2021.
Charles Leclerc, the Monaco winner two weeks ago, will start 11th, with teammate Carlos Sainz 12th.
“We are just not fast enough,” Leclerc said. “I don’t have any explanations for now. “Very surprising, I did not expect that,“
Seven-time Canadian GP winner Lewis Hamilton qualified seventh for Mercedes. Montreal driver Lance Stroll was ninth for Aston Martin.
“The Q3 was very difficult, I didn’t feel good in the car,” Stroll said. “In the end we couldn’t improve enough.”
After a wild, stormy Friday in Montreal, a mix of sun and clouds made for more favorable conditions Saturday. The rain rolled in briefly before qualifying but subsided.
“It was really challenging, to be honest,” Russell said. “All weekend, every single session and every lap has been changing, the sun comes out, the track temperature warms up, then the clouds come in, it’s spitting, and it’s just really, really difficult to find that sweet spot.”

Saudi world champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi crowned winner of Desafio Ruta 40 Rally

Updated 08 June 2024

Saudi world champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi crowned winner of Desafio Ruta 40 Rally

  • Al-Rajhi’s win marks 4th round of the World Rally-Raid Championship
  • ‘It was a long and fierce battle … This victory is well-deserved for me and the team,’ says Al-Rajhi

CORDOBA, Argentina: World champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi has become the first Saudi and third non-Argentinian driver to win in Argentina since 2010 after he was crowned the 2024 Desafio Ruta 40 Rally winner on Friday.
The Saudi driver’s win marks the fourth round of the World Rally-Raid Championship, said in a media statement.
Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk finished first by just 13 seconds. They recorded a total time of 17 hours, 38 minutes, and 21 seconds over six days on rough, technical gravel tracks between June 1-7.
“Winning by just seconds is an incredible feeling. It was a long and fierce battle, and I led skillfully every day. This victory is well-deserved for me and the team,” said Al-Rajhi.
“I am delighted with this win. I thank God for this victory … It’s great to be back in Argentina. Last year, I finished third, and today I won the second edition of the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally,” he added.
Co-driver Gottschalk said: “It wasn’t for the faint-hearted. Yazeed fired another rocket in the final kilometers, overcoming every challenge. It was truly outstanding driving. We are thrilled with this victory and definitely deserve the upcoming summer break.”
The Saudi champion secured victories in two of the five stages, finishing second in the remaining three, accumulating valuable points that placed him second in the W2RC standings after the Argentine rally.
The team’s remarkable performance leaves them just 25 points behind the leader, with the competition remaining open until the final round in Morocco in October.
The rally began with a prologue in Cordoba, where Al-Rajhi secured second place. After that, he dominated the first loop stage. In the second stage, the longest at 724 km, he maintained his overall lead. The third stage, a 451-km loop, saw the team perform brilliantly, keeping their lead.
The fourth stage in La Rioja, covering 676 km, was extremely tough, but Al-Rajhi drove cautiously to avoid any issues, finishing the stage still in the lead.
In the final stage, he faced a thrilling challenge, with only one second separating him from his closest competitor in the provisional standings. Ultimately, Al-Rajhi and Gottschalk won by 40 seconds, securing a brave victory.
Covering a total distance of 3,045 km, including 1,917 km of special stages, the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally is one of the most prestigious and challenging rallies in Latin America.