Exclusive: The Prince’s insight into Saudi Arabia’s WRC arrival

The WRC is part of a bigger plan to grow every aspect of rallying in Saudi Arabia


In the minutes that followed what’s being described as a ‘landmark deal’ for the World Rally Championship, DirtFish was granted an exclusive interview with the mastermind of the agreement – HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation and the Saudi Motorsport Company.

The Prince has detailed how Saudi Arabia will use its WRC status as a stimulus to create an environment and community that engenders participation at every level and in every aspect of rallying.

The Prince told DirtFish: “Our goal is not just to organize an event. No, we want to give the opportunity to Saudi youth to be inspired and also be part of it.

“We have a lot of talent. We’ve seen them secure championships, world titles in the Bajas. And we had the older drivers, they also won championships, so the potential is there.

“We just need to deliver to them all the things they need, from training to infrastructure and facilities, so they can achieve their goals. This is a very important thing we are focusing now in Saudi Arabia, on the grassroots, so this fits a line with our direction and our strategy in the federation and also in Saudi Motorsport Company.

“We like hosting events, but we want to have a bigger role. We want to be part of events. We want to have drivers. We want to have mechanics. So, I think we have a lot to offer.”

While Saudi Arabia has realized its ambitions in Formula 1 and other top-line disciplines, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal pointed out that rallying is part of the nation’s sporting fabric – this is the 40th year of the FIA’s Middle East Rally Championship.


WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel and HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Abdullah Al-Faisal sealed Saudi Arabia's 10-year deal with a handshake at the announcement ceremony

“We started rallying in the Middle East with the rally, not the raid rally,” the Prince added. “We have champions; we have drivers that raced from the sixties, seventies, and eighties, so it started way before the other activities in the region.

“And it’s a very important event. It’s very popular. It’s one of the strongest races in the world. And it was something natural to happen in Saudi Arabia. We think now is the time is right for us. We now have the experience and the know-how. We had successful races in the past, like Dakar, Formula One, and Formula E.

“This gave us the know-how and everything we need to host an event like this. It’s a very challenging event; you see the competition between the manufacturers, the private teams and the drivers. So we think it will add a lot.

“These types of cars are very popular. There’s a big opportunity to get sponsorship, for the drivers, for the teams, because, you know, these saloon cars, you know, they have a big market in Saudi Arabia.”


The Prince sampled WRC in Italy. The WRC will get to sample Saudi Arabia early next year with its test event on the MERC calendar.

Talking about the specifics of pulling together a deal which has been talked about for more than two years, he added: “We had discussions with the WRC Promoter. We also had the support and the blessing from the FIA. They saw what we’ve delivered in the last couple of years. So it was about time.

“You know, it [the WRC] needs to come back to the Middle East. Now, considering the position of Saudi Arabia, this is a good return to the Middle East to have the rally in Saudi Arabia. We’re very enthusiastic, we’re very excited.”

With action running through mountains, volcanoes and across the deserts of Saudi, the Prince assured DirtFish that Rally Saudi Arabia would offer something very different to its fellow WRC rounds.

He added: “We hope that we can deliver a unique experience like we succeeded in Dakar, in Formula 1, in Formula E. So, let’s wait and we’ll see what the drivers will do in the terrain. We are focused and we are committed with the promoter to deliver a unique experience.

“We don’t want it to be another rally on the calendar. No. It needs to be unique. So I’m very happy and I’m sure that we can deliver an exceptional experience for the fans and for the teams and the drivers.


Saudi Arabia's ascendancy to the WRC is the latest component in its sweeping Vision 2030 strategy

“I can’t spill everything right now, but I can tell you, we have different terrains. So, what you think about with WRC – something new, something in the past – everything is possible in Saudi Arabia.

“We have Tarmac, we have gravel, we have mountains. Saudi Arabia is very big; I’m sure you’ve seen it on Dakar. So the potential of organizing a rally with a different flavor than the rest of the rallies – the opportunities, the options we have, it’s a lot.

“We’ll listen to the drivers, what they want, to the teams, and also what the WRC Promoter wants and what is missing from the championship. And this is what we are working on.

“I don’t think these cars are made for dunes – but maybe something that hasn’t been present in the WRC stages [is possible].”