Interesting point. Does this mean then that grandiose events like the Bahrain or Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – with a rich 60+-year Formula 1 heritage and a strong global following – proved more of a hindrance than a help to regional motorsport when they appeared in the Middle East in 2004 and 2009 respectively?
“Oh no, that I think was a help. They were spreading the word, spreading the branding and spreading the enthusiasm. The problem is that they were only once-a-year events, and we needed something more consistent. These circuits, when they were first established, were built for expatriates to come and compete on rather than the locals. Unintentionally, that was the way it was presented anyway.
“For Motorsport Solutions then it’s about bridging the gap between the culture and motorsport. I want locals to get involved, to compete in the touring cars, the GTs and the single seaters. I want to see drivers that are going to Europe, Asia or the United States to represent the UAE and in the right way.”
Let’s not mess about then, how exactly is Motorsport Solutions hoping to do that? Money goes hand-in-hand with motor racing, so that has to be a prime concern…
“The financial side of it is just to keep motorsport sustainable. I understand it is difficult. It is expensive. But first of all we have to create good series for people to compete in. Something with rules and regulations that will be easy to follow, and that takes time” – just ask the organisers of the NGK Racing Series and Formula Gulf 1000 how easy that is to achieve – “The other thing is spreading the word, so we are quite aggressive with our social media programmes. We focus a lot on the local forums too. Plus, most of our events are free to attend, so it’s easy for fans to come and watch. Then it’s a case of getting them involved, whether as enthusiasts or potential competitors. That’s not as easy as it sounds.”
Of course, Mohammad is no stranger to series management. For the past two years, Motorsport Solutions has been the driving force behind Drift UAE, the region’s most prominent drifting series and one it is hoped will help put Middle East motor racing on the map. Of course, it’s not just a case of taking the Formula Drift model in the US and copy/pasting it into the Middle East. It takes a little more planning…
“We have around 55 or 60 drivers in the series, and that’s gone up a lot since last year. Our focus now is on improving their individual skills and the level of Drift UAE, both for competitors and the way the series is regulated.
“This year I invested mainly in bringing support in from outside. At every event I have invited Formula Drift drivers from overseas and now have international judges. The knowledge is higher and that means that both drivers and the series can learn from their experience. It’s proving very successful in my opinion. Even international competitors are amazed by the standards being offered here.”