By Gavin Gibbon
New track on outskirts of Riyadh has been designed by former F1 driver Alex Wurz
Saudi Arabia’s new entertainment giga-project Qiddiya, on the outskirts of Riyadh, has the potential to become the “motorsport capital of the world”, according to former Formula One star Alex Wurz.
Wurz is behind the design of the new race track, which has been touted as a future venue for Formula One in 2023.
Qiddiya already hosts a round of the Formula E Championship, while the new track will be designed up to the FIA Grade 1 standards required for F1.
Wurz, a two-time Le Mans winner and chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said: “The visionary Qiddiya project offers us amazing opportunities to design a track, a true racing arena for drivers, spectators, as well as the viewers at home.
"The design offers amazing elevation changes, making use of the stunning natural landscape.
"Equally the design is made to challenge drivers and engineers alike.
"And from our simulation runs, I can assure you it is absolutely thrilling as an on- and off-track experience.
"Qiddiya has all it takes to become the motorsport capital of the world."
The track was officially unveiled at an event on Friday, which was attended by 1996 F1 champion Damon Hill, ex-F1 drivers David Coulthard and Nico Hulkenberg, current Haas F1 racer Romain Grosjean and former MotoGP rider Loris Capirossi.
According to reports, F1 is eyeing a $65 million-a-year deal to stage a grand prix in Saudi Arabia and the inaugural race in the kingdom could be staged as early as next year.
An option believed to be under consideration is a one-off street race in Jeddah in 2021 while the purpose-built circuit at Qiddiya is completed.
Mike Reininger, CEO of the Qiddiya Investment Company, told Autosport that the aim is to attract all top-tier motorsport categories.
"We're building so that we're able to host MotoGP events, WEC, regional and national championship events, and all the all the way up through F1," he said. "We're building the facilities so that we can ultimately host the biggest and the best motorsports events, really in all categories.
"And Grade 1 is synonymous with F1, so we're hopeful that that comes to pass for us."
Qiddiya was the location for the final stage of the Dakar Rally, which was won on Friday by Spaniard Carlos Sainz.