The heat of the day is starting to wear away as the sun begins to set in the distance. A short drive from Riyadh, through the two lane road cut to create rock walls and open views of hte desert on the way to the new Dirab Motor Park. A friend recently brought me to the location a week prior with promises of a great time. He did not disappoint in any way with that promise. Looking out the window as I drive by the huge valleys between sheer rock walls, little traditional square houses on the edges, camel farms, people on the side of the road eating with families you realize how remarkable a place like this is to exist in such an area. I crest the last hill and see the towering grandstands of the park, no way to miss this place.
The park is brand spanking new. The appearance is of a truly first class facility equipped with concessions, garages, ¼ mile drag strip, RC course and even more. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Sakher Al Sudairy, the General Manager of Dirab Motor Park to chat.
Q: How long have you been a motorsport enthusiast?
A: All my life! I have always loved cars and bikes. Drag racing is the most exciting to me which is why I wanted to bring the sport to Riyadh. Give a safe place for the youth to experience the sport and learn off the street.
Q: What are your personal favorite cars?
A: I really love American cars, particularly classic cars. The sound, the torque, the horsepower makes them great. I personally have a Cobra, a 1965 Lincoln, and a 73 Mustang among others.
Q: What are the capabilities of Dirab Motor Park?
A: Dirab is the only drag strip currently operating in Saudi Arabia. We are 30 KM from Riyadh (roughly 30-45 minutes) giving great options for the youth of Riyadh to have an organized location to hang out and get entertainment. The facility always has trained marshals, Saudi Red Crescent (medical services), Fire services, and safety personnel. There are also 10 garages for rent. The short distance from Riyadh makes it easy for large events to have plenty of rooms for travelers.
Q: What are the short and long term plans for Dirab?
A: We have so many plans! Short term we are looking to finish the drift area shortly after Hajj (within the next few weeks). It will be a 1200 msq area that will be multi use. We want to give drifting, autocross and go karts all a place to race. There will also be a 1200 seat grandstand to watch the drifting. Within the next 2-3 months, we have a Sand drag 400m long with the first 92m timed along with a 1,700 person grandstand for that track. Finally there will be a 4×4 testing ground that will have a little of all the elements you will find in off roading. Rocks, trees, ruts, hills and more. We can give people the training they need before they go offroad and encounter something they do not know how to handle.
Longer term, we plan to add a 1.2km go kart circuit that is approved for international racing, as well as a 4.5km grade 3 race circuit to make Dirab the place to go for everything motoring. Most importantly though, we at Dirab want to start an academy (training school) for each sport that we have here. One for drifting, one for go karts, one for RC, one for Drag and anything else we do. It is one thing to give someone a place to bring their car and drive. However, to train them, help them get better, teach them how to do it correctly is more important. Saudi Arabia is still in its beginning for motorsports. To make sure the government knows that it can keep going, it is extremely important that everything is safe, people are educated and the positive outlook of motorsports is maintained. Safety is the most important thing, always.
Q: What events have you hosted as well as planned for the near future?
A: On Saudi National Day (23 Sept 2012) we hosted a very large event. There was a drifting demonstration with 3 cars, drag motorcycles, cars drag racing, and RC car racing. We had bikes into the 6 second quarter mile as well as a RC Car Championship on the newly built RC road course. The grand opening of Dirab will be held on the 15th of November, and the first round of the local drag racing championship will be on the 22nd of November. This series will be 5 rounds, one round per month. Another large event we are signed for is the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Drag Racing Finals that will be located in Dirab.
Q: What ideas do you have for events you would like to host?
A: There are so many possibilities! Drifting championships, Autocross events for the cars that don’t want to drift. We have also looked into go kart enduro races of 6 maybe 12 hours. On the drag side we can do bracket racing, call your time racing, street style hand drop racing. We can do almost anything if there is a group that wants it!
Q: What are the different prices for admission?
A: For normal grandstand observation, we are charging 50 SAR (about 14 USD) for two people. We also have a media badge that gives you almost unlimited access to the garage areas, pits, racing area (within safe reason) and observations for 50 SAR for one person. For drag racing, we only charge 150 SAR (40 USD). We are open from 5 to 10 pm, first run starts at 6. Plenty of time for everyone, especially in the beginning since it is still growing.
Q: What are the safety measures in place for drivers and spectators?
A: We have all the emergency crews on site that are normally required. In addition, instead of the normal metal rails you see at race tracks, we have solid cement walls down the track, which get higher further down to keep cars within the track in case of an accident. There are fully trained marshals to make sure racing is done safely as well as thorough car inspections prior to racing. Safety is the most important thing!
Q:So when someone comes to race, what are the requirements for them?
A: All drivers must abide by the following rules at a minimum:
Replace antifreeze with water
All lug nuts
Wheels and tires in good condition
Pants and shoes must be worn as well. No shorts or sandals.
All this is to make sure everyone is safe and has a good time so we can continue events.
The future of Dirab is bright in my opinion. There is nothing else like it in this area. Riyadh is a location that 70% of the male population are 15-30. With the mixing laws (basically not being able to hang out with women not family) it is traditionally hard to find something to do for groups of friends and stay out of trouble. A place like this not only gives these people somewhere to go, but also attempts to move the illegal “Saudi Drifting” that you see on you tube, and translate it to real and solid racing. Drag racing, Drifting, Autocross, even karting are all great ways to give people purpose instead of being out making trouble and possibly injuring others. The extreme importance of safety is a very refreshing factor since Saudi driving is view a lawless and dangerous. I have personally passed a dozen extremely bad wrecks caused by high speeds and dangerous driving in the past 4 months. Places like this give those people a venue to do it legally and safely, possibly preventing it from happening on the road. I can’t wait for the drifting to start. I’m already working on getting my V8 Exocet here to compete!
Stay tuned for more from Dirab. Later this week i will be visiting Rahez Motorsports to talk with them!
(photos courtesy Dominic Byrne and Grant Wilson)
Dirab Motor Park