Oman a good venue for Formula 4 circuit, says visiting FIA President

Sports Tuesday 21/May/2024 22:30 PM
By: Times News Service
Oman a good venue for Formula 4 circuit, says visiting FIA President
Left to right Suleiman Al Rawahi, Brig Jamal Al Tai, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Brig (retd) Salim Al Maskari at OAA facility (2)

MUSCAT: The President of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Dr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, gave strong hints that Oman could come up with a Formula 4 circuit in the future.

In an exclusive chat with Times of Oman, the chief of the world motorsports body said: “We have some great circuits in the region. But the time has come when the circuits can give back something to the nation. I believe Oman is a good venue to build a F4 circuit.

“We already have UAE and Saudi Arabia having it and with Oman the third destination, it could be a great option for drivers as it would be convenient for logistics with three venues in one region.”

The FIA supremo, who took over the world body in December 2021, added: “I have had encouraging talks with Oman Automobile Association (OAA) on this subject along with government officials. They have been positive to the plan and I am hopeful that Oman may have a Formula 4 circuit in future. Formula 4 racing is a bridge between go-karting and formula racing with the pinnacle of it being Formula 1.”

Ben Sulayem said: “The idea of a F4 circuit has to be sustainable and the government will be doing a feasibility study. I am for it as the most important aspect has to be that the model has to be a sustainable one.”

FIA chief all praise for Abdullah Al Rawahi

A rally star in his heydays from the UAE, Ben Sulayem was a name to reckon with in the eighties and nineties, having won 14 Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) titles, a record at one stage.

Rallying is still close to his heart as the FIA boss remembered. “Oman has been very close to my heart and has played a big role in my journey to what I am today. The course of the Oman Rally those days was demanding and even today, thinking about it gives me goosebumps,” said Ben Sulayem.

“The rally in Oman tested the patience of drivers and one had to have speed and precision to clinch it,” he added.

Ben Sulayem was happy that Oman’s young talent Abdullah Al Rawahi is creating a place for himself in the competitive MERC circuit.

Al Rawahi had the honour of receiving the 2023 FIA MERC title trophy as a joint winner with Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah from Ben Sulayem at the FIA Awards ceremony in Baku earlier this year.

Ben Sulayem spoke highly about Al Rawahi and said: “Abdullah has proven to the world that he is a capable and talented driver. The MERC title, the first for an Omani underlines the success and his skills. Champions like Abdullah also help in promoting the sport as people love to look up to champions.”

He added: “I am very happy to see him do well and also challenge the established names. His victory also makes the sport interesting as we love to see new faces on the podium. I remember my days when I was winning regularly. It can dishearten rivals and with Abdullah providing stiff competition, it augurs well for rallying in the region.”

The FIA boss said: “Abdullah’s success is good for him, for Oman and for MERC.”

Ben Sulayem was also impressed by the organisational skills of OAA, which has been organising the MENA Nations Karting Cup that involved nearly 300 drivers.

“Oman is a very hospitable place and during the MENA Karting Cup, I was amazed at the passion of the fans, who came in large numbers to witness it. It reflects the love of the sports in Oman and this is what I hope will help the nation grow in motorsports,” he added.

Ben Sulayem suggested that in future there could be Omanis in FIA commissions and hoped motorsports flourish in the country.

The FIA boss also toured the newly-built OAA facilities that also boasts of the first public shooting range. He was taken on a tour by Brigadier (Retd) Salim Al Maskari, OAA board chairman, Brigadier Jamal Al Tai, OAA vice-chairman, and Suleiman Al Rawahi, OAA managing director.

The FIA chief also met His Highness Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham al Said, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, during the two-day visit. Ben Sulayem also held discussions with Khalfan bin Saeed Al Shueili, Minister of Housing and Urban Planning, on the possibility of developing infrastructure for motorsport in the Sultanate, including the establishment of more racetracks, and training facilities.

Later on Monday, the visiting official also held a meeting with Khalid bin Mohammed Al Zubair, Oman Olympic Committee president.

OAA chairman Al Maskari said: “The visit of the FIA president to Oman demonstrates the world body’s commitment to developing motorsport globally. Oman is a promising market for motorsport and aims to promote this sector in line with its ambitious vision for the future. This visit presents an opportunity to strengthen our international partnerships and will also help exchange ideas on development.”