By this point, you’re probably wondering how this whole Saudi Arabia trip came to light. After all, even I was totally thrown off by the random invitation to cover the exclusive first-ever event.
When I really started to think about it, I realized that I couldn’t recall ever seeing any sort of event coverage coming out of Saudi Arabia in the past – besides the crazy YouTube stuff, of course – so what induced the Royal Family to approve such a grand automotive event?
Well, the truth falls into political issues that surpass what I’m willing to discuss here on the site, but in hindsight, Saudi Arabia has realized that relying on oil solely to maintain the country’s thriving economy isn’t the most sustainable economic plan.
With the world shifting towards alternatives for fossil fuels, the Royal Family has decided to venture into opening and welcoming other industries in order to maintain Saudi Arabia’s economic state. By doing so, they have created a series of public relation events called Riyadh Season.
Amongst these celebrated industries is the automotive realm, which in turn has resulted in the show we are covering here. With the help of Global Auto Salon, along with World Wide Auctions and a few other big industry names, Global Auto Salon Riyadh was born.
As I noted earlier though, I wasn’t the only one who went into this event a little skeptical. This was the first time an automotive event of this caliber would take place in Saudi Arabia’s capital city, and with big promises made, the show had a lot to live up to.
But rumor has it, a no limit budget was in store for those participating in the show. ‘No limit budget, eh…’ I thought to myself, followed by, ‘this ought to be interesting.’ My skepticism led me to believe that this all sounded a bit too good to be true, but surely I was corrected.
Upon first arrival, the media contingent I was travelling with were all taken by surprise with how big the venue was. I mean, it was described to me as the Middle Eastern version of SEMA, but again, skepticism made me believe otherwise.
Interestingly though, unlike the trade show in the States, this event was geared more towards general spectators and families, and its number one priority was entertainment. There was a full-blown rave going on simultaneous to the show, along with an entire Monster Jam arena set up slightly regressed from the main venue. Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to those parts of the shows so I didn’t get a chance to have a peak, but c’mon, Monster Jam and a rave, running alongside a multi million-dollar auction, concours event, and stunt track?
With an eclectic spread of anything and everything, our first day alone made the trip worthwhile. Custom hotrods, priceless exotics, restored classics, and of course a wide array of celebrity guests were plentiful in attendance. But just in case you happen to have a fancy for a particular car, you also had the option to buy any of the cars on display at the show, too. I found that particularly cool, because well, why not? Everything’s got a price in my eyes.
As we know, many of us here at Speedhunters can appreciate a car show or two, but what really gets us going are cars being thrashed on, especially the rarer ones.
Starting with the elephant in the room, the giant loop laid out in the middle of the track was a stunt put together by Hot Wheels. It seems as though they partnered up with Jaguar with the event, as the vehicle of choice for the exhibition was a brand new F-Pace, which I have to admit, I did not think could accomplish the loop.
Before executing, driver Terry Grant mentioned the 64-foot tall loop was the tallest ever made, and if he managed to successfully do the entire thing, he would set the new Guinness World Record. Surely, he would end the first night of the event with the record under his belt, defying the face of death yet again. It might not seem like much at first glance, but consider the fact that this was a 6G maneuver, and you’ll quickly be reminded of the level of preparation needed to be able to endure such action.
Meanwhile, at a makeshift Hoonigan Burnyard, various drivers, who seemed to be Middle Eastern professionals, showed up, and lit the hell out of the converted parking lot.
Lastly, and perhaps my favorite exhibition, was the Ferrari Challenge. Not only because I love Ferraris, but more so because in traditional Ferrari fashion, they came to leave the most memorable impression of all.
With three Formula 1 cars, three LM cars, and even more XX cars, the entire Ferrari section of the show was untouchable, no matter who showed up. Oh, and add to the fact by bringing out drivers like Antonio Giovinazzi, and you have yourself one hell of sight to see.
After all was said and done, I made my way back to the hotel to sort some of the photos I managed to snap throughout the course of my stay in Saudi Arabia. If I’m honest, I think it was right of me to go into this whole ordeal as a skeptic, because frankly if I hadn’t, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the experience as much as I did.
Did I think I’d see two F40s at once? Most certainly not. Did I expect drifting and parade laps to be part of the itinerary? Never. So it’s fair to say, being hit with surprise after surprise only made the entire experience that much better.
I think the entire Global Auto Salon Riyadh was successful, being that it was their first time. And now that the learning curve is over, the sky is the limit for future endeavors.
If you haven’t realized it, this is all part of history in the making, as this is totally new to the country and the Middle East as a whole. So we can only expect for things to continue moving in the right direction, getting even better with time and experience.