Buzz in Riyadh as Race of Champions comes to the Middle East

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Engines were loudly heard at Riyadh's iconic King Fahd stadium as a bunch of world-known car racers went head-to-head in the Race of Champions, held for the first time in Middle East as Saudi Arabia goes on hosting more international sporting events.

Former Formula One racers David Coulthard and Juan Pablo Montoya competed along with rally sport's double-champion Petter Solberg amongst drivers including home favourites Ahmed Bin Khanen and Yazeed Al-Rajhi who went head-to-head but were both knocked out early.

Both Saudi drivers, though, received a warm welcome from fans at the stadium, with families being allowed to attend.

This is one of the most important new transformations in the country, the presence of families, the presence of children and all families participate in this family atmosphere which is full of entertainment;, said Sultan al-Salal, resident of Riyadh.

Briton Coulthard went on to win his second title in the race, beating Norwegian Solberg. Coulthard is now the fifth Formula One driver to win the Race of Champions title.

Last month, international rallying was back in Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2010 after a dispute over female drivers was resolved allowing them to compete at the Hail rally.

International rallies were officially suspended in 2010 as Saudi authorities refused to allow women to compete. But the kingdom continued to hold the event in the past eight years without official recognition from the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

A royal decree by Saudi King Salman in late 2017 allowed women to drive starting June 2018.