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Saturday, May 8, 2021

In Qatar, plenty of luxury and sports cars, but few racing fans

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Hoping to fill a vacuum in the local market, three Doha-based automotive enthusiasts have launched a new YouTube channel dedicated to exploring car culture in Qatar.

The founders of Ignition ME include 22-year-old Egyptian expat Ramy Khalaf, 19-year-old British parkour practitioner Jake Couper, and 30-year-old racer Mark Holroyd.

After experimenting with a new website, as well as establishing a presence of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the group ultimately decided to focus their efforts on creating documentary-style videos, Khalaf told Doha News in a recent interview.

“Our goal is for people in the country to be able to see (the car scene) and, amongst other things, be able to recognize the locations used during our shoots; it’s all about being relatable,” said Khalaf, who acts as the project’s director, editor, and social media manager.

Lackluster support

Despite Qatar’s healthy appetite for luxury and high-end cars, the racing scene is poorly supported by the public.

For example, the Qatar Challenge Cup, an eight-month long racing tournament that allows amateur and rookie racing enthusiasts the opportunity to compete at a national level, draws in only a handful of viewers to its races at the Losail International Circuit.

Speaking to Doha News a few months ago, several tournament drivers said that engaging people in the sport and filling up the stadium were among their biggest challenges.

Arabian Drag Racing League
Arabian Drag Racing League

Similarly, the Drag Racing and Drifting Championships, which take place at the Qatar Racing Club in the Industrial Area, also take place in front of mostly empty stands.

Khalaf said he and colleagues hope Ignition ME will help tackle this problem by drumming up more interest about and creating public awareness of Qatar’s vibrant motor scene among local residents.

So far, the project, which started last year, has some 1,000 Facebook fans and 70,000 views on the fourteen videos up on its YouTube channel.

In that time, IgnitionME has faced several challenges, Khalaf said:

“Our (main issue is) garnering support from institutions to help us get our content out there as well as convincing dealerships to provide us with cars to film.

Some have been more helpful than others, but we’re always on the lookout for new ways to work alongside dealers. Ferrari has been supporting us from the get-go and have supplied us with cars we wouldn’t have dreamed of driving.”

He added that other issues included finding shooting times that fit with each of the founders’ busy schedules. Both Holroyd and Khalaf have full-time jobs, while Couper is still in high school.

To create a video, the group sits down to brainstorm a viable storyline before approaching actors, racers, and companies to feature in the project. Once the subject of the short film is onboard, Khalaf creates a storyboard and plans out the video’s look and shot list.

“Filming takes quite a lot of time and patience and this is where most issues usually arise. I’ve had owners sell their cars during filming, travel, lose interest, etc…The process takes time, several shoots, and loads of patience. Once we’ve got the filming done, the editing usually takes around a week and then we’re all set to release the video,” he said.

The completed videos, which are entirely self-funded, have drawn varied responses, with some getting a few hundred views while others over 19,000.

Despite the challenges, Khalaf said he and his team are determined to continue on.

“Our driving force here is the cars. We’re doing our best to fill the void and making content people can relate to and are interested in seeing.There are no constraints to what we can film which has ultimately allowed us to focus more on the grassroots side of motoring and cover stories that would otherwise be left untold,” Khalaf said.

Thoughts?

28 COMMENTS

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Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

First World problems…

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
6 years ago

Drag Racing without Drag Queens is pretty boring.

Ibrahim Ali
Ibrahim Ali
6 years ago

You never grow up and mature, do you? You’re few years from average human life-span -_-. Grow up.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  Ibrahim Ali

Deleting for personal attack.

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
6 years ago

Get married

Jay
Jay
6 years ago

I like your sense of humor, lol

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

I’ve never heard of the Qatar Challenge Cup nor that there was drag racing at the Industrial area. Maybe the problem is that they’re not very well advertised??????

Cerebus
Cerebus
6 years ago

Like all the other issues here, this really just boils down to logistics. To have a racing culture, you need more than a You Tube Channel about a bunch of cars that sit in a show room or a single track day event that only a handful of people can attend. You need to be able to purchase a vehicle, then outfit and modify that vehicle to allow for proper amateur racing to take place. But alas, that missing link of getting reasonably priced parts that in most other places I could simply pick up at a mod shop or order to my door using this world wide network of connected computers called the internet and a supplier like Amazon or Summit Racing just doesn’t exist. Wish you the best of luck trying to pull of a You Tube Top Gear – but if you are looking to change Qatar – its going to need to start with allowing the culture to exist in the first place – and not just for the spoiled boys at the Pearl.

ignitionme
ignitionme
6 years ago
Reply to  Cerebus

Cerebus, we think the car scene here is getting progressively more diverse and change is inevitable. A couple of years ago there was nothing in the way of ‘Cars & Coffee’ style gatherings and car clubs whereas now these take place at least once a month. The car culture here is no longer just for ‘spoiled boys’; there are loads of subcultures out there that exist but just haven’t been explored yet and that’s where we come in.

As far as parts go; there are quite a few places in Doha where you can take your car and have it fitted with racing gear (although I can’t be sure how far they’d go with the mods). GT Customizer (GTC.qa) and the Annabi Racing Garage at the drag strip are a couple of examples. Totally agree the racing scene isn’t near developed enough though, these things take time but we’re very optimistic!

Cerebus
Cerebus
6 years ago
Reply to  ignitionme

Sorry didn’t mean to come across as critical of the efforts – but just pointing out the biggest hurdle is getting the stuff you need. I would personally love to find a nice 1980s 911 tub and build a club racer – or maybe a mid 1990s 3 series BMW but even finding a decent car that would work for something like that – next to impossible – then the parts etc. Tires, Wheels, suspension. I would have to bring most of it back in hand luggage to get what I wanted. Let alone building a roll cage, the seats, safety gear. So here is an idea for a You Tube video – build one….from scratch. Find the car, have a budget, and show that it is possible. Get these places to sponsor you maybe…worth a try at least. For someone like me however – it just doesn’t seem doable here. I mean, even have a 24 Hours of LeMons race would be a great start. https://www.24hoursoflemons.com/ I have participated in a few of these, and it was great fun to see what you can do with a car for less than say 2500 QR. Making it accessible, and affordable, like everything else here is where things need to start.

ignitionme
ignitionme
6 years ago
Reply to  Cerebus

Not at all! Criticism is an integral part of what we do; without it we wouldn’t know what our audience is looking for in our videos. I’m actually very intrigued by the idea of motoring on a budget and I agree that there aren’t many options out there. Only last month I got rid of an offroading project because I simply couldn’t get it to work and the answer was always buy a box (preassembled) engine from the UAE! We were also planning on running (and filming of course) a ‘banger’ rally from here to Oman but that ended up being scrapped also for lack of time and options on the market. Like I mentioned before though, as Qatar expands and the population grows I hope the car culture will follow suit.

Side note: if you ever do decide to take on that club racer project you know where to find us 😉

Cerebus
Cerebus
6 years ago
Reply to  ignitionme

How about someone (Must be Qatari) inks a deal with Factory Five in Massachusetts USA, to import the Factory Five Roadster. They have a Challenge Race series. This would allow amateur racing teams to build cars based on specifications for a sanctioned racing series. http://www.factoryfive.com/kits/challenge-car/ I know they have a deal now in Europe and the UK with distributors there. These are all built with common Ford parts, are fairly cheap for a car to build, and makes for some serious fun racing in a sanctioned and rules based format. Would love to see something like this at Lusail.

ignitionme
ignitionme
6 years ago
Reply to  Cerebus

This would be a great idea but, as you mentioned, it requires a little initiative on the part of someone with the power to execute it. The unfortunate reality here is that we’re really just bystanders as far as the availability of products goes. I do know that they have Radical racing at Losail though, not sure if this is similar to the Factory Five deal? http://www.circuitlosail.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=816&cntnt01returnid=61

dubious
dubious
6 years ago
Reply to  Cerebus

There are all those problems, then on top of it, Qatar is a pretty ephemeral place for expats. Would you want to invest serious time and money in a track car project only to dump it if you have to leave?

Cerebus
Cerebus
6 years ago
Reply to  ignitionme

And…I like to build them myself. At home I had all the tools, welding equipment, hoist, etc. Rather than take it to a shop and have them do it…..and maybe not the way I want it done (the right way) as I am a bit of a perfectionist that way.

Umar Chetty
Umar Chetty
6 years ago

Hey Ignition,
The Name Is Umar Chetty And Cars Are My Game. I Have Met Almost All Of The Young Spoilt Qatari Kids In Monaco, Monte Carlo And London, Who Drive Lambo’s And Novitec Ferrari’s And So On, And I Think They Just Buy A Car To Drive Around In Circles, Show-off And Waste Time. Why Not Start An Event, Where Every Month, Expats Who Don’t Usually See These Type Of Imported Supercars, Come Down To Somewhere, Where All Cars Are Parked, And You Get To See Them And Take Pictures Of Them, Or Even Better, A Track Day For All Supercars At Losail, And Expats Pay To Get A Chance To Drive Around The Losail Circuit While Having Fun In Either A V8, V10, V12 Or A Straight 6.
This Is An Idea Which Can Change The Way People Here In Qatar Think About Racing And Can Also Let People Have Fun, Because Lets Face It, In Qatar, There Is No Entertainment Other Than Sand Duning Every Friday Or Going To The Shopping Centres.
Yours Sincerely,
Umar Chetty

If Your Interested In This Idea, Please Call Me At 33573116, Or Email Me At chettyrockstar123@gmail.com

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  Umar Chetty

Oh wow at first I thought this was a sarcastic post with the CAPS. But then behold the email address, chettyrockstar! He was kind enough to give us number, 33573116. Internet you know what to do 🙂

Pete
Pete
6 years ago
Reply to  Umar Chetty

Hey Umar, your post will get way more readers if you save the caps for proper nouns and the beginning of sentences. As it is, it’s way too difficult to read.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  Pete

Also don’t forget the run on sentences (the comment consists of four sentences). I need a nap after reading all that.

Expat
Expat
6 years ago

Anything that requires skill won’t find a home among Qatari’s! But everything that requires cash…you bet it would!

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  Expat

Deleting for stereotyping.

Big Sumo
Big Sumo
6 years ago

Please please get this off the ground and advertised. Perhaps it would help alleviate the pent up energy the boy racers have around City Centre, West Bay residential area at 2am.

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  Big Sumo

Being allowed to date would also help with that pent up “energy.”

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
6 years ago

In the so-called First World people attend track days because street racing is illegal. If you get caught you risk heavy fines, confiscation of your vehicle, even jail term. Organized racing or attending track day means that you have to pay steep fees, follow strict rules and pay from your own pocket if you blew the engine up. What is the incentive for local kids to do that if they can street-race, day or night, with no fear of retribution, no rules, no fees? Even if you ruin or crash your car/motorcycle you stand a better chance of insurance or warranty covering it if it happens on the street as opposed to Losail track day, where insurance and manufacturers’ warranties are void.

Abdullaah
Abdullaah
6 years ago

Hi guys, it all sounds good for a start, have you tried the site Racing In Qatar ( http://www.racinginqatar.com ), this will help you guys too.

Michael L
Michael L
6 years ago

Seriously ‘few racing fans’ ? Has no one been on the Doha Expressway recently ?

Diego
Diego
6 years ago

Welcome to the world boys.You don’t get fans for track days and low level events.You get family and friends-some.Don’t go looking for fans either to support your ego.One does track days and local drags for interest and also for a way to get your ya-yas out so you do not feel the need to go ballistic on the road.Get real.

Ali
Ali
6 years ago

As much as I am against throwing money on these paper cars, I admire the work they have put into their youtube channel and the quality outcome.

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