Motor racing-Saudi PIF to sponsor three electric motorsport series

LONDON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced a multi-year partnership with Formula E, Extreme E and E1 powerboat racing on Monday to 'supercharge' the growth of electric motorsport globally.

It said the Electric 360 partnership would also drive technological innovation and advance the future of electric mobility.

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil exporter but wants to become a leading provider of all kinds of energy with a transition plan that includes renewables, green hydrogen production and carbon capture technologies.

"It's one more push of PIF into the world of sports and for electric motorsports it's fantastic to have them supporting all three championships," Alejandro Agag, founder of the three, told Reuters.

PIF is the main financial backer of LIV Golf and has a sporting portfolio that includes tennis, soccer club ownership at home and abroad, including Premier League Newcastle United, boxing and Formula One.

It already has a 5% stake in Formula E and close to 50% of off-road Extreme E, which is undergoing a transition year before morphing into a hydrogen-powered Extreme H series, and the new E1.

All three have races in Saudi Arabia this year. Formula E has Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) and airline Saudia among its existing sponsors while Extreme E has ENOWA as official green hydrogen partner.

The kingdom also hosts a Formula One Grand Prix in Jeddah, the two-week long Dakar Rally and has plans to add MotoGP in future.

Agag said PIF would become principal partner of the electric championships, the first time one sponsor has backed all three at the same time.

"For the long-term sustainability of the championships, particularly the two smaller ones, it's very relevant ... it helps consolidate those ventures long-term," he added.

No financial details were provided.

PIF, which also announced a brand revamp, said Electric 360 would reflect its broader sponsorship platform with a focus on inclusivity, sustainability, youth, and technology.

Critics have accused Saudi Arabia of using its sovereign wealth fund to engage in "sportswashing" in the face of heavy criticism of the country's human rights record.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in September he did not care about such allegations and would continue funding sport if it added to the country's gross domestic product.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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