If you follow drag racing in the USA and you haven't heard of Sheik Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar, you will. Mr. Al-Thani, son of the emir of Qatar, loves drag racing and decided to jump into the sport in a big way. How big? Estimates are $10 million this year to fund a team with the best equipment, drivers, crew and support in a sport where more money can mean a better chance at consistent wins.
With the economy causing many big name sponsors to reexamine their expenditures, (Budweiser is ending their support of Brandon Berstein after this year) drivers Del Worsham and Larry Dixon can look forward to well funded operations courtesy of the sheik.
Long-term financing is essential because the costs are so high. A complete engine with a clutch, computerized data recorder and drivetrain system costs about $200,000. A dragster's chassis costs $50,000, while tires run $1,500 for a set and need to be replaced after every other pass down the track.
With big money necessary to keep the competition going, teams will be looking everywhere for potential sponsors and it won't be surprising if we see a lot of new names entering the sport, names a lot of fans won't recognize which is a big change from the usual sponsorship arrangements where fans see familiar names in the hope they might buy from those companies in the future. Al-Anabi racing, instead, is looking to build experience at the highest levels of drag racing in the hope of one day establishing Qatar as the hotspot for drag racing in the Middle East. It will be interesting to see how this shift evolves over time and how many companies struggling with economic issues can compete against funding at this level. Time will tell.
Link: Wall Street Journal