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

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

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.

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