Debatista bags first podium at Dubai Kartdrome

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Jake Anderson began the night on pole position with a best qualifying time of 1:27.582 but it was all Debatista from there. From fourth on the grid he powered through the field and pinched a Race One win over Anderson by 1.325 seconds. Omar Aswat was close behind to capture third place.

Debatista was even better in Race Two, sprinting away and leaving the rest of the field behind. Again he was the first to the chequered flag, with Omar chasing him in for second place and Anderson securing third.

Going two for two, Debatista was guaranteed a top stop on the podium for the night—his first ever. It was an impressive showing to dominate a grid full of experienced drivers, including 2016 Ramadan Challenge Champion Kamal Agha.

“It’s so satisfying when you’re finally in the lead and you know there’s no one ahead of you.” said Debatista.

Anderson was best-of-the-rest for the night, just barely beating out Aswat for the second place trophy.

The SWS Senior Cup, meanwhile, was business as usual as veterans Saeed Al Mehairi and Gianluca Elmosi returned to the podium.

Ahmed Al Hammadi topped the qualifying screens with a blazing time of 1:11.626, just .039 seconds ahead of Rami Azzam. The top nine drivers all qualified within a second of each other.

After the lights went out. Race One quickly disintegrated into a feisty brawl in which multiple karts were cited for penalties. In the ruckus Al Hammadi dropped back, allowing the trio of Al Mehairi, Anjum Shaikh and Azzam to sneak up into the lead. Saeed snatched victory 2.102 seconds clear of Ajum, while Rami and Ahmed trailed in for third and fourth.

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After a stern discussion from the Clerk of the Course, the SWS Senior drivers were more disciplined for Race Two, although the racing was no less spirited.

Ahmed Al Hammadi, Saeed Al Mehairi and Rami Azzam broke away from the pack and remained bumper to bumper the entire race. Al Mehairi took control and managed to keep the other two drivers behind him. The Emirati ace crossed the finish line just .674 seconds ahead of Azzam, who was a mere .263 seconds in front of Al Hammadi.

After a convincing two wins on the night, Al Mehairi was assured a first place trophy. Azzam grabbed the second place silverware while Ajum Shaikh collected just enough points in the evening to pip out Al Hammadi for third.

In the Masters sub-category of SWS Seniors (ages 35 and older), Gianluca Elmosi collected his second victory trophy in a row, narrowly beating out Carsten Winter for second place on the podium. Usual front-runner Mohammed Ismail Ali had to settle for an unaccustomed third place trophy.

Afterwards David Bright of Dubai Kartdrome commented, “Tonight had quality grids with current GT and karting stars. It was great to see such close and energetic racing.

“It was also fantastic to have guest driver Florian Holzinger from Austria stay over from the recent Endurance Championship race to join us on the SWS Senior grid.”

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971 Drift’s Ghaith Al Falasi puts safety first by leading drifters off the streets

Hiba Khan 23/10/2016
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Although drifting’s roots can be traced back to Japan, it is little surprise that the sport is hugely popular in the UAE, a country with a world-renowned penchant for fast cars.

When it first landed in the emirates, drifting quickly became a problem for the authorities. The UAE’s roads were used as a playground for petrolheads and, as such, stringent laws were passed to stop people drifting in public – from fines of up to Dhs10,000 to 30-day vehicle impoundment, black points and even license revocation.  

It did not deter everyone, however, with self-proclaimed ‘Drift Kings’ putting their financial stability, and even their lives, on the line for the sake of a momentary adrenaline rush.

Many are still taking risks on public roads but safe environments do exist. At Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, Emirates Motorplex in Umm al Quwain and soon at Sharjah (where a new facility is due to open in 2017), drifters can perform their pastime legally.


Ghaith Al Falasi, founder of the ‘971 Drift’ team, recognises that the sport’s past is a little murky but insists it is becoming less taboo, with drivers now able to channel their passion for fishtailing cars and burning rubber on designated tracks.  








Al Falasi started the group with four people, but it now expanded to 62 members and also includes drifters from other clubs from all over the country.


Despite his love for the motorsport, Al Falasi strictly adheres to the belief that drifting is not a safe driving practice on public roads and encourages young drifters to take their passion to purpose-built facilities.


He labels the illegal videos that flood YouTube “lucky videos” as they promote reckless behaviour in young drivers, giving them the impression that drifting is easy and not properly educating them about the risks and dangers involved.


“Drifting on public roads is not a good idea. Let’s take it from other side, which is not the legality of it or the road, but what will happen to you or the car or someone on that road, if you make a mistake and definitely you will make a mistake?” Ghaith says to Sport360.


“When you drift on a track, no one will be in front of you, no one will be behind you and no one will be standing in the middle of the road. This is something for sure that won’t happen.”



“This is how I started, I never played on the public roads, because I know what will happen afterwards, and whatever will happen is either going to cost me my life or a lot of money, either one of these two.”


The 36-year old Emirati chose 971, the dialling code of the UAE, as his drift club name after being inspired by his friend, Naser Al Mutairi, the first Arab drifter and founder of 965 Drift in Kuwait.


“I have been working on a drift team for three years and we are now entering year four,” Al Falasi explains. “My friend, Naser Al Mutairi, who brought me to this, was thinking of a name with me and said ‘why don’t we use numbers?’ Because that is the only thing that can show where we are from – he is from Kuwait so 965, I am from UAE 971. And that’s how the story starts.


Al Falasi has high expectations for the drifting scene in the UAE, with several drivers now looking at going professional. He won’t be joining them any time soon but having rubbed elbows with the giants of Japanese motorsports – names like Daigo Saito, Daijiro Yoshihara and Keiichi Tsuchiya – Al Falasi is keen to continue to grow local support.


Tsuchiya, known as the ‘Real Drift King’ in motorsport circles, has been a particular inspiration. The Japanese driver featured in a cameo in the third installment of the Fast and Furious franchise – Tokyo Drift – and shaped modern drifting technique.


After becoming bored of winning in straight-line races, Tsuchiya perfected the discipline on the sharp corners of Japanese mountain ranges under the harsh dictum, “win or die”.


Things have changed a lot since then, and “win or die” is certainly not an adage that Al Falasi supports here in the UAE. But what he does support is the development of this thrilling sport, which even when in safe parameters, has the capacity to captivate. His 971 Drift team are sure to remain at the heart of this evolution.  


Follow @971_Drift on Instagram to stay up to date with all the latest events and happenings. 



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UAE drivers on the pace at MAX Challenge Finals

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Following some mixed performances on the first day of official practice, Team UAE were looking to make progress in the last full day of practice before official qualifying.

The circuit remained dry throughout the morning and into the early part of the afternoon as Micro MAX drivers, Oscar McElroy and Rashid Al Dhaheri looked to continue their impressive form from the previous day. McElroy was impeccable in both sessions, finishing 9th and 11th and giving himself an excellent platform for Qualifying.

Al Dhaheri, however, was down on pace in both sessions after suffering with an apparent technical issue.  He improved dramatically in the final session but his technical support team will be looking to make advancements overnight ahead of Qualifying.

Ziggy Kermanshahchi shone in the Mini MAX category, topping the timesheets of the final session until a late charge from his rivals dropped him to third, albeit just 0.07s behind the fastest driver. It was a great end to the day for him but he will be wary that there is still much work to do before the real business of qualifying gets under way.

Junior MAX drivers Tehmur Chohan and Lucas Petersson performed excellently. Chohan made it into the top 10 while Petersson’s 12th place was sensational given his struggle for pace on the previous day. Both will be confident of a solid Qualifying performance but with 60 drivers within one second, any mistake could be devastating.

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Giulio Peroni and Pasqual Pook both improved their relative positions throughout the day in the MAX class although a light spattering of rain affected Peroni’s group slightly. The rain then became heavier which played havoc with the DD2 Masters as, on slick tyres, grip levels were significantly reduced.

Hussain Umid Ali chose to sit out the final session, knowing that driving in such conditions would likely not help his Qualifying preparation.  Anthony Hogg, however, performed relatively well in the difficult conditions and has certainly given himself the advantage of track knowledge if it rains in the elimination stages.

The rain abated in time for the DD2 class, who took to a dry track to make their final qualifying preparations. After struggling on the previous day, Taymour Kermanshahchi looked in good form in both sessions – 14th and 16th respectively, and much closer to the front-running pace of reigning World Champion, Ferenc Kancsar, who topped the timesheets.

Edward Jones opted for a full wet set-up in final practice, not expecting the track to dry out. This compromised his run but he was happy with the package underneath him ahead of Qualifying.

Omani national, Abdullah Al Rawahi, trumped his 8thfastest time in the early session with a sensational fourth in the post-rain session, closing out an impressive day and allowing him to sleep soundly and with confidence.

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