‘Little Alonso’ full of confidence

Denzil Pinto 24/11/2016
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Big dreams: Rashid Al Dhaheri (c)

The eight-year-old Emirati star is now behind the wheel for Italian outfit Babyrace Team after penning a three-year deal having previously dazzled in various international and local tournaments for Ippoliti.

But the move didn’t affect his performances and continued to deliver positive results, claiming eight victories and reaching the podium 14 times in his 23 races this term.

Those feats are even more remarkable considering he moved up age categories (8-10 and 8-12) for a number of races in Italy but ‘Little Alonso’ is confident his team will get the best out of him.

“I’m happy with Babyrace Team. They have been looking after well and have taught me different things likes how to overtake and catch the other drivers on the track,” said the GEMS American Academy pupil.

“I’m really looking forward to next year and I do think I can achieve big results with them. I’m sure I’ll have a good future with this team.” added the youngster, who will take to the track in five competitions next year including the UAE Rotax and Italian WSK championships.

Among the accolades in Al Dhaheri’s trophy cabinet this season is a third O Plate title, won in the UAE, and a number of medals in the Paroline Academy and ROK championships as well as the Italiano Campionato and WSK Series on Italian soil.

With Babyrace Team renowned as one of the world’s most famous karting teams which work with development drivers from karting until GP3, their owner Sandro Lorandi feels the youngster has a bright future ahead of him.

“I heard news about Rashid during a conversation with my talent scout about a year ago and I was really impressed,” he said.

“He is young, talented, intelligent and has real passion for the sport even for one so young and most importantly he has the support of his family, he could potentially be an F1 driver in 10 years.”

While Lorandi is confident Al Dhaheri will excel on home soil, he insists the races in Italy will be his biggest challenges.

“In the UAE, it’s quite dry but in Italy, he will have to get used to driving in wet and windy conditions a lot more. That is one challenge but the other is the level of drivers that compete,” he said.

“There are a lot of strong drivers competing in Italy because it’s the best place to learn and test yourself. That will get the best out of Rashid. But he has a lot of potential at a young age.”

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Third time the charm for Victory 3

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Setting the pace: Team Abu Dhabi 6

Victory 3’s Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir Bin Hendi left it until their third run to triumph in the Kilo Run, while Team Abu Dhabi 6 topped practice at the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship.

In a new concept to the schedule, boats ran in reverse order from how they finished pole position qualifying on Tuesday before their maximum speed was measured by radar between a designated buoy and a gate.

Al-Zafeen and Bin Hendi knew they had to beat Team Abu Dhabi 6’s 139mph attempt and they did exactly that with a flying final sprint of 142mph.

In practice, Teams Abu Dhabi 5 and 6 were the first two boats on the water in a slight breeze and they carded laps of 2min 48.187sec and 2min 44.322sec, respectively.

Relekta ran a 3min 01.46sec opener, but the session was red flagged soon afterwards when Al-Tayer and Al-Mansoori carried a little too much speed into the top turn by the Marina Mall approach road and spectacularly spun and flipped their MTi.

“We had a little too much speed, spun the boat and we got some lift,” said Al-Tayer. “Thankfully we managed to get out very fast and are both perfectly okay.”

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For the love of racing

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History-makers: Team Abu Dhabi

Without an official promoter in place this year, the UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship has been placed on the back-burner, but the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) has stepped into the fray to keep the prestigious racing series out of the wilderness and the club will host a three-race, four-day UIM World Championship this week (November 21-25) off the Abu Dhabi Breakwater.

Class 1 racing is one of the most famous power boating disciplines in the world and it was an obvious step for the ADIMSC to step into the breach, according to Salem Al-Romaithi, assistant general manager of the club on Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi.

“At the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club we support a wide range of water sporting activities. Class 1 is a vital one of those,” said Al-Romaithi.

“Class 1 is one of the most important of all the UIM racing disciplines and has a tremendous pedigree and history. We were keen to run a UIM World Championship, while it is in a transition year without a promoter in place.

Team Abu Dhabi will have two boats out on the water, as we did when we won the title last year. The goal, of course, is to retain the title and lay down the solid foundations for the sport to return to the regular calendar in 2017.”

Indeed, Team Abu Dhabi made history last season when the American duo of Gary Ballough and John Tomlinson broke the Victory Team’s stranglehold on Class 1 silverware to confirm a first ever world title for Team Abu Dhabi at the second race off the Breakwater last November.

Tomlinson returns to defend his crown this season alongside Faleh Al-Mansoori and the American and the Emirati face a serious threat from team-mates, Rashed Al-Tayer and Majed Al-Mansoori, and a selection of other entrants.

These include multiple world champions, Arif Saif Al-Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi, from the Victory Team and the new driver line-up of Italy’s Giovanni Carpitella and England’s Class 1 debutant Ian Blacker in Zabo Racing.

“The transition of the sport ahead of the appointment of a new promoter by the UIM means that Christian Zaborowski and Niclas Johansson were committed to other business projects and this has given an exciting opportunity for Ian to make his debut,” said Zabo Racing’s team manager Oivind Dreier Sivertsen.

Last season’s success for Team Abu Dhabi and their American-built MTi was the first non-Victory hull success for 12 seasons in Class 1 racing and it ended an eight-year winning streak for the Dubai-based team.

“Winning the title at the second race last year marked a great day for Abu Dhabi,” recalls Tomlinson, who had won the title himself back in 1997.

“I remember, it was calmer than I thought it was going to be and it didn’t rough up. We got a really good run at the start, made the first corner and were able to run at the front for a couple of laps.

“Then, as we went around the turn on the outside leg, one engine went into guardian mode with a turbo over heat. We had no throttle and had to drop the rpm. We were able to put it back in gear, throttle up and get going again, but the focus was all about getting to the finish to secure that title.”

Team Abu Dhabi is sponsored by Etihad Airways and runs under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, advisor to the Head of State and chairman of the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC).

UIM Class 1 racing in its present format dates back to 1992.

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