An electric atmosphere awaits reigning UAE champion Faisal Al Zaabi and his competition in the National Final as the Red Bull Car Park Drift makes its return to Dubai.
After being staged in Ajman last year, where Al Zaabi claimed the crown to reach the Series Final in Oman, the event is back in Dubai and will be hosted at City Walk’s Green Planet parking lot on Friday.
Some of the region’s most talented drifters will battle on a course designed to bring out the best of their abilities through challenging obstacles and winding roads.
The energy is expected to be high once again as the spectator-friendly Red Bull Car Park Drift is known for drawing a lively crowd. For Al Zaabi, the electricity in the air can be overwhelming but the Emirati has experience on his side with this being his fourth UAE National Final after previously competing in 2013, 2014 and last year’s success.
“Everyone can do drifting, but it’s about how you control yourself, control your tensions, how you drive under pressure,” said the 28-year-old.
“Those are the challenges when you compete in front of people. I do believe many people are good at drifting and have talent too, but it’s challenging when you drive under pressure.”
Though he fell short against Oman’s Haitham Al Hadidy at the Series Final in Muscat last year, Al Zaabi again has his sights set on the ‘King of Drift’ title, which will be up for grabs in Kuwait on December 8.
Once again, he’ll encounter familiar obstacles in his Nissan Silvia, such as boxes and gates. But the famous pendulum is by far the toughest aspect of the course, according to Al Zaabi.
“For me, it’s whenever we have the clipping point,” he said. “There’s a cone you have to clip with the side of your car while you’re going at high speeds. That can be the difference in the points.”
Aside from the usual, nearly all of the drifters in tomorrow’s field will get their first look at a new obstacle added to the course layout – ‘The Buzzer Gate’ which will challenge drivers to successfully hit a hanging buzzer while maintaining a perfect drift.
“We had that last year in Oman in the qualifiers for the Middle East,” said Al Zaabi. “It’s not very hard, but I think it’s exciting. Abdo Feghali (legendary drifter) keeps inventing stuff which makes the track more challenging.”
Gates for the event will open at 14:00 before the top 16 drifters are whittled down to eight, four and then the winner.
“My main goal is to mix the excitement with driving under pressure,” Al Zaabi said.
“You can enjoy the course, but you have to control yourself and not go too fast or go too slow. It’s about controlling the car and giving the audience a show. That’s how I like to perform in front of people.”
Over 100 competitors took part in the second round of the Emirates Desert Championship along the Dubai-Hatta Road on Friday.
The track for the latest round was in a diamond shape, which offered many sharp turns, bumps and difficult dunes for the competitors, proving more challenging than round one.
Winner of auto overall, Ryan Trutch said: “I’ve done this track twice before last season. It is an extremely rough track, which is why I’m shaking to pieces now [just after the race].”
“I wasn’t sure exactly what position I was in, but I overtook everybody and nobody overtook me, so I felt like I was in a good position. There are a lot of bumps on the track, which is a bit bone jarring, but otherwise it’s a fantastic race,” he added.
Winner of the moto category, Ross Runnass said: “I was really confident in this round. Last year I was leading both these round in the technical stages. So, when the track gets really rough, I was able to use bike skills a lot, which is what I prefer.”
The next round will be on 8 December at a location to be announced a day before the event.
Although the championship could very well be wrapped up by this weekend in Mexico, the Abu Dhabi GP still promises to be one of the most captivating events in the UAE sporting calendar.
But what is it like to race on the famed track at Yas Marina Circuit?
Strapped into a harness, we experienced one of the most gruelling Formula One race venues, driven by the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Hamilton.
In the video above, watch our first-person camera as an experienced driving professionals speeds around the 5.5km circuit.
Who do you think will win the final race in Abu Dhabi on November 26?