‘Little Alonso’ races to podium on Yas Marina debut

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Karting king: Rashid is already turning heads with some stunning performances.

Abu Dhabi racing prodigy Rashid Al Dhaheri marked his first appearance at the Yas Marina Circuit with a second place finish.

The five-year-old, dubbed ‘Little Alonso’ due to his replica driving suit, was kart racing at the Abu Dhabi circuit, which was hosting a round of the UAE Rotax Max Challenge on Friday 28 February.

Despite having never raced at the Yas Marina Circuit, Rashid battled back from some early difficulties to claim a deserved podium finish.

In 2011, at the age of just three, the Emirati youngster had visited the circuit and the Ferrari pit box during the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix – this time around he was racing there.

Ali Al Dhaheri, Rashid’s father, admitted it was an amazing experience for his son to race at such a prestigious venue.

"Racing at the Yas Marina Circuit, venue of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, was a dream come true for Rashid and he couldn't hide his happiness to be racing in one of the most beautiful Formula 1 tracks in the world,” he said.

Under the watchful eye of coach Paul Chatenay, who is regarded as one of the most experienced international drivers in the karting community, Rashid is earning a growing reputation within the racing world.

He is no stranger to podium finishes, having already picked up victories at the Al Ain Raceway International Circuit and Dubai Kartdrome.

Rashid will return to Dubai Kartdrome for the O-Plate Race Weekend on March 14.  

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Al Nabooda confident of retaining GT3 title in Bahrain

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Leading the way: Al Nabooda have a 22-point lead over their rivals.

Al Nabooda Racing believe they can win a second successive team title in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East as the series reaches its climax in Bahrain this weekend.

The team of Clemens Schmid and Karim Al Azhari currently hold a 22-point lead over their nearest rivals, the Saudi Falcons, ahead of the final two rounds of racing on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 March.

The circuit in Bahrain has proved a successful track for the Al Nabooda duo, who have won the last eight Porsche GT3 Cup rounds staged there.

It is this impressive form that makes Team Manager of Al Nabooda Racing, Vijay Rao, confident of retaining the team title.

“Clemens and Karim both enjoy racing in Bahrain and the circuit seems to bring out the best in them,” said Rao.

“This was underlined when Clemens won both rounds there in the first race weekend this season, while Karim won the final round in Bahrain last season to make sure of the team title.

“So we’re very confident that we can round things off with another strong showing this weekend.”

Despite his confidence, Rao is keen not to allow any complacency to creep into the Dubai-based team.

“You can never take anything for granted in racing, and both drivers know that they have to be at their best again, because this is such a fiercely contested championship, and our rivals will capitalise on any mistakes,” he said.

“But we’ve prepared very thoroughly for the final two rounds, as we have for every race weekend over the last two seasons.

“We’re determined to bring the team championship back to Dubai for the second year in a row.”

In the drivers’ competition, Schmid faces serious competition if he is to retain his crown.

Prior to the previous rounds' racing in Dubai, the Austrian had a 39-point cushion over nearest rival, Zaid Ashkanani.

However, Schmid was handed a one-race ban for dangerous driving at the Dubai Autodrome, forcing him to sit out Race 2 and allowing Ashkanani to go to Bahrain with a three-point lead.

It all means that if Schmid is to retain his drivers’ title, he may have to win both races at the Losail International Circuit for a fourth time in three years. 

TEAM STANDINGS

1. Al Nabooda Racing (342pts) 

2. Saudi Falcons (320) 

3. SKY DIVE Dubai Falcons (310) 

DRIVERS STANDINGS

1. Zaid Ashkanani – Buzaid GT (199pts) 

2. Clemens Schmid – Al Nabooda Racing (196) 

3. Abdulaziz Al Faisal – Saudi Falcons (196) 

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Bonhomme secures treble of Red Bull Air Race Abu Dhabi titles

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Stunning setting: The Red Bull Air Race World Tour started in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Defending champion Paul Bonhomme completed a hat-trick of victories in Abu Dhabi in the opening leg of the Red Bull Air Race Championship on Saturday.

The 49-year-old set an impressive time of 56.43 seconds to edge out 2008 champion Hannes Arch (56.77 secs) and Friday's qualifying winner Pete McLeod (57.07 secs), who finished in second and third places respectively.

Australia's Matt Hall, who completed the field in the four-man final, suffered a DNF penalty after hitting the pylon and missed out on a podium finish.

After winning in the UAE capital in 2008 and 2010, Bonhomme will now be hoping to add to his victories in the next race in the Croatian city of Rovinj on April 12 and 13.

The four competitiors registered the fastest times in the Top 12 and Super Eight stages on Saturday to advance to the final. In the final four, Hall got off to a good start registering an impressive time of 28.13 secs in the first lap but saw his hopes of winning the round end by hitting the pylon which ended his race.

By the time Hannes Arch took to the air, the winds were blowing but this didn't deter the Austrian. Arch pushed in the second lap to register the fastest time of the final.

Bonhomme started his race knowing what was required after Arch posted a competitive time. The Briton remained calm and gathered pace in the crucial parts of the track and used his experience to beat Arch's time.

He was later celebrating when McLeod was unable to better his time.

Earlier, in the Super eight session, Bonhomme (55.59 secs) set the fastest time ahead of McLeod (56.71 secs). The Briton had a slow start but gathered pace and posted his best track time in the UAE capital.

Arch (58.86 secs) and Hall (58.02 secs) completed the field for the final four. In the top 12 session which consisted of pilots competing in heats, Nicolas Ivanoff, Martin Sonka, Matthias Dolderer, Nigel Lamb, Hall, Arch and Bonhomme all advanced.

Former champion and twice runner-up Peter Besenyei, who clocked the slowest time in Friday's qualifying session was eliminated by McLeod.

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