We sit down with Emirati driving sensation Saeed Al Mehairi to find out what makes him tick and which of his many achievements in the sport he is particularly proud of.
Saeed Al Mehairi
Born: March 26, 1987
Motorsport: GT3 & karting
Team: Skydive Dubai Falcons Racing Team
Car make: Porsche GT3 991
Sponsor: Skydive Dubai, TAG Heuer and Corthay
Years in the sport: Seven
Titles/podiums: Rookie of the Year at 2014 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenges Middle East; finished with five podiums
Favourite childhood memory of sport: Finished my first ever race in third place at the UAE Karting Championship in 2007
Favourite driver/rider growing up: Ayrton Senna
Best driver/biker/karter at the moment: Fernando Alonso
Other sports you have played and to what standard: Rock climbing; qualified for the World X-Games challenge in 2000
Greatest achievement in any sport: Won the World Grand Finals Endurance Kart Race with team Neiva Pro team in the year 2010
If you could be a pro in any sport and why: Triathlon, because it pushes one beyond the human limits
Favourite meal: Pasta or Sushi
Favourite place in the UAE: Dubai
The UAE Sportbikes Championship is poised for a thrilling finish next month, with both defending champion Mahmoud Tannir and current leader Abdulaziz Binladen needing to win the final two races.
With Saudi Arabia’s Binladen just eight points ahead of his Lebanese rival, racing fans could not have asked for a better finale to the championship, scheduled for April 11 next month.
Many will say that it would be a travesty of fate should Binladen miss out on the title, simply because the statistics are staked heavily in his favour.
Of the 14 races from seven rounds so far, Binladen skipped the opening two, one got cancelled, he did not finish (DNF) one, and amazingly has won the remaining 11 races, racking up 250 points.
Under the regulations, the two worst performances will be discarded at the time of determining the eventual winner. In Binladen’s case, it means his one DNF and one victory will not count in the final tally, putting him currently on 225 points.
Tannir, on the other hand, has had a difficult season with one DNF, one first place, eight second places, two third places and one fourth spot, giving him a total of 230 points. But with two of his worst performances – DNF and fourth place – discarded, the Lebanese goes into the final two races on 217 points, eight adrift of Binladen.
Permutations and combinations dictate that only two outright victories will decide who will be champion, unless of course either one or both end up with a DNF.
If both end up with a DNF, Binladen will benefit given that he goes into the final round with an eight-point lead and third-placed Michael Collins is too far behind to be in contention. Excluding any unforeseen influence on the two races, the pair’s performance will then ultimately determine the champion.
“I had a difficult start to the season with tyre and other issues,” explained Tannir, who is the defending champion. “But with a new bike (a Honda) things are looking different. I have done only two rounds with it so far and we are still working on the set up as we head to the final races.
“However, in the last two races, the bike felt good and we had good pace; I was actually one second faster than my best time.
“One issue we noticed is with the power. We did not have the desired power on the straight. But the last two races will be held on the club circuit, which is much smaller and 15 laps. This configuration is more suited to the Honda.
“Which is why my team and I are confident that we can win both races,” Tannir concluded.
Nasser edges closer to Ben Sulayem’s regional records
Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah is slowly but steadily inching towards the goals he has set himself in the region – to overhaul every possible record that has been set in the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) since its inception in 1984.
There are several records out there that are still standing, particularly those set by the region’s best rally driver ever – Mohammed Ben Sulayem. The two most recognised records, that many believe will never be surpassed, are the most number of wins (60) and the most number of regional titles, which stand at 14 till date.
Ben Sulayem achieved these records between 1986 and 2002, when he retired from the sport. He has not done it officially, thus leaving many to believe that he will perhaps make a comeback one day.
Though the prospect of him doing that now is highly unlikely, the possibilities of his records being overhauled are very real.
Last weekend, at the Kuwait International Rally, Nasser won the event for a fourth time and equaled Ben Sulayem’s win record in that Gulf state.
While winning the event in Kuwait, Nasser registered his 52nd rally victory – he is now just eight short of Ben Sulayem’s 60 wins, and there are still four rounds of the MERC left to go for this season.
If the Qatari continues in his present form, he will have overhauled this record by around the middle of next season. And, if Nasser wins the regional title this year, he will be just four away from equaling Ben Sulayem’s achievement.
The Qatari is 44 years old, and assuming he keeps winning, he can get to his 14th title at age 48. Not too old, given that Spaniard Carlos Sainz is still a force to reckon with in off-road competition, even at the age of 51 today.
Abdulaziz Binladen continued his winning streak in the UAE Sportbike Championship by emerging victorious in both races at the Dubai Autodrome and setting himself up to claim the title in the final round next month.
Binladen, aboard a Liberty Kawasaki, took charge of the proceedings in the 600 Class on the International Circuit by setting the fastest lap of the day.
The Saudi rider said: “Once again my crew and Liberty Kawasaki gave me a great motorcycle on the day, I was able to control the pace and taking two wins sets the stage for a great final day of the championship.”
Defending champion Mahmoud Tannir, riding a Honda, was best of the rest and finished second in both races.
Despite this the Dubai-based Lebanese rider has not thrown in the towel, and goes into the final round only eight points adrift of Binladen.
Tannir said: “This was a good day for us as our new Honda gets better with every race. I managed to set a personal best by a full second in Race 2 where we were much closer to Abdulaziz. We are still experimenting and there is still much to come from the bike.
"The next two races are on the Club Circuit at Dubai Autodrome where I believe our package will perform really well. So we head there determined to keep our title and challenging for two wins on the final race day of the season,” added Tannir.
Gernot Dobida made a welcome return to the national scene on a Triumph, finishing third in both races.