Keanu Al Azhari, son of multiple UAE motorsport champion Karim Al Azhari, battled his way past seasoned veterans to claim his first winner’s trophy in the SWS Junior Cup at the Dubai Kartdrome on Monday night.
During qualifying, it was Omar Aswat who set the early pace, nailing a best lap time of 1.20.096 to claim pole position. Keanu’s brother Enzo Al Azhari was second on the grid and reigning Ramadan Challenge Junior Champion, Kamal Agha, was in third.
Agha’s experience would come in handy during Race One and after the start lights went out he quickly took control of the field. Keanu Al Azhari rocketed from seventh on the grid up into the lead pack along with Seif Al Naggar, who had started in sixth.
After a close campaign Agha was first across the finish line, just .594 seconds ahead of Al Azhari, who eclipsed Al Naggar by a meagre .185 seconds.
Al Azhari’s will to win was even greater in Race Two; after a few laps of skirmishing with the frontrunners he broke free of the pack and drove out of reach, and cruised in for the victory a full 7.266 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Seif Al Naggar. Omar Aswat trailed close behind for third.
When the points were tallied at the end of the night, Keanu Al Azhari was the undisputed victor for the top step of the podium. Kamal Agha had to settle for a second place trophy, while Seif Al Naggar received third.
Afterwards, Al Azhari said: “It feels great. (In the last race) I looked for a place to get away and I got it. Then I just kept driving.”
The SWS Senior Cup witnessed past winners return to form. Abigail Birch was the first to strike, lighting up the qualifying screens with a best lap of 1:11.137. The next five drivers all qualified within a second of her time.
Birch started on pole for Race One and made it count when the lights went out, controlling the ensuing race and taking the chequered flag. Rami Azzam was the only driver to challenge her, finishing just half a second adrift. Almost three seconds later, Saeed Al Mehairi glided in for third.
For Race Two Birch was again on pole and, after getting a clean getaway, was in prime position for repeat success. However, this time a small group of determined drivers reeled her in and she lost grip on the lead.
The trailblazing pack of seasoned competitors ran bumper to bumper, with Hussain Umid Ali in command, followed by Saeed Al Mehairi, Anjum Shaikh, Rami Azzam, Abigail Birch and Ahmed Al Hammadi.
Drivers jostled for a place to pass but the leader could not be shaken. Umid Ali kept in front all the way to the finish line, pipping out Al Mehairi by .087 seconds. Anjum Shaikh was .141 seconds behind for third.
After points were computed, only one point separated each of the podium spots in the SWS Senior Cup. On 71 points Hussain Umid Ali did just enough to take home the first place trophy. Abigail Birch just missed out with 70 points and had to be content with second place silverware. Saeed Al Mehairi secured third with 69 points on the night.
In the Master sub-category of SWS Seniors (ages 35 and older), regular endurance kart racer Carsten Winter was in top form and was rewarded with first place honours. Reigning Ramadan Challenge Master Champion Mohammed Ismail captured second while Gianluca Elmosi finished third on the night.
The next SWS Sprint Series will be on Monday, 21 November at Dubai Kartdrome.
The Iame X30 Challenge came to the Dubai Kartdrome for the first time in its history last Friday and was welcomed by a record grid of 29 karts in the X30 Senior category.
During the initial heats, three drivers moved to the top of the standings of X30 Seniors – Mauricio Hernandez, Jakob Robinson and Amna Al Qubaisi – with their best lap times all within half a second of each other.
In the final race, Hernandez roared off the line from pole position and into the lead with Robinson hot on his tail. When Hernandez slid wide on a bend, Robinson shot into the gap and out in front.
However, Hernandez would not give up so easily and he stuck himself right on Robinson’s back bumper waiting for an opportunity to pounce. That opportunity came in the last lap on the final corner, but this time Hernandez couldn’t make the move stick as he attempted to dive inside Robinson and was too late, missing the pass and spinning his kart sideways.
With a fist in the air of celebration, Robinson was first across the finish line, with Enzo Fontanella and Alexandre Silanine taking advantage of the failed pass to sneak in with second and third place respectively.
It was heartbreak for Hernandez, who went from challenging for the win down to seventh place in just one corner.
In the Masters sub-category of X30 Senior, for drivers 30 years and older, it was Craig Shenton who triumphed over Kyle Blockley for the top step of the podium, while Hussain Umid Ali secured third.
The fastest karts on the day belonged to the X30 Shifter/Veteran class, with lap times approaching a blistering 56 seconds.
Khaled Al Qubaisi and Team Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing finished fourth at the penultimate round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the 6 Hours of Shanghai, in class LMGTE Am on Sunday.
The team now goes into the final round in Bahrain later this month third overall and still in with a chance to move up and finish the season in second place in class.
Al Qubaisi shared driving duties with David Heinemeier-Hansson of Denmark and Patrick Long of the US behind the wheel of the No88 Porsche 911 RSR.
Long kicked things off for the team and managed to avoid crashing into an LMP2 car following an incident just before the first corner involving car No45 that required deployment of the safety car. As a result, Long went back to sixth in class from third at the restart of the race which cost the team precious time.
However, the American then put pedal to metal and reclaimed his third position. He moved up to P2 in class before handing over the week to Al Qubaisi. The Emirati kept up the pressure on his opponents with some aggressive driving, swapping the P2 and P3 positions at regular intervals.
During the third stint, Hansson took to the wheel in P2 however, as he was nearing the end of his session he dropped down to P4 due to issues with the tyres. Al Qubaisi took the wheel in the final stint and brought the car home safely to take fourth in class and still third overall going into the final race of the season in Bahrain on November 19.
“The result could have been better,” said Al Qubaisi. “The incident, which was no fault of ours, cost us precious time. We did our best here in China. “In racing, these issues crop up. But now we are totally focused on the final race in Bahrain where we will push ourselves to the limit and try and move up to P2 in the final classification in class.”
The overall race was won by the No 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid crew of Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley, who secured a second consecutive 2016 FIA World Endurance Manufacturer title for the German marque with one round remaining.
Porsche took a commanding victory in front of 55,000 spectators, leading for the vast majority of the race.