The third Sodi World Series [SWS] event in a row at Dubai Kartdrome has seen a Junior Cup driver reach the highest step of the podium for their first time as Danny Shields took first place on Monday night.
Over the season, Shields has often been in the mix with the race leaders but an SWS Junior Cup victory had eluded him,.
But, fromseventh on the grid, Shields rocketed off the line in Race One and carved a path through the karts ahead. He grabbed the lead and held off his rivals to take the chequered flag, just 0.173 seconds ahead of Seif Al Naggar.
In Race Two there would be even more contenders for the throne as four drivers broke cover and clashed for the lead. The pack kept changing as Alex Connor, Omar Aswat, Samir Malas, and Shields each manoeuvred to take control.
After nine aggressive laps, Connor came out on top of the scuffle, crossing the finish line a mere 0.245 seconds ahead of Aswat. Malas secured third and Shields trailed in fourth.
When the points were tallied for the night Shields won 71, pipping Connor by a point to secure a maiden SWS Junior first place trophy.
“I’m very happy,” said Shields. “I’m proud and I’ve had quite a lot of support from friends at school, friends from different countries.”
Competition was also fierce in the SWS Senior Cup, but this time the spoils of victory belonged to the more experienced drivers.
Multiple karting and motorsport champion Saeed Al Mehairi set the bar in Qualifying with a best lap time of 1:11.140. Abigail Birch was just off the mark by 0.266 seconds with a best time of 1:11.406. Ahmed Al Hammadi was also close with a time of 1:11.780.
Al Mehairi made the most of his pole position in Race One, controlling the race and bringing the kart home for victory. Anjum Shaikh did well to go from fourth on the grid to second place at the chequered flag, after a close scrap with third place Birch.
In Race Two it was Birch who made the best getaway and jumped out in front, followed right behind by Al Mehairi, Romaldo Labrooy and Hussain Umid Ali. The four drivers broke away from the pack and boxed it out, ducking and diving on every corner.
The veteran expertise of Al Mehairi was again too much, and he emerged from the brawl on top, crossing the finish line 0.255 seconds in front of Labrooy. Umid Ali shadowed in for third.
The Abu Dhabi Racing boss and driver will be behind the wheel of a Peugeot 2008 DKR as an official Peugeot Sport driver run by PH Sport as he tackles approximately 9,000km across three South American countries, starting in Asuncion, Paraguay, passing through La Paz, Bolivia, and culminating in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
With extensive experience in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) under his belt, the 44-year-old is still new to the cross country platform in off-road racing and was initially unsure whether he’d pursue Dakar.
Sheikh Khalid took part in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and was third overall before he was forced to retire with a technical issue on the final day.
He then participated in Baja Aragon in Spain and finished inside the top-10 (in a Toyota Hilux).
In 2016, the three-time MERC champion completed the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge seventh overall, driving a Mini ALL4 Racing, and finished the final day of Rally Morocco sixth-fastest behind the wheel of a Peugeot 2008 DKR.
“After my participation in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Baja Spain in different manufacturer cars, I was not really sure at that time if that’s the path I wanted to take, especially as the cars were totally different than the WRC cars I am used to driving,” Sheikh Khalid told Sport360.
“The Peugeot 2008 DKR emerged a winner on its 2016 debut at the Dakar, with Stéphane Peterhansel behind the wheel. Then I had the chance to test-drive the car in France run by PH Sport. Citroën (our partners) and Peugeot are one group, so that opened the opportunity for me to test-drive the car ahead of Rally Morocco.
“I liked the feel of the 2008 DKR, but I needed to put in the mileage to get more familiar with it, which is why Rally Morocco was a very good opportunity to learn more about cross country rallies and obviously the Peugeot 2008 DKR.”
The good news for Sheikh Khalid, is that several drivers coming from a WRC background have fared well on their Dakar debut.
Frenchman Sebastien Loeb, a nine-time WRC champion, won four stages at this year’s Dakar Rally on his first appearance at the iconic race.
Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah is a two-time Dakar winner (2011, 2015) but is also a 12-time Middle East Rally champion, and the 2014 and 2015 WRC-2 champion.
Still, Sheikh Khalid is keeping his expectations in check ahead of his Dakar inauguration.
“I’m going for a totally new challenge in the Dakar to challenge my limits in the toughest and biggest off-road rally in the world,” said the Emirati.
“My goal is to learn and hopefully be close to the top 10 drivers. Don’t forget that they have plenty of experience in cross country rallies. I will need to avoid all kinds of trouble and try to be close to the top 10.”
Sheikh Khalid’s co-driver for Dakar will be Frenchman Pascal Maimon, who is one of the most experienced individuals in the world of Cross Country rallying.
“We will be testing the Peugeot 2008 DKR in the Liwa Desert here in the UAE in mid-December and will see how we gel as a team. I hope we will work perfectly together,” added Sheikh Khalid.
They certainly will need to rely on perfect teamwork if they plan on overcoming the challenges posed by Dakar. With altitude in parts of Bolivia nearing 4,000m above sea level, meticulous preparation is required to adapt to it.
“I’m currently working out and training to be as fit as possible with the altitude and low oxygen levels that is expected to affect a driver and the car as well. It’s definitely a very big challenge but we will try to overcome it successfully,” says Sheikh Khalid.
On how he feels about competing in Dakar as an official Peugeot Sport driver, he said: “It’s very important because it strengthens our partnership with Citroën and this will reflect positively on Abu Dhabi Racing. It is definitely a very important step forward in my career.”
Well I couldn’t have asked for more for the opening round of the UAE Sportbikes Championship. With a bit more luck we could have won the two races, but I will happily take one win and a second place finish!
It all started in free practice on Thursday where I was topping the time sheets for the 600s. I was working so hard on my consistency for the race duration and it helped a lot. I noticed that Abdulaziz was not on his usual pace which made things easier to focus on, as he would be the man to beat.
After a little drama in the qualifying on race day, I managed to stick the bike on the front row in third position, having set wrong pressures for a very cold track. Still, I was ready to fight for the race.
I had a good start and managed to battle it out with Ahmed Al Muyini and Nasser Al Shaiba. I knew I had better pace than the Kawasaki rider, and planned my move accordingly. Unfortunately the yellow flags came out three laps from the end, and thus couldn’t overtake him where I wanted, so I left it till the last lap and tried a lunge on the final turn, but my exit was not that strong and I finished second behind Ahmed within 0.160 of a second! I was happy to break my own lap record on the national circuit with a 1.31.6s.
I had a different plan though for race two and after the team worked on some suspension adjustment to give me a better feel from the front, we set off with an improved start and I went a bit aggressively at turn one to make sure I was behind Nasser Al Shaiba on his Yamaha. I felt really good two laps in and the tires were working perfectly. I made my move after a few laps and tried to put the hammer down! Watching my board lap after lap, I noticed a huge gap already to the guys behind, and my consistency training was paying off. I just needed to bring her in the first spot safe, so I took my time on the last lap and rode safely to find my guys waiting in the pit lane to celebrate!
A great start to my 10th championship season! I have to thank everyone from Al Futtaim Honda to all my sponsors who stuck with me for this year. I have been training hard all summer in Europe and it looks like it has paid off so far. Roll on round two in December!