Al Mutawaa ready for Antibes Cote d’Azur Rally challenge

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A new start: Mutawaa in his DS3 R3.

Abu Dhabi Racing Junior Rally Programme driver Mohamed Al Mutawaa returns to racing action with the 52nd Antibes Cote d’Azur Rally, the French Rally Championship, beginning this Friday.

Following a break of nearly six months, Al Mutawaa is looking forward to the challenge with new co-driver Niall Burns of Ireland after his FIA Junior World Rally Championship campaign last season.

Continuing his learning curve, Al Mutawaa is now looking to gain experience in a new championship where he will run on tarmac in Nice behind the wheel of a DS3 R3 run by PH Sport.

Al Mutawaa said: “First of all, I am really grateful for this opportunity to Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Abu Dhabi Racing for their continued support. It is an honour to be in this dream team for the last five years.

“I am really looking forward to get back in that racing seat as it has been nearly six months since I have been competing. The plan for my first race of the season is to try and get things back flowing nicely again.

“I have a new co-driver in Niall and I am looking forward to learn from him and build a strong relationship so we can have good notes and drive with confidence.

“The championship is home to some of the best rally drivers in the world, so it will be tough. For the first rally of this season I will try and get my rhythm back and most importantly gain experience from the mileage over the three days.”

The 52nd Antibes Cote d’Azur Rally consists of 14 special stages, with total length of 207.88 Km.

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Region’s finest motoring youngsters put to their paces in the UAE

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Future stars: GCC’s most promising young drivers pose with Ben Sulayem.

The GCC Young Drivers Academy program kicked off in the UAE on Monday after two extensive training days in Bahrain.

Promising young drivers were selected and nominated by motorsport governing bodies in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

This initiative was a key point on the agenda of the inaugural meeting of GCC Motorsport Committee, which took place earlier in March. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of UAE and President of EMSF, said: “The GCC YDA is an important addition in the development of local talented stars.

“This project was launched in collaboration with all concerned parties in the region and with the support of FIA as well as our partners Nissan and Arabian Automobiles, who share our passion of developing motorsport in the region.”

While the main focus will be on development and assessment of both circuit and rally driving skills, the course will also cover safety, social media skills and sports science.

Each country nominates two drivers aged between 15 and 21, and the UAE has nominated Amna Al Qubaisi and Saeed Al Ali, who contest against each other and ten drivers nominated by other GCC motorsport governing bodies.

Rally training started yesterday in UAE’s desert, utilising buggy type vehicles that can be used in the new regional cross-country rallies series, Gulf Challenge, which starts after the summer in the region. On Tuesday’s final day, the judges will select a winner and runner up.

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Ed Jones passes IndyCar test in Phoenix

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Learning experience: Ed Jones.

Ed Jones called his first oval race in the IndyCar Series at Phoenix International Raceway a big learning experience as he finished just outside the top ten.

Ovals are a unique challenge in North American motorsport and call for a completely different mindset to traditional road courses and street circuits, but the Dubai-based Jones had already proved his proficiency in winning the coveted Indy Lights crown in 2016, which included a close second-place finish at Phoenix along the way.

With only a single practice session to prepare for qualifying, the pressure was on the 22-year-old, but he did well to secure 16th spot on the starting grid.

In the following day’s 250-lap Phoenix Grand Prix held under the floodlights, he steered clear of an early melee that removed a number of cars from the reckoning, before settling into 14th position.

He made further progress over the second half of the race, again carefully staying out of trouble, and took advantage of rapid pit-stops by his Dale Coyne Racing crew to cross the finish line in 11th place and consolidating his top-10 standing in the drivers’ classification.

“I felt pretty comfortable, having done well here last year in Indy Lights and following the test a couple of months ago,” said Jones.

“I was optimistic about being able to move forward in the race, but it proved to be quite difficult as I struggled a lot in traffic. So, to finish only just outside the top ten was good. There was plenty to learn and I gained a lot of experience.”

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