Thani Al-Qamzi targets team title at F1 H20 Championship

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Raring to go: Team Abu Dhabi’s Alex Carella.

Thani Al-Qamzi hopes the momentum from Alex Carella’s victory on home waters last weekend in the UAE capital and his own brilliant climb through the field can lift Team Abu Dhabi to glory in today’s (Friday) final round of the UIM F1 H2O World Championship in Sharjah.

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Both Al-Qamzi and Carella head into the Grand Prix of Sharjah with the chance to finish runner-up to Frenchman Philippe Chiappe in the F1 drivers’ championship, and together they hope to secure the world team title for Team Abu Dhabi.

“The team is very strong now and we want to finish the season with another win,” said Al-Qamzi. “Everyone has been working very hard and we have prepared well for Sharjah to get the boats right.

“I remember winning there in 2012. It was a fantastic race and I will give everything I have on Friday to try and win again. After my engine problems in Abu Dhabi last week I was upset and frustrated, but I was very happy to fight back and finish third.”

After his hopes of a first victory in his home event had been ruined by engine failures in practice and qualifying, Al-Qamzi climbed through the field brilliantly to finish on the podium.

He says it was his most dramatic recovery since he came from the back of the field to win a Formula 2 race in Abu Dhabi in 2002.

Added to Carella’s stunning win, it saw the Team Abu Dhabi pair climb above CTIC China’s Chiappe and Ziwei Xiong to take a two-point lead in the race for the F1 world teams title.

“It will mean a lot to all the team if we can win the championship,” said Al Qamzi, who is determined to deliver a second world title to Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club.

Action on Khaled Lagoon starts with time trials for the F-4S boats prior to the F1 practice session beginning at 10:15. The first of two F-4S races starts at 14:30 and is followed by F1 qualifying from 15:30.

F-4S practice and time trials will be repeated from 09:10. The second of the F-4S races takes place at 14:30 and the Grand Prix of Sharjah from 15:30.

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Young karting star Rashid ready for bigger challenges in the year ahead

Denzil Pinto 17/12/2015
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On track for success: Rashid Al Dhaheri and his father Ali Obaid Al Yabhouni.

The UAE’s karting sensation Rashid Al Dhaheri is looking forward to next season for what the seven-year-old describes as his most challenging yet.

The Emirati ended his 2015 season on a high, finishing second overall in the Parolin Academy Championship in Italy following back-to-back victories in October.

His achievement saw him nominated in the ‘Local Young Athlete’ category for the prestigious Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award with the winner to be announced next month.

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It’s a feat that he’s very proud of but next year, he  will be spending a lot of time behind the wheel in what will be a more competitive season.

For the first time, ‘Little Alonso’ will line up in the ROK Championship in the Mini ROK category for the opener in April in Italy. He will come up against eight to 12-year-olds in an event that attracts more than 80 promising drivers.

Keen to test himself against the best, Al Dhaheri will also move up one level to the Mini Category (eight to 12-year-olds) in the Parolin Academy Championship.

The Emirati will also make his debut in the Micro Max Category of the UAE Rotax Max Championship as well as the RAK Championship in the Rookie event.

“I will give it my best but I know it will be a hard year for me,” said Al Dhaheri during a media interaction at the Sofitel hotel in Abu Dhabi.

“I’m happy I did well this year as it was a tough season. Racing in Italy isn’t easy because I have to deal with the weather as it rains there while in the UAE it’s hot so the tracks are very dry. I’m confident I can do well.”

The schedule means the GEMS American Academy pupil, who idolises F1 star Fernando Alonso, will travel twice a month for the Italian competitions, often spending four days on each visit.

Guiding him through is coach and former Formula Three driver Fausto Ippoliti. The Italian has been impressed by what he’s seen of Al Dhaheri and is adamant he can go far in the sport.

“He is a young driver but I like his mentality,” he said. “He is very intelligent and his driving style is very good. He’s very alert and simply loves being behind the wheel. Some of the top Formula One drivers all started in karting and there’s no reason why Rashid can’t do the same.”

Al Dhaheri’s father Ali Obaid Al Yabhouni insists the busy season will help him develop as an athlete.

He said: “There is still a lot to learn. The year 2016 will be more focused on gaining experience in each and every category. He has the natural ability but needs to gain a lot more experience to compete at the highest levels against older drivers.

“Rashid’s learning curve has been exceptional. Education is a priority for us and all the things that Rashid learns at school is helpful when he’s behind the wheel. I’m proud of Rashid’s achievements and I’m sure he can achieve the podium again this year.”

Whatever lies ahead, Al Dhaheri is dreaming big. “I want to compete in the Formula One for Ferrari. That is my dream,” added the youngster.

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Al Nabooda boss backs Zaid to get better

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Team manager Rao (r) and Ashkanani.

Al Nabooda Racing have made a record-breaking start to the season in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, but the best is yet to come from youngster Zaid Ashkanani, according to team manager Vijay Rao said.

Ashkanani’s new partnership with Jeffrey Schmidt has produced a 45 point lead in the GT3 Cup team championship after just four of 12 rounds.

And Rao believes that is just the beginning of things to come for Ashkanani.

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– Yas Marina: A track record of F1 drama & innovation

As the Kuwaiti driver took journalists for hot laps of the Dubai Autodrome circuit in his Al Nabooda Racing Porsche GT3 Cup car, Rao said: “Zaid is an exciting talent who is just going to get better and better.

“He’s quickly formed a dynamic partnership with Jeffrey and given us the perfect start to the season.

“We’re very hopeful that we can mark our 10th anniversary in the best possible way by taking the team and driver’s titles.”

Ashkanani and Schmidt are next in Porsche GT3 Cup action when the Middle East’s leading circuit racing series returns to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit on 22 January.

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