‘Little Alonso’ catches the eye at Al Ain

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Child’s play: Al Dhaheri on the track.

Rashid Al Dhaheri continued his impressive season with two victories in the Bambino Class at the UAE Rotax MAX Challenge Championship held at Al Ain Raceway International Kart Circuit.

In both the Bambino Time Trials, he outpaced his closest rivals by over two seconds on his way to scooping the big prize in the category for the country’s tiniest race drivers.

His thrilling performance however does not come as a major surprise given the little Emirati has already been creating quite a stir around the local karting community for the past year.

A loyal Ferrari fan, Dhaheri has been following in the footsteps of the best names in Formula One, travelling to Italy for an intensive training program in junior karting which was the first step for F1 legends such as Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and many more.

But Al Dhaheri does not need to step out of the country to get the best of training, with the Yas Marina Circuit and Dubai Autodrome providing some world class tracks.

The five-year-old is currently being coached by Paul Chatenay who is well known in the UAE karting community as the most experienced international driver, representing the UAE four times at the SWS World Finals.

Clearly his coaching is paying dividends as his performance in Al Ain came a couple of weeks after an equally dominant display at Dubai Kartdrome, which was the start of his current winning streak.

Rashid – who drives with a Fernando Alonso replica race suit and helmet – is quickly etching his name on the local racing scene, and raising eyebrows with his impressive performances and rapid development in what is only his first season of racing.

Driver coach Chatenay said, “The kid is insatiable. He just wants to drive and drive. Rashid’s passion and commitment to the sport is unfathomable and if he continues in this spirit and energy, he will fast establish himself not only on the UAE karting scene, but for sure also on the international stage.”

Rashid’s father Ali Al Dhaheri said after the Al Ain performance: “I am really pleased with the latest progress in Rashid’s racing. He is making his mark in his first season of racing. At the sixth round [in Al Ain] Rashid produced another set of truly remarkable performances achieving a P1 finish in both races and beating his closest challenger by more than over two seconds.”

Nicknamed ‘Little Alonso’ Al Dhaheri will be back in action at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit on 28 February.

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Al Nabooda Racing seek title-defining round on home track

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Home advantage: Schmid (l) & Al Azhari (r) are closing in a successful title defence.

Reigning champions Al Nabooda Racing aim to take a decisive step towards another double title triumph in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East on home territory at Dubai Autodrome this weekend.

Carrying a formidable 51-point lead into Rounds 9 and 10 on Friday and Saturday, Clemens Schmid and Karim Al Azhari are on the verge of retaining the team crown they won so convincingly last season, with the final race weekend to follow in Bahrain next month.

Once again the dominant driver this season with six wins in eight races, Schmid also looks unstoppable as he homes in on another individual title, leading the standings by 39pts and aiming to add to his brilliant winning record in Dubai.

While the team and drivers’ championships look certain to be decided at Bahrain International Circuit, where Al Nabooda Racing secured both titles last season, Schmid and Al Azhari are determined to put on a show in Dubai this weekend.

“It’s our home circuit, and we want to do well,” said Al Azhari, currently lying fifth in the drivers’ standings. “It’s been a fantastic season for Al Nabooda Racing. I’m very excited that we now have a stronger lead in the team championship than we had at this stage last season.

“Before the season started no-one had much experience with the new GT3 Cup car and therefore it was always going to throw the teams, the drivers and the engineers into a mix, so we weren’t sure how it would end up.

“We couldn’t be happier with our position, especially as there has been such strong competition among the top ten drivers. We’ve had guys finishing a race in second place, and in the next race dropping down to tenth, and all this has made the series so interesting.

“I’ve had some excellent races, and some where I’ve really finished well down the field, once when I got hit by another car, and another time when I destroyed my tyres by over-driving.

“While Clemens has been winning most of the races, myself and a lot of the other guys have been a bit up and down in terms of results, so it’s very encouraging for Al Nabooda Racing that we’re in such a strong position.”

Vijay Rao, Team Manager of Al Nabooda Racing gave credit to team engineer Frank Funke in helping them to a handy advantage in the series with just four rounds to go, and hopes that the home advantage in Dubai will extend their lead even further.

“We’re coming back to our home track, and Frank has been integral to our success in the championship so far,” said Rao. “He also recently tasted success at the Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai in the Porsche 997 Cup class, and the mood is good heading into this weekend.

“Karim has grown up here and Clemens has always done very well at the Dubai Autodrome. It never is easy in this championship but we have done everything right leading into this weekend and are in a very positive mindset.”

TEAM STANDINGS (AFTER EIGHT ROUNDS)

1. Al Nabooda Racing 314pts
2. Saudi Falcons 263pts
3. Skydive Dubai Falcons 234pts
4. Team Bahrain 167pts
5. BuZaid GT (KUW) 121pts
6. Milon Racing (GER) 93pts

DRIVERS' STANDINGS

1. Clemens Schmid (Al Nabooda Racing) 196pts
2. Zaid Ashkanani (KUW) 157pts
3. Abdulaziz Al Faisal (KSA) 152pts
4. Hasher Al Maktoum (UAE) 130pts
5. Karim Al Azhari (UAE) 122pts
6. Saeed Al Mehairi (UAE) 107pts

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MAX Challenge returns for round nine at Al Ain Raceway

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The UAE’s National Karting Championship stops off in Al Ain on Friday to see the best young racers in the country go head-to-head.

The championship is now coming towards its sharp end with eight rounds of the 12 round-series already held.

The next round is at the Al Ain Raceway in the Garden City, with vital points at stake at the top of the championship. The main contenders have already been out in force at the UAE’s leading karting circuit carrying out pre-race testing which may prove vital as part of their efforts to claim the coveted 2013-14 class titles.

The UAE Rotax MAX Challenge race organisers have worked along with the circuit management team to prepare a brand new and approved layout for this event, incorporating a flowing final corner which leads into what is now the longest straight on the calendar.

Unsurprisingly, this has proved popular with drivers across all the classes and age ranges. Ziggy Kermanshahchi, competing in the youngest Micro MAX category, said: “This track layout is excellent. I hope it stays like this forever.”

The nine-year-old, like so many his age, loves his speed, answering why he likes the track with the simple “because it’s fast.”

Ziggy has some brotherly rivalry within the race. Older brother and Junior MAX racer, Taymour, unusually agreed with his sibling and offered some additional insights.

“The combination of corners in the tight middle sector is tricky but it’s a nice challenge for the drivers. Then with the final corner now opening out onto a huge straight it’s great fun and is bound to offer up better overtaking opportunities.”

The UAE Rotax MAX Challenge is a one-make engine series catering for kart race licence holders from eight years and above in five competitive classes from 6hp Micro MAX up to the premier 32hp DD2 class for senior drivers with a two-speed paddle-shift and a top speed approaching 140kph.

The practices are likely to begin at around 11am before the race begins at approximately 14:00 in the afternoon.

The race administration and technical checking takes place on Friday morning while the racing takes place in the afternoon and is access is free for spectators.

VENUE: Al Ain Raceway.

WHAT: UAE Rotax MaX Challenge, ninth round.

WHEN: Friday. Practice from 11 a.m. race starts at 2 p.m.

Sport360 VERDICT: The battle hots up as the 12-round championship heads to a finish. an ideal day out for adrenalin-junkies.

CONTACT: 03-768-6662 or visit www.alainraceway.com

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