'Little Alonso' to race at higher level in Italy

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Making his mark: Rashid Al Dhaheri has become the youngest driver in the Italian Championship Kart Series.

Young Abu Dhabi schoolboy Rashid Al Dhaheri’s exploits have been recognised and rewarded, the seven-year-old being given special dispensation to race at a higher level.

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The Italian Motorsport Federation ACI CSAI in coordination with the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) granted the special permission which will see Al Dhaheri race against drivers 10 years and older in the Italian Championship Kart Series.

The dispensation is an endorsement of Al Dhaheri’s talent, while also taking his development to the next level where he will be racing in the company of more experienced drivers and can expect tougher competition coupled with the challenge of being by far the youngest driver in the category.

Rashid’s father Ali Al Dhaheri said: “Of course we are very proud that Rashid’s progress and talent have been recognised.

“As parents we only want the best for him. So we see this development in the same light as a young gifted kid at school who gets promoted a year [earlier] so as to cater for their higher level. 

“The same for Rashid, the professionals in karting believe it is time for him to move up a level and we respect this decision.”

This past weekend at South Garda Circuit in Italy, it was straight into the deep end for the UAE’s ‘Little Alonso’ as he began with a comprehensive 270km testing stint where the team worked on setup.

Al Dhaheri recovered from a below par qualification, in the first tier of the Parolin Academy championship, and was soon battling for second place, but bad luck struck when his chain came off and resulted in a DNF. 

But the diminutive Emirati had signalled his arrival among the ‘big boys’.

The lack of luck did not deter Al Dhaheri as he impressed again in the final, starting last and ending eighth, thus capping a productive weekend in the new category.

His father said at the end of the day: “It was a steep learning curve for Rashid, and he had some tough luck but that is all part of racing. 

“Overall, it was a great weekend with lots of experience gained. It is in line with the long-term goal for Rashid, learning as much as possible is the ultimate goal.” 

Marco Parolin, marketing manager of Parolin Academy, added “I think Rashid stepping up in the higher category will be a very good experience for such a young driver.

“I saw him racing over the last year and I know he has the capabilities to figure well in this series.”

“This past weekend despite being by far the youngest in the field, Rashid was not afraid.

“He did some nice overtaking, and he did not crash in any of the rolling starts which are usually the critical moments. 

“This experience in higher category is very useful for Rashid. It will speed up his development and will help him to be more mature as a race driver.”

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Al Azhari crowned TRD 86 Cup champion

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Champion stuff: Karim Al Azhari.

Karim Al Azhari was crowned champion of the TRD 86 Cup championship following one win and a runner-up finish in the final two races of the series over the weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit.

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Al Azhari first finished second in Race 1 of Round 6, clocking 21min and 32.24sec and then went on to win Race 2 in a time of 21min 49.119sec to seal the championship title.

The former Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East driver said: “It’s a great feeling to win and it is a dream come true to triumph in my home city.

“It took a lot of hard work but to win in Abu Dhabi is very special. It’s a very fair championship because all the cars are equal so it’s down to the skill of the driver in the end.

“My fellow racers were extremely competent and in fact several of the guys were quicker than me in the race laps but I was consistent and that proved key to my success.

“I value the fact that we’ve all become good friends, we’re almost like a family. I’ve tried to help the other drivers with training and instruction and it has been a tremendous championship – a fantastic experience.”

Ahmed Al Melaihi took second overall after chasing Al Azhari throughout all six rounds. His first and second place meant that he finished ahead of Sam Taheri, who completed the final podium place.

“I’ve improved a lot throughout the championship. This was my first experience of racing other than karting so it was a steep learning curve,” said Al Melaihi. “I learned a lot from the other drivers, from Karim, my coach and my team – they all helped me.

“It’s been a superb opportunity to constantly learn and improve in a professional motorsports environment and I would like to thank everyone involved.”

Yas Marina Circuit CEO Al Tareq Al Ameri said: “Demand for next year’s championship is already building and we’ll see an even bigger and competitive grid for next season’s racing.”

In addition to the TRD 86 Cup, drivers raced against the clock in the UAE Time Attack. In the A & B class Heat, Fadi Bikawi was the fastest of the group, posting the quickest lap of 2min and 07.671sec, followed by Khalid Al Qubaisi (2:18.920) and Mohammed (2:26.226) going third fastest.

In the final heat of classes C & D, Ahmed Jimmy posted the quickest lap of 2min and 31.491sec. Saad Alomaira (2:35.405) and Yaser Mohamed (2:37.021) finished second and third respectively.

Fans of modified racing were also treated to the last outing of the Middle East Radical Cup, with the top three honours decided by less than 20 seconds.

Sergey Shalunov crossed the finish line in a total of 45min and 50.534sec, closely followed by Tony Wells (45min, 59.825sec) in second, with Jafer Smith placing third (46min, 09.983 sec).

The new season of the Yas Racing Series gets under way in October later this year.

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Abu Dhabi hit decent pace in qualifying

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In a good position: Khaled Al Qubaisi.

Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing will begin the new FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season from the second row of the grid in the LMGTE Am class after a close qualifying session for this afternoon’s Six Hours of Silverstone.

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The No. 88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Khaled Al Qubaisi, Klaus Bachler and Christian Reid put on a strong showing in class with a best average time of two minutes and 03.134 seconds.

The class, however, was dominated by Aston Martin Racing’s No98 Vantage V8 of Pedro Lamy and Paul Dalla Lana, who took pole position for today’s race while the No50 Larbre Competition Chevrolet Corvette C7 of Gianluca Roda and Paolo Ruberti were second quickest in qualifying.

For the Abu Dhabi Racing and Emirates Global Aluminium-back team, who sealed third place overall in the team championship on their debut season last year, it was a productive beginning to their 2015 campaign.

On Friday, the team set the fastest time during practice one with Austrian Bachler clocking a best time of two minutes and 02.350 seconds and two minutes 03.525 seconds in practice two.

Yesterday, amid partially wet conditions, they were fifth fastest in practice three before qualifying in third on the grid for today’s race.

Al Qubaisi said: “We qualified in third in class today which is the best qualifying result that we have achieved compared with our debut season last year.

“It is a good place to be in for the start of the race on Sunday. The car responded well over the last couple of days, so the signs are good for the actual race.

“Like I said, we are in a good position and of course we will push over the course of the six hours on Sunday. “The goal is to be on the podium and hopefully we will achieve that objective come the end of the race Sunday evening.”

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