Owning the title ‘King of Drift’ sounds like it would be pretty cool and the main man admits he is hoping to sit on the throne once again this weekend as the Red Bull Car Park Drift Grand Finals returns to Dubai.
Ahmad Daham took the title a year ago at the grand final and the UAE’s second city will once again play host to the final round of the season on Friday at Meydan.
The inaugural Red Bull Car Park Drift event was held in 2008 while 2010 marked the first-ever regional competition series with 15 qualifiers in 10 countries and Lebananon’s Firas Khaddaj named the first regional King of Drift.
Daham, an Iraqi national, won the title last year representing Jordan, but having lived in the Emirates for the last year, competition rules ensure the 27-year-old will be flying the flag for the UAE this weekend and looking to make history.
A UAE driver has never finished on the podium at a drifting event in the Middle East, let alone won a title, all of which Daham is hoping to change in the season finale.
A petrol head since his teenage years, Daham caught the drifting bug late on, entering his first competition in 2011 after he realised he had a talent for it while building a racecar for a customer.
He was instantly hooked and appeared in the Red Bull Car Park Drift event that year, finishing an impressive fourth.
Racing, and this event in particular is in Daham’s blood. Not only is he competing this weekend to defend his title, but the three race-cars he owns have been loaned out to other competitors, while he even works on some of his opponents’ vehicles.
So you’re Iraqi but representing the UAE this year, having represented Jordan last year. Explain that to us?
I had been living in Jordan since 1996. The rules are you qualify wherever your residency is so when I moved to Dubai a year ago I can’t qualify for Jordan because I live here.
It was a big change and a bit complicated but those are the rules. Last year I was representing Jordan. I qualified for Jordan. This year I’ll be representing the UAE because I am living here.
How proud will you be to represent the UAE?
I’m really happy to be representing the UAE. Raising the Emirati flag and getting first place is something I am hoping to do. It will be a special occasion to race in the UAE while also representing the UAE.
Another thing that is good is that the UAE has never won the Middle East Championship since the Red Bull event started. The UAE has never even had a driver finish on the podium, so I’m hoping I can get them there. It could be the UAE’s first podium but also the UAE’s first outright win too.
You’re the defending champion, having been crowned ‘King of Drift’ last year. Is that title something you’d like to defend?
Yes, of course. That’s why I’ve upgraded the car, to get first place again. That’s the main goal.
So what changes have been made to your Nissan Silvia car from last year?
Last year the car was around 700 horse power. Now it’s around 900. Some modifications have been made, I’ve put in a new gearbox, while I also have a new sponsor in uaesale.com.
With a better car, surely your chances of winning again are enhanced?
Last year the competition was easier. This year my main rival will be Ali Al Bloushi from Oman, who finished in second place behind me last year, and the Egyptian Haitham Samir, he’ll also be one of my main competitors.
Last year it was close but not as close as it will be this year. The second and third placed cars last year were not to the level my car was at. This year most of the cars are at the same level which is why it will be harder.
How difficult will it be racing against the other guys, especially Al Bloushi and Samir?
Everyone has better cars than last year and I modified half of them. For example with Al Bloushi, I did his tuning and modified the horse power. The levels of the cars are higher which is why it will be a little harder than last year.
What are you expecting from the event?
My main goal is the podium. My second goal is to get first place, but it will be hard. We did it last year, though, and hopefully we can do it again.
Are you confident of defending your title?
Yeah. Confidence is good. The car is running great, I’ve practiced a lot so I’m feeling comfortable. It will just depend on whether anyone makes any mistakes. The top three drivers are good. It will be a small error that separates us.
How many years have you com- peted at the event and do you compete anywhere else?
I competed for the first time in 2011 and finished in fourth place. In 2012 and 2013 I had some problems with participating, they wouldn’t let me in.
There were some residency issues. But, in 2014 I competed and came first. I also compete in Ireland at the Irish Drift Championship and I’ve competed in Oman, Jordan, everywhere across the Middle East.
What’s so special about this event?
It’s the atmosphere, because it showcases all the best drifters in the Middle East. It’s the hardest event. And the style of driving is different to what I’m used to doing. It’s high speed, it’s an underground parking so it’s very tight and it’s slippery, there’s no grip at all. It’s different and the crowds are really big, which is what it’s all about.
How long have you been involved in drifting and motorsport in general, and what other types of racing do you like to watch or be involved with?
It’s not just drifting I like. I’ve been involved in motorsport since I was 16. It was actually a little bit of luck how I got involved in drifting. I have a workshop that builds racecars. I was building a car for a customer and he didn’t know how to drive it, so I went to test the car and found out that I was good at drifting.
After that I built myself a car and started drifting in 2011. I got first place at my first event, which was qualifying in Jordan. Before that I used to do time attack.
I only like rallying, drifting and time attack really. I’m not really that much into Formula One or anything else.
Who was your motor racing idol growing up and do?
Nasser Al Attiyah. What drew me to him as a kid was that he’s not just about motorsport. He’s a good personality. He’s down to earth and very polite as well as being the top driver in the Middle East.
How does competing fit in with the rest of your life?
I tune racecars for a living and have a workshop that builds these cars, so everything for me revolves around driving. I rent drift cars too. For this event I’ve rented cars to three other qualifiers.
It’s definitely in the blood. It doesn’t interfere with my life because it is my life. My older brother got me into it, he started it before me and I’ve continued it.