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

Denzil Pinto 07:54 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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