With the holiday season in full swing, Rashid Al Dhaheri has been on a intensive karting adventure in Italy in what rates as the most comprehensive training programme ever embarked on by a young aspiring race driver from the UAE.
The Abu Dhabi school boy, referred to as ‘Little Alonso’ after two-time Formula One world champion Fernando, participated in karting race weekends at Lonato, Siena and Ottobiano venues and also undertook an intensive training course held by the Italian federation ACI CSAI in Naples.
The races and events were for drivers between six and eight, with Rashid, at six years and three months, invariably the youngest in the groups.
Ex-Formula 1 driver, Le Mans winner and current Ferrari works driver Gimmi Bruni, who has signed Al Dhaheri for his karting team, said of the youngster: “Rashid was able to improve constantly on each day in his approach to race conditions, developing his speed and in his understanding of race tactics. I am very pleased with his progress, considering he is only six-years-old.”
Al Dhaheri’s finest moment during a month of many highs was his showing in the Nazionale Easy Kart series at the Pista South Milano in Ottobiano, in Italy a week ago.
In the first race, with grid positions determined by lucky draw for Heat 1, Rashid was allocated 30th out of 33 drivers. Being way down the grid did not deter the youngster, but rather inspired him to a rousing drive through the field to finish fifth.
Later in Heat 2, Little Alonso started from fourth, and early on moved up to second, chased the leader before digging deep into his race craft and pouncing on the last lap of the race to claim victory.
In the aftermath of his busy schedule, Al Dhaheri is enjoying a well deserved and relaxing holiday with his family, recharging for the second half of the season which resumes in September and will include training and racing at Dubai Kartdrome.
Rami Azzam won the opening round of the 2014 Dubai Kartdrome Ramadan Challenge, which saw him overcome a quality field of 45 SWS drivers.
The new format gave all drivers an equal opportunity to qualify for the finals in the two-heat points system that was introduced.
On track, there was very little to separate the pace setters, with the top dozen competitors circulating within a quarter of second of one another.
The entry list was impressive, with the likes of Team Abu Dhabi rally driver Mohamed Al Mutawaa and Dubai Falcon Porsche Cup star Saeed Al Mehairi taking on SWS top guns Azzam, Sam Zian, Atef Al Barwani, Hussain Umid Ali and Ali Al Mansoori, along with UAE Rotax Max karting aces Tom Bale, Ali Al Najjar and Anas Al Halabi.
After two heats for each driver and a Pre-Final, the Super-Final belonged to Azzam as he fended off Zian, Al Mutawaa and Carsten Winter over 12 laps.
Azzam managed to edge into the early lead with a gap of about two seconds, but soon Zian and Al Mutawaa reeled him in with Winter in their slipstream.
On the penultimate lap, Zian made his move into Turn 2 and grabbed the lead, but it was a lap too early as at the exact same spot a lap later Azzam snatched back the lead, where he stayed to take the chequered flag.
Al Mutawaa also managed to slip past Zian with the finish line in sight and take second place, with Zian third and Winter fourth. Al Mehairi salvaged fifth ahead of Ali Al Mansoori who stormed through the field to take sixth, ahead of Bale, Al Barwani, Umid Ali and Ahmed Bin Desmal rounding out the top 10.
Winter’s fourth place overall was enough to give him top honours in the Master’s Class, ahead of second placed Karim Rizkallah and Andrew Fuller in third.
Reflecting on a night which saw the biggest ever field assembled for a Ramadan kart race, Kartdrome manager Ryan Trutch said: “The new format we introduced worked really well and opened up more slots on the grid for drivers.
“Racing was very close throughout and was well received by drivers. We look forward to the next round.”
Round 2 of the four-round 2014 Dubai Kartdrome Ramadan Challenge takes place on Monday, July 7.
Dubai-based teenager Tom Bale has won a seat in the prestigious BRDC F4 Championship with Chris Dittmann Racing in the United Kingdom, and the Formula Gulf 1000 champion is now set to open his season at Oulton Park Circuit on July 18.
Even though the championship got underway in April, Chris Dittmann Racing were so impressed with Bale’s FG1000 performance last season that they decided to hand the youngster a seat at the mid-way stage of the 24-race series.
Bale, 16, will partner Tom Jackson and joins the series having won nine of 12 races in the 2013/14 FG1000 Championship, while also taking pole position at five of the six rounds he competed in, recording 10 fastest laps.
Despite missing the first two rounds of the FG1000 series last November, Bale headed into the final round at Yas Marina Circuit requiring a near perfect weekend to secure the title, and did so with two wins, pole position and a fastest lap.
The Welsh teenager was born in Swansea, but moved to Dubai in 2004 and has since raced predominantly in the Middle East and Italy.
Bale has enjoyed vast success in karting, competing in WSK European and CIK World and European Championships. He was classified fourth overall in the 2012 CIK Academy Championship and is also a three-time UAE Cadet Karting Champion.
“I’m really looking forward to joining the BRDC Formula 4 Championship with Chris Dittmann Racing," Bale said. "I hope to gain some valuable experience and challenge for top positions.”
Team principal Chris Dittmann added: “We are really looking forward to his [Tom] first F4 race at Oulton Park.
“Joining the championship part way through the season will prove challenging. However, with our support and his proven track record racing in Dubai, I’m sure it won’t be long before he is up to speed and fighting up the sharp end.”
FG1000 managing partner Barry Hope, who is naturally pleased at the development, said: “Tom is a talented 16-year-old who has won kart races at national, European and world level.
“After a season of intensive coaching in Formula Gulf he is now ready for F4. He has the skills and experience to win races at this level but will be competing against top international young drivers who have tested and raced extensively in the F4 car since March.
"As some of them know the UK circuits from last season it will be extremely challenging for him; however I have a feeling that he will shine.”
Bale may not have raced in a F4 car before, but the youngster should be able to settle in quickly given that the chassis is the same as an FG1000 car.
The only significant difference, however, is the six-speed, paddle shift gearbox that will be a first for Bale.
TOM BALE FAST FACTS
Date of birth: February 11, 1998
Place of residence: Dubai
Interests: Fitness, PlayStation and motorsport
Graduating from: Formula Gulf 1000
Career highlights 2013/14: Formula Gulf 1000 Champion with nine wins from 12 races, five pole positions and 10 fastest laps 2012: Fourth overall in CIK Academy Karting Championship
Previous: Kart races, including WSK European and CIK World and European Championships