The UAE has seen a number of its top amateur racing drivers venture overseas to see how they shape up against international competition. They have also been able to compete against professional drivers visiting the UAE for various international events.
Given the relative success of some of these drivers, we know that standards are now pretty high in this, our sixth year of circuit racing in the UAE.
But an Abu Dhabi-based driver has just made a significant breakthrough. Robert Cregan, 21, currently leading Class GTC of the UAE GT Championship in a GulfSport-prepared factory Maserati, has been signed up for a drive in Australia's top national touring car series - the Fujitsu V8 Supercar series.
For those of you that witnessed the spectacle of the V8 Supercars at Yas Island recently, you will know that this has got to be one of the best touring car series anywhere in the world. The cars are very fast, with more than 600hp and not too much grip, and the drivers are aggressive yet smooth, which makes for plenty of overtaking and spills galore. Of course this is exactly what spectators want and in Australia it is not unusual to have huge number of them attend a race.
The Fujitsu V8 Supercars is known as a development series and supports the FIA international V8 Supercar races, which are on a par with the very biggest northern hemisphere events such as DTM and the BTCC and is televised live around the world.
Tony Cochrane, the V8 Supercars chairman, was at Yas Marina Circuit and said the signing of Cregan was an important moment for the category.
"We've talked for some time about the opportunity to get some international drivers full time in the championship and clearly a way to start that is to get an international driver into the development series in a full-time capacity. I hope Robert's one of the first of many international drivers to get involved in our development series, and hopefully make that step into the main championship."
Cregan will race a Stone Brothers Racing-built Ford Falcon run by Matt Stone, who is entering a team in the Fujitsu Series for the first time.
Having run Cregan in our GulfSport Ginetta G50 last season and this year in the factory Maserati, we have a very good idea of what he is capable of, and I personally think he will surprise the folks in Australia.
He began his racing career in Formula Ford in Ireland and England, raced Porsches in Europe and, since coming to the UAE, has won four races in the UAE GT Championship. He is without doubt one of the most talented young drivers in this region and we will be sorry to lose him.
But it will be fascinating to see how he does at the first round of the 2011 Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series in Adelaide on March 20. A crowd of more than 280,000 people is expected over the four days of the event, which is one of the country's biggest annual sporting events and the winner of three Australian Tourism Awards for the best Festival or Event.
Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to produce the first Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.singleseaterblog.com