Mohammed al Dhaheri, the UAE karting champion, will start from 15th on the grid today in his first of three qualifying heats at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in southern Italy.
The competition, which culminates in the world final on Sunday, is the largest professional karting event in global motorsports. More than 250 drivers from more than 60 countries have travelled to La Conca International Circuit in a bid to prove themselves against the best.
Al Dhaheri first raced a kart only last year, but is now recognised as one of the finest products of the Al Ain Raceway. Yesterday in Apulia, fighting the cold weather, the 23-year-old posted the 10th fastest time from a pool of more than 70 drivers in the opening DD2 practice session, before finishing 17th in the day's second session. In the final session of the day - to determine where he will start today's first qualifying heat - he finished 15th. Less than one second separated the top 60 drivers.
"I am happy to finish 15th, but I can still improve," Al Dhaheri said. "I raced good, but not perfect. I hope to do better and I think a top 10 finish is possible.
"But it is so tight that any mistake would be disastrous. I must keep myself focused and concentrate for the entire race. There are so many karts involved that when the race starts everybody will be climbing on each other; I need to make sure to avoid that."
Three other drivers represent the UAE. Edward Jones finished 11th overall in his Junior Max category, Arnaud Bouf came 24th in the DD2 Masters class and Maurits Knopjes suffered technical problems and will start 30th on the grid in his Senior Max session.