ABU DHABI // As he completed his slowing down lap early on Saturday evening at Yas Marina Circuit in his House of Portier Corvette, Mohammed al Mutawaa felt like a champion.
The 18-year-old Emirati had finished first with his co-driver, Jiri Skula, in the GTB class of the UAE GT Championship, and second overall, and that had been enough to make al Mutawaa and his teammate class champions.
But as he got out of his car he quickly realised there was something not quite right.
"I got out of the car and I could not see any of my team managers and I thought that was strange," the Dubai teenager said.
"It was only after I came from the podium that I saw them and they told me there was a protest from the MSW team."
The MSW team, who ran Jon Simmonds and Phil Quaife's Porsche, had complained that Skula, who had driven the opening stint of the one-hour race, had gained an advantage while running off the circuit early in proceedings.
The stewards upheld the challenge, adding a 30-second time penalty to al Mutawaa and Skula's result, dropping them to second in their class behind Simmonds and Quaife.
The switch in result meant that Simmonds now topped the points standings, leaving al Mutawaa and Skula in second place.
Al Mutawaa, who is a student at the Universal American School of Dubai, tried to put a brave face on missing out on the title through no fault of his own.
"It is disappointing for sure," he said. "I think we deserved to be champions over the season and to miss out this way is very tough to take."
Even though he does not have a championship to his name, al Mutawaa is still proud of what he and his team, who did win the GTA class through Karim al Azhari and Fabien Giroix, have achieved.
"There were eight races and we won six of them and we had good consistency, so I think I can take a lot from this, for sure."
The Dubai-based racer is not sure what he will do next season, but he admitted that long term his interest is more in GT racing than in trying to break into Formula One.
"When I first started getting into motorsport and I tried single seaters at the end of 2007 and I would watch Formula One when it was on, but since getting involved in the GT racing I have really enjoyed it," he said.
"Watching the GT1 racing was great and I think that is what I would like to go into as it is more interesting to me than Formula One.
"It is all about qualifying in Formula One and there are not many battles."
Al Mutawaa has been racing for more than three years, driving single seaters in the Autosport Academy in France, karting in the UAE, and then competing in the GT series after racing Renault Clios.
Despite his motorsport commitments, he has made sure to stay on top of his school work, although he is grateful for support from his teachers.
"It can be tough balancing motorsport with being at school," he said.
"I don't really talk about my racing at school, but the teachers who have an interest in motorsport have been very supportive and have even come and see me race.
"They have been very supportive of me and on occasions when I have been racing on a weekend they have sometimes given me an extra day to study."