ABU DHABI // Arab champion Fahad al Musalam will be determined to defend his title when the opening round of the Chevrolet Supercars Middle East Challenge begins at Yas Marina today. The Bahraini's victory last season saw him win not only the trophy, but also a test-drive with a prominent team in the V8 Supercars Australia Championship and the chance to take part in his country's historic Desert 400.
But al Musalam will not have it easy with competitors from across the GCC vying for a piece of the glory - and as the career opportunities such success brings. Tarek Elgammal of Australia has already spoken of his desire to dethrone his rival, while fellow Bahrainis Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Raed Raffii will be keen to prove themselves as the kingdom's No 1 driver. Emirati drivers Mohammed al Owais and Mohammed al Falasi will be keen to make an impression in front of their home crowd, and Tony Whitaker of the United Kingdom alongside Frenchman Christophe Mariot will be flying the flag for Europe.
Al Musalam is all too aware of the increased exposure the race will attract by being on the bill of an F1 Grand Prix - the series was also on the support schedule at the Bahrain GP this season. "It is a beautiful thing to have two races in support of F1 this year," he said. "Everyone knows of the importance in getting a chance to race in front of the F1 teams and fans, and now to be doing it in Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit, on the final round of the F1 World Championship, is just wonderful and it raises the morale of all us drivers."
Abu Dhabi is the first of seven rounds that make up the touring cars series, which is composed solely of Chevrolet Lumina CSV V8 sedans. As well as the UAE, both Bahrain and the Reem International Circuit in Saudi Arabia will put on Middle East Challenge races. The second round will take place in Sakhir on December 10 and 11. email@example.com