Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Khaled Al Qubaisi became the first Emirati to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and he hopes more UAE drivers will follow. Stephane Mahe / Reuters
Khaled Al Qubaisi became the first Emirati to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and he hopes more UAE drivers will follow. Stephane Mahe / Reuters

Motorsport: Khaled Al Qubaisi takes one giant step for Emirati drivers

After his breakthrough in France last weekend at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Emirati Khaled Al Qubaisi has set the bar high for UAE endurance drivers.

Khaled Al Qubaisi hopes his experience at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, can persuade more UAE drivers to follow in his footsteps.

Al Qubaisi achieved a breakthrough for UAE motorsport this past weekend in the 90th edition of the legendary endurance race as the first Emirati to tackle the event.

Sharing the driving with Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal and Italian Andrea Bertolini in the Dunlop Ferrari 458 Italia, which was sponsored by Emirates Aluminium (EMAL) and supported by Abu Dhabi Racing, Al Qubaisi helped guide the JMW Motorsport team to 10th place in the GTE Pro class for cars adapted from production models, and 35th position overall.

Reflecting on an exhausting weekend, the UAE driver said: "I just can't sum up my feelings easily. I was fine during the race, but at the end it hit me just how tired I am and how big an event this is.

"You have to give so much respect to the track, and the race itself. You just can't come to Le Mans and expect to do well. The guys who won overall have been coming here since 2003, they're backed by a factory team, and they showed how much dedication you need at Le Mans.

"You have to keep coming back each year and keep on learning, and that's what I want to do."

Al Qubaisi his achievement can pave the way for future Emirati endurance racers.

"Obviously, I'm proud to be the first UAE driver to compete here, to be representing my country in one of the biggest events in motor racing," he said.

"I'm sure a lot more people in the UAE have heard about Le Mans now. It was a dream for me to compete here, and so maybe some who followed me over the last few days will now believe it can happen to them."

Al Qubaisi, who spent seven hours behind the wheel of the Dunlop Ferrari, added: "It's such a tough race and such a tough track very long, very narrow with difficult corners, and prototypes whizzing past, so you have to be aware of where they are all the time.

"Towards the end of my last stint, I was really getting into my rhythm, fighting with the other cars, keeping close to them, and starting to feel comfortable with the pace.

"The worse moment was at the beginning of our second stint when I heard Abdulaziz saying on the radio 'I lost it'. For a moment I thought our race was finished, but then I realised he had just got stuck in the gravel, and the race wasn't over for us."

The weekend's race was overshadowed by the death of Allan Simonsen when his Aston Martin spun off the track into a safety barrier on the fourth lap, Al Qubaisi revealed that he had been inspired by the Danish driver.

"I didn't know him, but before coming to Le Mans I was on the internet and saw some YouTube onboard footage of him racing here in 2011," he said. "Watching that helped me a lot in trying to understand the track and how to take the corners. During the race I remembered him, and when I went into the corners I found myself doing the same and taking the lines he took."

Looking ahead Al Qubaisi said: "I'd love to come back to Le Mans, again and again. Hopefully I'll do that, and one day I'll win a category. But it will take a lot of preparation."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Barcelona’s Lionel Messi plays with a rugby ball during a training session at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper training camp, near Barcelona in Sant Joan Despi, April 15, 2014. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino

In pictures: Barca play a little rugby before Copa del Rey final

Barcelona and Real Madrid will play in the Copa del Rey final on Wednesday night but the day before the match, Braca players played a little rugby during a training session at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper training camp, in Sant Joan Despi, Spain. Barca meet Real Madrid on Wednesday at 11.30pm (UAE time) and the match will be on BeIn Sports.

 Supporters of China during the Asian Cup Qualifier match between Iraq vs China at Sharjah football stadium in Sharjah. Iraq won the match by 3-1. Pawan Singh / The National

Asian Cup expanding to 24 football teams in 2019

As part of a regional shake-up, the 2019 Asian Cup will climb to 24 teams but next month’s Challenge Cup in the Maldives will be the last, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced.

 Faisal Al Ketbi, standing, has been the poster boy for the upcoming Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Courtesy of Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship

Faisal Al Ketbi is in spotlight for world jiu-jitsu championships at Abu Dhabi

Faisal Al Ketbi is the poster boy for UAE jiu-jitsu, with his picture prominent in the billboards and advertisements for this week’s Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

 Abdelaziz Haikal, left, avoids getting tackled, but his Al Ahli side were forced to a goalless draw at home to Al Hilal, from Saudi Arabia. Al Ittihad

Al Ahli miss huge opportunity to progress in ACL

Dubai side forced to a goalless draw at home to Al Hilal. Ahmed Rizvi reports.

 Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, left, gestures from his car after winning the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang circuit near Kuala Lumpur on March 30, 2014. He will be among the favourites at the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones

F1: Mercedes look to capitalise on woes at Red Bull and Ferrari

Ferrari were left reeling after team principal Stefano Domenicali quit and Red Bull were handed a setback when they lost their appeal for Daniel Ricciardo as both incidents have heightened the mood at Mercedes ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.

 Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa could be wearing a blue kit next season at Chelsea in the English Premier League. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Atletico’s Diego Simeone cannot stop Diego Costa move to Chelsea

Diego Costa has been the standout player for Atletico Madrid with his 26 goals, which has attracted the attention of several leading European clubs and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea are reportedly at the front of the queue.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National