A new motorsport series designed to give young drivers a first taste of single-seater racing is to be launched at the Dubai Autodrome today.
The UAE National Raceday will see four series in action at the Dubai Motor City track, with the Formula Gulf 1000 category the focal point of the opening round of the 2011/12 season.
An impressive line-up of youngsters including two Emirati racers, Mohamed Al Mutawaa and Mohammed Al Dhaheri, who both have emerged through the local karting scene and will compete in the first race of the series.
Al Mutawaa and Al Dhaheri, who were selected for the UAE Motor Star programme earlier this year, already have got impressive records. Al Mutawaa finished runner-up in the GTB class of the UAE GT Championship in March, and Al Dhaheri won the DD2 category of the karting Rotax Max Challenge series in April. Both will represent the UAE in the world finals at Al Ain Raceway next month.
Barry Hope, the FG1000 series principal, is confident that interest in the category, which is being viewed as a stepping stone for drivers looking to move up from karting, will grow through the season.
"Most of the series now firmly established in the UAE started with half a dozen entries and grew to the current sizes," he said.
"We expect the same with FG1000 - initially the fields will be small but will grow accordingly."
Elsewhere, Class 1 of the UAE Touring Car Championship has been strengthened by the return of Mohammed Al Owais and Costas Papantonis, two former champions.
Al Owais will compete in the Lap57 Racing Team Seat, while Papantonis, who is Fujairah based, will race for Mouhritsa Racing Seat.
Phoenix Motorsport Vauxhall Astras look set to take the battle to the Seat teams, with Martin Johnson and Brian McGinley spearheading a two-pronged attack on the title, and Al Owais said he is looking forward to racing against them.
"For us it is a real privilege and experience to drive with these guys," he said. "It allows us to see where we stand on a national level."
Close racing is guaranteed in Class 2 where Umair Khan, the defending champion in the Lap57 Honda, faces a host of top drivers out to dethrone him, including Spencer Vanderpal, the former champion, and the Honda drivers Rupesh Channake, in the other Lap57, and Aslam Moola, in the Emirates Racing Team Honda.
Out to spoil the Honda party will be a trio of Renault Clio Cup drivers with Khalid Bin Hadher, the reigning Class 1 champion, shedding horsepower and moving to Class 2 to take the battle to the Japanese-built cars.
Bin Hadher said he had moved down a category to enjoy more competition.
"I had a good season last year but there were not many guys in Class 1. Often there would only be one or two cars racing," he said. "This season I am led to believe we are getting quite a few drivers in the Clio Cup, many from overseas, so I thought why not take on the big boys and also challenge the Hondas in Class 2."
There is a new look to the UAE Sportsbike Championship with the competition set to be a privateer-driven contest.
One of the most anticipated series of the 2011/2012 season is the new look Radical Cup which has been revised and revitalised to offer affordable mini-enduro racing.
The man to beat over the past few seasons has been Jordan Grogor and this year he will be out to add another title to his collection, this time in the SR8 Class.
The Radical Cup teams have the option of running a single driver or two drivers, with mandatory pit stops during each of the two 45 minute races.
The action begins today at 9am, with the first race due to start at 11.30am and the final race at 5.35pm.