Al Ain // A busy season of motorsport in the UAE got under way with the first round of the Rotax Max Karting series at the Al Ain Raceway on Friday.
The same track will host what is effectively the world championship of kart racing, the Rotax Max Challenge grand finals, November 19-26, a week after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina.
The 12-round Rotax series takes in six races at the Al Ain Raceway and three each at the Dubai Kartdrome and Abu Dhabi Al Forsan between now and April, with the series winners potentially taking part in next year's grand finals.
The big race of the day, in the DD2 class, was won by Mohammed Al Dhaheri despite a mechanical failure earlier in the day which forced him to start at seventh place on the grid. A couple of blistering moves soon after the start saw him overtake Hasher Al Maktoum and Maurits Knopjes for the lead, which he never relinquished. Al Maktoum, returning from a two-year absence, finished second; Lebanon's Patrick Jarjour came in third.
Al Dhaheri is the defending champion in the DD2, having won it in April and will be representing the UAE at the grand finals in November.
Over 70 drivers took part in six classes throughout the day. Some, such as Tehmur Chohan, were as young as eight years old.
The young Iranian Taymour Kermanshahchi notched a comprehensive first victory in the cadet class, leading from start to finish, nearly five seconds clear of second-placed Lucas Petersson. Alain Bauwmans completed the podium line-up.
The Al Rawahi brothers of the Oman Karting Team were prominent through the day as well. In the junior Max class, the younger brother and defending champion Abdullah lost out in a gripping four-way battle that saw Cyrus Engineer slip past him with two laps to go to finish first. Al Rawahi eventually finished third behind Ameer Hussain, who sped past him at the infamous first turn. But as champion, Abdullah is already guaranteed a place in the grand finals.
There was something for the Al Rawahi family to celebrate, however, as elder brother Sanad won the senior Max class. Sanad began in pole position, but a first lap error saw him concede the lead briefly to Jarjour. He regained it eventually with such control that he ended up winning by nearly nine seconds. Jarjour's first competitive outing in this class was an impressive one, as he finished second. Nikita Miliakov, another debutant in this class, finished third.
The former champion Andrew Fuller began his season with a win in the Masters Max class, leading from start to finish ahead of the reigning champion Arnaud Bouf.
The grand finals in November will attract more than 260 of the world's best karters from more than 60 countries.
The Middle East will be well-represented. Alongside Al Dhaheri, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa will also be representing the UAE in the DD2 class at the grand finals. Jarjour will be taking part in the senior category alongside the elder Al Rawahi, while the younger brother will be taking part in the junior class.
The next race meeting is due to be held on October 14 at the Dubai Kartdrome.