DUBAI // Jassim al Shamsi has been a speed freak from an early age and admits doing "many crazy things on the road" in his car. Now he gets his thrills and adrenalin kick from driving on some of the best circuits in Europe and blazing the field at the Dubai Autodrome and the Yas Marina Circuit.
Al Shamsi started driving karts in 2006 and switched to the Gulf Radical Championship last season. After just one race, he was picked for Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority's programme for Emirati drivers. A couple of months later, al Shamsi was driving for Team Abu Dhabi in the Radical European Masters Championship, where he scored a stunning podium finish (third) on his debut at the Zandvoort circuit in Holland.
"Driving in Europe on some of the world's most famous racing circuits was a thrilling experience," al Shamsi, 23, said. "I learnt a lot from the European circuits and have definitely improved as a driver. I also got a podium and that was really good for the confidence. "I learnt things like how to push the car hard through corners and watch the tyre conditions. Earlier, I did not know anything about the car ... I just drove. Now I understand the car and can give suggestions to the team."
His education in the technicalities of the sport, under the tutelage of AUH Motorsports, and his steady progress was in evidence at the Dubai Autodrome yesterday, the opening day of the new National Race Day Series season, when al Shamsi finished second behind Jordan Gregor, the defending champion, in the UAE Sports Car Championship. "It was a great race and a great start to the first race of the season," said al Shamsi. "I enjoyed it. I hope to continue this progress. I am going to compete here this season and then we will see for next year."
Al Shamsi, however, would like to move to the GT1 class next season or drive in the European F3 championship, a step closer to his dream of driving in Formula One. "I would like to be a Formula One driver," he said. "I hope I will be the first Emirati driver to make that grade. "Earlier, we did not have circuits in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. "But now we have the Dubai Autodrome and the Yas Marina Circuit, which is amazing. So it is good for us."
Despite these two impressive facilities, Emirati drivers are still a minority on the local track racing circuits. Al Shamsi, whose two brothers, Majed and Abdulrahman, also drive, hopes to see more nationals crowding the circuits. "Me and my two brothers are in motorsports," al Shamsi said. "My youngest brothers is driving in rallies and the second one is racing in the Sportbike Championship. "We have the full support of our family, but it would be nice to see more Emirati drivers competing, especially since we love the sport.
"I am confident things will change with the racing school at the Yas." In the other two events of the Race Day, Bahrain's Hussein al Kooheji and Abdulaziz Binladin from Saudi Arabia, lived up to the pre-season hype by taking a win each in the opening day of the UAE Sportbike Championship. In the Touring Cars Class 1, there was a fairy-tale win for Dubai-based Andre Ramdhanny who powered to victory in race two.
Competing in his first race day for Team MSW Seat, Ramdhanny was runner-up to experienced Khalid bin Hadher who took victory in his Performance Racing Seat. In race two, bin Hadher had to start from the back of the grid after a fuse delayed him getting out the pit lane, which gave Ramdhanny the break he needed to power to victory on his debut day. Ramdhanny said: "I really did not expect this. "I did not expect to get pole position either so this has been a great day and I must thank Team MSW and Jon Simmonds who has shown great faith in me.
"This victory so early on in my racing career is a big confidence boost." In the Touring Cars Class 2, Spencer Vanderpal (A2B Garage Honda) clinched the honours in race one while Rupesh Channake (Lap57 Honda) finished top of the podium in race two.
Hussein Al Kooheji of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's Abdulaziz Binladin won a race apiece in the UAE Sportsbikes 1,000 Class, while reigning champion Pascal Grosjean won both the races in the 600 Class.
Al Shamsi's brother, Abdulrahman, finished third in both the races.
* With agency