ABU DHABI // The sheer physicality of a GP3 car may have caught him by surprise, but Saeed Al Mehairi labelled his first time in the single-seater car a success.
He and Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum yesterday became the first Emirati drivers to test a GP3 car at Yas Marina Circuit.
GP3 is the third tier below Formula One, with the single-seater cars capable of reaching speeds up to 285kph, when the six-cylinder, 3.4-litre engine is going all out.
Yas Marina had found two openings for the test with GP3 teams, and Al Mehairi and Sheikh Hasher were selected by track officials after a screening process led by Saud Al Qaydi, the motorsport manager at the track.
Al Qaydi said of GP3: “The cars are very quick and powerful. They are six to seven seconds slower, on this track, than a GP2 car, which shows just how fast they are.”
In the past, both Al Mehairi and Sheikh Hasher have competed in the UAE GT Championship and the Gulf 12 Hours endurance race, among other events in the region.
The Dubai-based Al Mehairi said: “One day was not enough for me to do everything I wanted to, but in the afternoon session, compared to the morning, we really improved.
“Physically, this car requires a lot of fitness level. If you are really physically fit you can drive this car; 80 per cent of it is physical fitness and 20 per cent is to do with your driving.”
Al Mehairi, 26, proved marginally quicker than Sheikh Hasher, with a best lap of 1 minute, 59.088 seconds, compared to his compatriot’s time of 2:00.571.
The fastest time on the final afternoon of testing was a 1:55.372, by the Swiss driver Patric Niederhauser.
Al Mehairi, who is due to compete in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series this season, added: “We are the first two guys who have had a go at GP3 and I think we did a good job today and let’s hope we can come back again and have a better result.”
Al Qaydi said he hoped the test would be a way of encouraging youngsters to take up racing. “We want to motivate the young drivers in the UAE to see this and come forward and get into motorsport, be it karting or any other discipline,” he said.
“The UAE government did its role building a venue; we are trying to do as much as we can, initiative-wise, to encourage more local race drivers.”
As to the long-term plans from the test, Al Qaydi added: “It is a one-off thing at the moment for them. It is a learning curve for them. It is about learning the GP3 car, learning to work with GP3 engineers.
“Just being involved in this testing session is enough at the moment.”
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