I am confident that if we had relevant high-performance engineering courses in UAE universities there would be a long queue of students waiting to sign up.
Minds racing with ideas
One of the many "Yasalam Live Across the City" community events being held in advance of the Abu Dhabi F1 GP was a two-day seminar called Mastering Motorsport. Hosted at Yas Marina Circuit's media centre, I had the privilege of addressing two groups of UAE University students on the topic of motorsport engineering along with Indian F1 driver Karun Chandhok and a top race engineer from the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
We were able to offer these bright undergraduates a first-hand view of how motorsport works and the career opportunities that exist in a glamorous and technologically advanced industry - high-performance engineering.
Many of the women in the morning session were surprised to hear about the number of female engineers employed. They were also delighted to learn that while there are less of them than men, they tend to score higher marks in their exams than their male counterparts. For example, Kirsty Allen, who graduated with an MEng in mechanical design engineering and an MSc in motorsport engineering, now has a great career working as a composites engineer designing bodywork and composite assemblies on the Willams F1 car.
The opportunities are real for graduates with the right qualifications and experience. In the UK, for example, there is a region called Motorsport Valley that houses some 4,500 small to medium sized companies with 38,500 employees. The global picture is huge with the industry being made up of some 12,000 such companies.
With so many specialist constructors designing and building hundreds of Formula, GT, Touring, Sportscars and Rally cars around the world, there is also a vast number of suppliers designing and developing items such as suspension systems, braking systems, transmissions, sophisticated electronic controls for these cars. The list is almost endless.
In the UAE, we are already seeing specialist race teams being set up to support the emergence of the various national championships by building, preparing and running race cars, rally cars and motorcycles that race in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. My company, GulfSport Racing, for example, has eight full-time employees who have over 100 years of racing and engineering experience between them. Unfortunately, we cannot yet employ Emirati graduates as race engineers as these specialist subjects are not taught here.
At the Mastering Motorsport seminar, we also discussed the world as seen by the engineer and the racing driver. F1 driver Chandhok gave us a fascinating insight into his world, where a harmonious relationship with his race engineer is absolutely vital. The students were fascinated by the sheer number of controls he has to manage on the steering wheel whilst racing - a truly amazing feat of multi-tasking.
The feedback from the seminar was excellent and we had clearly helped a number of students to see alternative career possibilities. I am confident that if we had relevant high-performance engineering courses in UAE universities there would be a long queue of students waiting to sign up.
Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is seeking the first Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.singleseaterblog.com