x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Pole Position: UAE's racing scene is missing a piece

Single-seater racing fans have some good news to cheer with the arrival of the Formula Gulf 1000 single-seater championship next month at Yas Marina Circuit.

The motor-racing community in the UAE - and this includes competitors who invest in cars and equipment, the officials whose job it is to organise and run the events and the race teams that provide the expertise - have seen their sport grow organically here for seven years. Equally, we would not have a sport without the huge investment that was made in racing infrastructure underpinning that growth.

But something has been missing: single-seater racing. This became apparent when the UAE witnessed some of the world's highest-paid sportsmen driving Formula One cars around the fantastic Yas Marina Circuit. The cry went out - "where's our driver?"

Well, there's some good news. After years of local development, we finally have the seeds of a motor-racing revolution in our midst with the announcement this week that pre-season testing for the forthcoming Formula Gulf 1000 single-seater championship will take place at Yas Marina Circuit next month.

This heralds the start of a new wave of talented drivers getting themselves on the path to international stardom. With no restriction on age or nationality, we will probably see FIA race license holders from the UAE, Oman, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, South Africa and Russia coming to Abu Dhabi to be mentored by some of the best people in the business. These drivers will gain valuable insights into fitness and nutrition, discipline, media training, race engineering - and, of course, driving.

Richard Cregan, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit, made the point this week. "This is a perfect opportunity for aspiring young drivers to enter single-seat racing. We are happy to support Formula Gulf 1000 with test days, since we feel the series provides all the elements that a young driver needs to develop and progress at this level of motorsport."

For me, their path to the top is realistic. I have seen many young drivers who had a good work ethic, commitment and support make great progress during the past 20 years. The most recent example is a young lad, Paul Di Resta, whom I remember racing a 60cc Cadet kart at the age of eight. You, too, will be able to see Paul, who is only 24, racing for the Force India F1 Team in Bahrain on March 13.

Di Resta, along with Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, are perhaps the exceptions, as they all made it to the very top of this particularly greasy pole.

However, I know plenty of other young drivers who earn good money as professionals even though they don't have quite the same high profile as the F1 lads. My point is that it is quite realistic to aim for a racing career if you have the commitment and support network that I referred to earlier. There are many single-seater drivers enjoying successful careers in GT cars, Le Mans prototypes and Touring cars.

GulfSport is behind this venture, and I believe it will attract drivers in the European off-season and may eventually produce the UAE's first F1 racer. More details can be found at at www.FG1000.net.

Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to produce the first Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.singleseaterblog.com