x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Pole Position: A fitting end to a great Formula Gulf 1000 season

I look back and know a great deal of effort went into developing what has become a strategically important feeder series for young drivers whose ambition is to break into international motor racing.

Last weekend we enjoyed the final event of the UAE's seventh national motor racing season held at Dubai Autodrome. Motorsport enthusiasts were treated to a full day of action featuring motorcycle, saloon car and single-seaters - and all three championships went down to the wire.

Lebanese rider Mahmoud Tannir completed a brilliant season by winning two races on his Triumph Daytona 675 to win the UAE Sportsbike Championship. The UAE Touring Car Championship was decided at the last race as Nader Zuhour beat Costas Papantonis to win Class 1, joining Umair Khan and Alexandros Annivas as Class 2 and the Clio Cup Champions respectively.

Joe Ghanem became the first Formula Gulf 1000 Champion after winning eight of the 14 championship races despite a bad day at the office last weekend. By winning the region's first professionally run single-seater title, the 21-year-old Lebanese racer marks himself out as one of the most promising Arab drivers to emerge recently after also winning the 2010/11 UAE GT Championship in the GulfSport Ginetta G50 HC and the 2011/12 Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK series where he beat Italian pro driver Patrick Zamparini on a regular basis.

The Middle East's nominated FIA Academy driver Mohammed Al Mutawaa, sponsored by Yas Marina Circuit, set pole position in qualifying with a blistering one minute lap of the autodrome's Club Circuit. After taking second place in race one, Al Mutawaa took a sensational first win in race two and finished as Formula Gulf 1000 Vice-Champion after getting on the podium 11 times this season.

Third place overall went to National Bank of Umm Al Quwain-sponsored Haytham Sultan Al Ali, who made great progress over the season having successfully made the transition from amateur cycling to motor racing.

Initially, we were taken by surprise when this one-make Formula championship attracted young drivers from outside the Middle East.

Malaysian driver Natasha Seatter, now the fastest woman driver in south-east Asia and the Middle East, won round 10, making history as the first woman to win a National car race in the UAE at the age of 18. And she showed it was no fluke by winning race one last weekend, too.

The final race day also marked good progress for 18-year-old Indian driver Harsh Rajpal and American Nicolas Canal, 17, who has trained with the famous Emilio de Villota race school in Spain. India's top young driver Zaamin Jaffer also won two races.

Overall, I look back and know a great deal of effort went into developing what has become a strategically important feeder series for kart racers and young drivers whose ambition is to break into international motor racing. We made a modest start and were rewarded with some extremely exciting and high-quality racing.

The Formula Gulf 1000 Championship now moves to Malaysia for pre-season training and testing, with racing beginning in November.

Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to find an Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.gulf-sport.com or on Facebook at GulfSportRacing.