x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pole Position: At 16, already on the road to racing stardom

Keep your eyes on the UAE's Edward Jones, who left some of the world's most promising talent in his wake at the Snetterton Circuit last weekend.

In a poll of more than 200 former and current Formula One racing drivers taken in 2009, three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna was voted the greatest racing driver of all time. It is, of course, a testament to huge advances in circuit and race car safety that the Brazilian driver was the last person to die at the wheel of a Formula One car some 17 years ago.

Ayrton Senna da Silva became a wealthy man who gave millions of dollars to children's charities. But his racing career was as controversial as he was successful. So, a documentary that charts the life of Senna is likely to become the most popular motorsport movie since the 1966 release of Grand Prix.

Given that the gifted Senna raced karts and cars for more than 20 years against some of the all-time greats, such as Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher, a very important question will now be answered with the June release of this film. That is, who exactly did Senna believe was the greatest driver he ever raced against?

And the answer is ... Terry Fullerton. Who? Well, Fullerton is a legend in UK karting circles and was the 1973 World Karting Champion.

After winning the South American Kart Championship in 1977, Senna decided to go after the World Karting Championship. He teamed up with the older and more experienced Terry Fullerton and finished runner-up in 1979 and 1980 before winning three Formula Ford titles in 1981 and 1982 with the Van Diemen team run by Ralph Firman.

Given that Senna made this pronouncement at a press conference just a few months before he died, it was notable that he did not bestow the honour on any of his Formula One contemporaries.

Fullerton is highly respected in karting circles and is still very much involved. Who does he think is the next up and coming British driver? When asked recently, Fullerton named Jake Dennis, the current CIK-FIA Under-18 World Karting Champion and recipient of support from the MSA's Racing Steps Foundation.

This talented young karter has just started his first year with Fortec Motorsport in the new Intersteps Championship and is destined to become a star of the future. This new junior race series fills the gap in the UK between karting and Formula Renault that was created when BMW withdrew its patronage of Formula BMW.

But this is what really interests me. Fortec is running the top three drivers in that series. Jake Dennis, Alex Walker and 16-year-old UAE driver Edward Jones, who was the quickest driver in Formula Gulf 1000 testing at Yas Marina Circuit last month. So, just how does a home-grown young UAE driver like Jones compare to the world's most promising talent?

Put it this way: at the second event at Snetterton Circuit last weekend, Jones qualified on pole position and then beat Dennis in two out of three races, taking a well-deserved win in race three. Interesting, eh? What's equally interesting, though, is that the UAE's Mohammed al Dhaheri managed to go even faster than Jones when we went testing again at the Dubai Autodrome with the Speed Weekend event. So it's official - UAE drivers can expect to be world class.

Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to produce the first Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Read his Pole Position column every week in Motoring and join the UAE racing community online at www.singleseaterblog.com