x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pole Position: Junior series and FIA academy will help young drivers

Formula Gulf 1000 may be taking its first, modest steps as an incubator of young UAE racing talent, but the quality of the competitors, all of whom are kart racers, is likely to surprise a few people.

This region's most talented young racers are being offered great opportunities to help develop their careers. This has come about following initiatives by the FIA Institute and UAE-based GulfSport Racing.

October 7 heralds the start of a new 14-race junior single-seater series that will take place at the Dubai Autodrome and the Yas Marina Circuit. Formula Gulf 1000 was created to offer ambitious kart racers and young drivers the chance to develop the skills and experience necessary to represent their country in international motor racing. Eleven drivers graduated from three-day advanced driver training sessions at Yas under the guidance of driver coach Andy Pardoe.

Formula Gulf 1000 may be taking its first, modest steps as an incubator of young UAE racing talent, but the quality of the competitors, all of whom are kart racers, is likely to surprise a few people.

Taking their well-earned places on the grid will be three Emirati racers including Rotax DD2 Champion Mohammed Al Dhaheri and kart racer Haytham Sultan Al Ali, who is an active road safety advocate. Joining them will be Lebanon's most successful young driver, Joe Ghanem, who was crowned UAE GTC Champion earlier this year. Pakistan will be represented by sports car racer Usmaan Mughal and Yastoor Mirza and India by young kart racer Harsh Rajpal. Racing is not just for boys, either, with former karter and Formula BMW Pacific driver Natasha Seatter also involved.

Formula Gulf 1000 is a professionally run national race series where drivers test and compete using identical machinery to ensure focus is on driver talent, not funding. Conceived to incorporate the latest in aerodynamic and mechanical design thinking, the Formula One-style RFR F1000 is a modern slicks and wings single-seater from the stable of the legendary Ralph Firman (www.rfrcars.com/thecars/f1000).

This ties in nicely with the announcement that the FIA Institute is to expand its Young Driver Excellence Academy for 2012 and will evaluate at least five drivers from the Middle East and Africa for inclusion. Given that selection criteria include age (17 to 23) and being in at least their first year of circuit racing in 2011, Formula Gulf 1000 provides the necessary environment for successful kart racers to qualify for the academy programme.

It is a truly global programme, with candidates being put forward from North, Central and South America; Western and Northern Europe; Central and Eastern Europe; Middle East and Africa; Asia and Oceania. This year 30 drivers will be shortlisted for the selection event, including a minimum of five drivers from each region. From this number, 18 will be selected for the academy, with at least three from each region.

The primary goals of the academy are to prepare young drivers to compete at the top; to increase driver and road safety skills; and to actively promote the principles of safety, fairness and responsibility, on and off the track.

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