x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Pole Position: Racing scene in UAE is on track

Here in the UAE the national racing scene takes another leap forward next Friday as it starts its seventh season.

As I write, there is plenty of news and even more speculation about next year's motor racing scene.

How about Jean Alesi doing the Indi 500 next year for Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen driving for Williams in F1, Team Lotus to be renamed Caterham Team Air Asia? There's even a blogger suggesting that Torro Rosso will soon become Team UAE.

Heady stuff indeed but here in the UAE the racing scene takes another leap forward next Friday as it starts its seventh season of national racing.

There are 10 weekends of racing scheduled at Yas Marina Circuit and Dubai Autodrome that will see 22 days of testing, qualifying and race sessions taking place, with the last races on April 13.

Motor racing fans will be spoilt for choice this season. Not only do we have our local heroes racing in the three established UAE national championships for touring cars, GT cars and motorcycles, but we will also see a revamped sports car series and an exciting new junior single-seater series.

The two big internationals, Formula One and the 24 Hours of Dubai are, of course, on the schedule for November and January respectively and will attract large numbers of eager spectators.

In addition, we can expect to see top European, Asian and Emirati endurance racing teams competing in the new Gulf 12 Hours endurance racing event in Abu Dhabi and the arrival of the one-make Maserati series from Europe.

The UAE GT Championship blossomed spectacularly last year, with all manner of exotica being raced by some extremely talented drivers.

This series was very competitive, as Corvette, Porsche and Ginetta took the three class wins. It would appear we might be in for another cracking season with the rumoured addition of a Mosler GT600, a Ferrari 458 GT3 and a Porsche GT3 Super Cup.

Okay, if that doesn't impress you, try this. Triple 8 Engineering has been the most successful team in the BTCC since joining the championship as Vauxhall's works outfit in 1997.

In that time it has taken 127 race wins and earned six drivers' titles through the likes of Jason Plato, James Thompson, Yvan Muller and Fabrizio Giovanardi. The team has decided to bring its Super 2000 spec Vauxhall Vectras to the UAE Touring Car Championship to take on our local teams.

"We have seen the UAE touring car series grow dramatically over the past couple of years and it's clearly a series with a bright future," says Triple 8 Engineering boss Ian Harrison.

"The calendar fit works well for us around our BTCC activities in the UK, and we will be coming to the UAE to compete at the highest level.

"We will be bringing our core race team personnel from the UK to operate the cars because we do not underestimate the level that we will need to operate at to be competitive, but we would also like to see some local technicians helping us out during the series." Praise indeed for the UAE scene from a top team boss.

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.