x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pole Position: Seven reasons for UAE motorsport fans to be cheerful

For the four-wheeled branch of motorsport, a healthy kart-racing scene is essential. Judging by the large grids for last weekend's season opening kart meeting in Al Ain, things are going in the right direction.

The annual preseason press conference got under way at Dubai Autodrome last week and journalists and television crews were eager to find out who was doing what.

They were not disappointed, as a record number of motor racing series was announced for this season - seven, in fact.

I occasionally meet people who have no clue that motorsport takes place in the UAE, despite the country having categories for all the major branches of racing: motocross, karting, motorcycle racing, rallying, drag racing, drifting, touring cars, GT cars, single-seaters and sports cars. And Emiratis take part in all of these categories.

In addition, Maserati and Porsche will run one-make racing series in the Middle East, both of which will visit the UAE several times.

Of course, none of these events can take place without marshals and officials, the unsung heroes of our sport. The national sporting authority is the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE), which regulates and controls around 200 events, including Formula One, under the direction of Mohammed Sulayem, himself a 14-time FIA rally champion and vice president of the FIA.

At the conference, Sulayem explained to the assembled media, teams and officials how important it is to develop and promote motorsport from grassroots level so the UAE has a sustainable sport over the longer term.

For the four-wheeled branch of motorsport, a healthy kart-racing scene is essential. Judging by the large grids for last weekend's season opening kart meeting in Al Ain, things are going in the right direction.

While presenting my thoughts to the group, I outlined a significant issue that has, until now, been a barrier to progress. Thankfully, the gap in the racing scene for 16 to 25-year-olds has now been plugged with the new junior single-seater series.

The recent ATCUAE Motorsport Star project identified five of the nation's top young drivers from circuit racing, karting and rally driving and put them through a series of sports science and media tests to identify an overall winner. The tests were conducted by a team made up of personnel from ATCUAE and the University of Ulster.

A panel of experts then identified Mohammad Al Mutawaa, an 18-year-old circuit racer and karter from Dubai, and Mohammed Al Dhaheri, a 24-year-old karter from Al Ain, as two excellent prospects and crowned them the 2011 UAE Motorsport Stars.

The good news is that you will be able to see both of these talented Emirati drivers battling for honours in Formula Gulf 1000 in the coming six months. Serious international competition for them will come in the form of Joe Ghanem (Lebanon), Natasha Seatter (Malaysia), Usmaan Mughal (Pakistan), Yastoor Mirza (Pakistan) and Harsh Rajpal (India).

When we started the Dubai Motocross Championship back in 1978 we had just six competitors, and our Gulf Radical Cup series started in 2006 with just five cars. Both grew and endured as I'm sure FG1000 will, too.

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.