Pole Position: UAE biker hits big time in British Superbike Championship
The British Superbike Championship is without doubt the greatest domestic bike race series in the world. In 2012, along with the established stars such as Noriyuki Haga, "Shakey" Byrne and Chris Walker, there will be a new name on the grid - Abdulaziz bin Laden.
Aladdin, as he is known to his friends, is teaming up with the late Barry Sheene's nephew, Scott Smart, to take on some of the world's best motorcycle racers. This is big news for the UAE as it is not often that a home-grown champion makes it to the big time. BSB is one step down from the FIM World Superbike Championship.
Aladdin's magic lamp will be the racing version of the Ducati 1199 Panigale as tested recently at its Yas Marina Circuit launch by three-time World Superbike champion Troy Bayliss (and by Motoring editor Neil Vorano in these very pages).
Having been an ardent motorcycle racing fan since the late 1960s and being just four months older than Barry "Bazzer" Sheene, I had followed his career closely. I was in the paddock at Cadwell Park in the UK in April 1975 when, just seven weeks after his huge testing crash at the Daytona 500, Bazzer decided to see if he could race again. He could and he did. Not bad when you consider that he had broken his left leg, right arm, collarbone and several ribs and he was held together by stainless metalwork. They placed his left foot on the footpeg, and kept it there with a bungee strap.
His sister Maggie is married to Paul Smart, the man who started Ducati's rise to power after winning an historic race at Imola in 1972 on the 750 Desmo Ducati. His success was later consolidated by George Fogarty's son Carl, who won the World Superbike title four times and was subsequently awarded an MBE. When Carl got injured and retired, his replacement was Bayliss, who continued the domination.
So it was with immense pleasure that I finally got to meet one of my biking heroes last year when Paul Smart came to Dubai to support his son, Scott, who had been racing in the UAE Superbike Championship.
One of my old biker friends, Peter Clifford, ran the Red Bull Yamaha WCM team that finished fifth in the 2000 500cc World Championship, the year before it became MotoGP and, to my horror, went all four-stroke.
I invited Clifford to visit the UAE some years ago and we spent an interesting day at the Dubai Autodrome at a private test session with Aladdin, as he was getting to grips with a big Kawasaki. I remember Clifford, who had not missed a GP in 25 years, was suitably impressed with him, even then. My friend now runs the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, a great training ground for future world champions.
For those of you who enjoy bike racing, you should know that there is now a very interesting video out that chronicles the life of Bazzer using home movie footage taken by his father "Franko" along with interviews with some of the legends of motorsport. Entitled Legacy - A Personal History of Barry Sheene and narrated by Ewan McGregor. I highly recommend it.
Pole Position is written by Barry Hope, 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.
Updated: March 23, 2012 04:00 AM