x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Al Qubaisi all set to carry nation's flag in Supercup

The only Emirati to race at Yas Marina Circuit this weekend is feeling relaxed but inspired ahead of his international racing debut.

ABU DHABI // The only Emirati to race at Yas Marina Circuit this weekend is feeling relaxed but inspired ahead of his international racing debut. Khaled al Qubaisi will take to the track for the first time this afternoon when he practises for the first of two Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup races tomorrow. Representing Abu Dhabi Race Team, a new initiative from the capital's tourism authority, the 33-year-old driver is hoping he can focus on the task at hand and enjoy the atmosphere later.

"This event is historical for Abu Dhabi and historical for me," said al Qubaisi. "I presume, being the only local driver, the local fans will be supporting me as well, but I don't feel any pressure. "I am looking forward to it and trying not to think too much about the crowd - I can do that afterwards. "It's actually quite lucky because once you are in the car, you forget very quickly what is going on all around you because you are so focused."

Each of the drivers on the grid will be racing in an identically modified Porsche 911, meaning the quality of the driver rather than the car should dictate the outcome of the race. Understandably, racing for the first time in what is often billed as "the world's most exclusive one-car series", al Qubaisi is staying grounded and is aware a podium finish is all but impossible for someone of his experience.

"I am realistic. Some of the drivers I am up against have been doing this since they were children so by the time they get to a race like this, they are masters," he said. "I on the other hand jumped up very quickly; it's like I skipped the lower leagues and jumped straight into the Premiership. If I finish in the points I will be delighted." gmeenaghan@thenational.ae