x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

'Beautiful' circuit thrills local drivers

Racing drivers talk about the future of Yas Marina Circuit, looking forward to more chances to race at the circuit, preferably in a championship of their own.

The first Chevrolet Supercar Middle East race on Saturday during Grand Prix weekend. UAE drivers in the series are looking forward to racing at Yas Marina Circuit in February.
The first Chevrolet Supercar Middle East race on Saturday during Grand Prix weekend. UAE drivers in the series are looking forward to racing at Yas Marina Circuit in February.

ABU DHABI // The Yas Marina Circuit will be a valuable training ground where UAE drivers can compete with each other, according to a leading driver. Mohammed al Owais, the 2008-2009 UAE Touring Car Champion, said local drivers were looking forward to more chances to race at the circuit, preferably in a championship of their own. "We're hoping for something at a national level for us - a national race series," said Mr al Owais, a 27-year-old Emirati.

He said Formula One would act as a magnet that would attract other international racing series to the capital: "It's a good thing we have F1 there as it will help us to get the other series, which will help a lot in making Yas Island work. "I've driven in Asian circuits and European circuits, but this is my favourite. It's a very technical circuit with low-speed corners and high-speed corners." During the Grand Prix weekend, Mr al Owais raced twice on the Yas Marina Circuit in the Chevrolet Supercars Middle East series for his Sharjah-based Lap 57 team, coming fifth in each race.

After travelling to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the series returns to Yas Island for two weekends in February. Another Emirati driver, Mohammad al Falasi, 27, also drove for Lap 57. He finished second in Class One in last season's UAE Touring Car Championship at Dubai Autodrome. He described the Yas Marina Circuit as "beautiful" and praised its combination of tight corners and high-speed straights.

"The view is amazing but it's tricky, not easy," Mr al Falasi said. "It has a lot of camber - sometimes, the track is this way, sometimes the other way. It's very challenging but very fun to drive." Since he had not had a chance to test his Chevrolet car, Mr al Falasi had a difficult first weekend in the two races, finishing further down the order, but said he was looking forward to coming back in February.

"The next races in Abu Dhabi we will be doing much better," he said. The circuit was also praised by Tarek Elgammal, an Australian driver in the same series who competes under a UAE racing licence. "I think this facility is the best in the world by far. It's going to take a lot to top this facility," he said. dbardsley@thenational.ae