x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Emirati chosen to master race courses

Faisal al Shamsi is the first of what the Yas Drag Racing Academy hopes will be many local drivers to train on the NHRA-accredited strip.

Faisal al Shamsi, who won the Pro 6 category drag racing last weekend, was given a scholarship to the Yas Drag Racing Academy.
Faisal al Shamsi, who won the Pro 6 category drag racing last weekend, was given a scholarship to the Yas Drag Racing Academy.

Abu Dhabi // When Faisal al Shamsi, an Air Force pilot by day, flashed past the chequered flag at the International Drag Racing Festival last weekend, he didn't realise he was claiming more than a victory. He had just won a chance to be the first Emirati to reach the sport's top level. His win in the Pro 6 drag finals earned him a spot at the Yas Marina Circuit's racing academy. He will now receive nine months of training to help him reach the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).

"They surprised me," Mr al Shamsi said yesterday. "I am very proud to be one of the Yas Marina team." Mr al Shamsi, 32, will learn how to drive a Super Comp-category dragster capable of covering a quarter mile in around eight seconds. He is the first of what the Yas Drag Racing Academy hopes will be many local drivers to train on the NHRA-accredited strip. The academy will have four Super Comp dragsters, six 2010 Camaros and a three-seat dragster to give spectators, fans and VIPs a chance to experience the extremely quick machines.

The academy's main instructor, Rod Fuller, 38, who has six NHRA Top Fuel victories to his credit, will teach Mr al Shamsi. Mr Fuller debuted the Top Fuel dragsters at Yas Marina last week, reaching 499.97kph on the 402-metre track. Mr al Shamsi will learn all the ins and outs of the racing business, from oil changes to post-race press conferences. He will be filmed so he can analyse his driving, receive media training in English and Arabic and be schooled on the mechanics of the car and how to repair it.

Mr Fuller said he will know Mr al Shamsi is ready to win when the Emirati starts beating him on the track. "You don't become a great racer overnight," Mr Fuller said. "I am going to get in the car and race with him and once he learns to that level he can start beating me consistently, I know he can go out there and win any race." "One of the reasons why I took this job is I believe it is attainable," Mr Fuller said. "I believe this is really something they can do. There is more than just Top Fuel in the professional ranks of the drag race circuit."

With this knowledge, he added, Mr al Shamsi "will be prepared to run any class in the NHRA". Training at the academy will help Mr al Shamsi prepare for the Super Comp race at the next drag festival at Yas Marina in December. Meanwhile, the academy will look for opportunities for him to compete regionally. The scholarship, valued at more than Dh120,000 (US$32,670), will be re-evaluated in December.

Mr al Shamsi said he wants to be a role model to others who love to drive fast. "For sure I would like everyone to be racing for Yas Marina. "This circuit represents the United Arab Emirates. So I am encouraging all the guys, if they have the chance to come and learn how to race and to stop racing in the streets." @Email:mchung@thenational.ae