x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Karting future is being nourished in Al Ain

The best kart racers of the world will be in Al Ain next year for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.

The Al Ain Raceway will get a chance to host the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, which will see karters of all ages in competition.
The Al Ain Raceway will get a chance to host the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, which will see karters of all ages in competition.

The best kart racers from across the globe are to descend on Al Ain Raceway next year after the facility was named as the host of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals.

An expected 250 drivers from more than 60 countries will arrive in the country for the event next November which will decide the overall champion of the various categories held in the series.

It is the second time that Al Ain has hosted the finals, the first being in 2007, and the confirmation of the track taking centre stage again was announced following the staging of this year's finale in Italy at the La Conca International Circuit earlier this month.

Guy Sheffield, the general manager at Al Ain Raceway, welcomed the announcement, and said: "It is great for us to be hosting the event again and it is something that we are very much looking forward to. It is the biggest event in the international calendar for karting and we are delighted that it will be taking place here."

The Rotax Max Challenges sees karters of all ages compete in their domestic competitions throughout the motorsport year.

The aim of the finals is for the champions from the four categories of the Rotax series to congregate at one venue to decide who is the best driver in the world in their respective category for that year.

This year's competition saw champions crowned from Canada, South Africa and Holland as 61 nations had drivers representing them in Italy. Four UAE-based drivers competed in Italy, with Mohammed al Dhaheri being the lone Emirati to race.

Al Ain impressed with their first staging of the finals three years ago, and Sheffield revealed it had always been the hope of the organisers to bring the series, which began in 2000, back to the UAE.

"Even though it was the first event the track had staged since it had been created and it was a baptism of fire in many ways we did a good job and impressed with our facility and the hospitality we gave everyone, and I think the guys at Rotax had always hoped they could bring the event back here.

"We were in a position to host it again thanks to the support we have received from the government and we fully expect to host an even better event than we did in 2007.

"Then we had just opened, but now we are a proven track with facilities that are second to none so we are looking forward to it."

To host an international karting event you need a rating of C or higher from the CIK [Commission Internationale de Karting], who specialise in the sport's ruling for the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, motorsport's ruling body. Al Ain has a B grading level, and is the only track in the Gulf with a high enough qualification to host international karting.

The multi-million dirham venue was built in 2007 in time to host the finals before opening to the public a year later, and it has gone from strength to strength with four different circuit layouts available to organisers, while night racing can also be held there as part of its B grade. Sheffield is also confident that the increased exposure karting is likely to experience in the region from staging the finals will create more interest in competing for local drivers.

With Sebastian Vettel, the Formula One world champion, and the majority of his rivals on the grand prix circuit all having started their motorsport careers in karting, it is the obvious first step for anyone dreaming of making it in F1.

"There has been all this talk of getting an Emirati driver into Formula One within the next 10 years, and the realisation is beginning to dawn that F1 drivers have to start somewhere and that is karting," Sheffield said.

"It is where drivers learn how to race and learn their skills and this event is hopefully only going to help raise awareness."

THE CLASSES

Grand Finals comprise four classes of competition:

• Junior Max class: drivers aged 13-16 drive 21-horsepower karts

• Senior Max Class: drivers aged 16+ race 28-horsepower karts

• DD2 Class: 32-horsepower karts; two-speed gearbox allowed

• DD2 Masters Class: racers only over age of 32 compete

gcaygill@thenational.ae