x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Lack of experience held back Al Falasi

The Emirati racing driver Mohammad al Falasi blames limited practice in his car for his lack of success at Yas Island.

The Emirati racing driver Mohammad al Falasi is hoping for better things in the next round of the Chevrolet Supercars Middle East series after a difficult opening weekend at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit. Al Falasi came 11th in the championship's first race on Saturday and was 16th and last in the next day's race after pitting following a spin. The 27-year-old from Dubai, who came second in the Class One section of last season's UAE Touring Car Championship, said lack of experience in the car hampered his progress at Yas Island. The race weekend was the first time al Falasi had driven his 2009 V8 Chevrolet Lumina. Al Falasi, who works in his family's software security firm when not racing, fell to the tail of the field on Sunday after being forced to pit when the spin caused him tyre problems. "I spun out trying to avoid crashing near the [Yas] Hotel," he said. "I was about to hit my teammate. I went off avoiding hitting him." Once he was back on the circuit, al Falasi was lapped by the leaders, but thereafter kept up a faster pace. "This was the first time I sat in the car," he said. "For me [this weekend was about] the tyre set up and getting used to the car. This race was not about winning. The others have raced the car before. It takes time to get used to the car and the track." Al Falasi, who drives for the Sharjah-based Lap 57 team, said he would be more competitive in the next round at the Bahrain International Circuit, which starts on December 11. The series has 12 drivers entered in 2009 model Chevrolet Luminas, and eight registered to compete in slower 2006 cars, with a separate championship table for each class. Despite his tough weekend, al Falasi said he enjoyed his first experience of the new Yas Marina Circuit, although he added the track was not easy to race on. "It is a beautiful circuit - it has a combination of tight corners and very long, high-speed straights," he said. "The view is amazing but it is tricky, not easy. It has a lot of camber - sometimes, the track is this way, sometimes the other way." Al Falasi's teammate, the Emirati driver Mohammed al Owais, came fifth in both rounds at Yas Marina, being beaten for fourth each time by Tarek Elgammal, an Australian who drives under a UAE licence. "I think this circuit is very, very nice," Elgammal said, adding there was "a good combination" of straights and fast corners. He said the straights offered many passing opportunities and these allowed him to have "a wonderful battle" with al Owais in the second race. "But [the track] does punish mistakes because it doesn't have much grip," he added. "That could be because it's brand new. That makes for exciting racing." dbardsley@thenational.ae