x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Motorsport: Best young talent coming to UAE this fall

FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy programme will train next generation of drivers as Europe, Africa, Asia and Americas will host similar events and the finalists will join academy.

Emirati Mohammed Al Mutawaa was the first Arab accepted into the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy. Courtesy Total Communications
Emirati Mohammed Al Mutawaa was the first Arab accepted into the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy. Courtesy Total Communications

The UAE has been chosen to host one of five regional selection events for the revamped FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy.

The event, to be staged in the UAE from September 22-25, will see 26 national motorsport authorities from Middle East and North Africa (Mena) and beyond each send a nominated driver to the UAE.

The best driver from the UAE event, and the others being held in Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific and the Americas, will enter the full academy programme along with three wild-card selections.

The programme aims to find and develop the next generation of world champions. It will feature training events at locations across Europe over the following season.

The UAE was chosen to stage the Mena event on the basis of its achievements as one of only five Regional Training Providers on behalf of the FIA, world motorsport's governing body.

For geographical and logistical reasons, the Mena event has been expanded to 26 countries and will also include Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

"We're proud to have been chosen to play our part in identifying the cream of the world's best young driving talent, and creating the champions of the future," said Mohamed ben Sulayem, president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE).

The original format of the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy allowed for the training of around 30 drivers between 2010-12, with about half of these taking part in the full academy programme. The format was revised based on recommendations from the Mena assembly of motorsport authorities in Doha in February.

"This new structure will see a much greater uptake than before, particularly from developing countries," said Ben Sulayem, who also is an FIA vice president. The ATCUAE will shortly announce its own candidate for the regional event as well as the venue.

The academy has already helped a number of talented young drivers begin their ascent to the upper echelons of motorsport. The 2011 graduate Alexander Rossi recently scored his first podium in GP2 for the Caterham team, and the American is also one of the reserve drivers for the team's Formula One operation.

Craig Breen, a 2012 graduate, used skills learnt from the programme to win the 2012 WRC Academy Cup, and the young Irish rally driver is currently second in the 2013 European Rally Championship standings.

The UAE's Mohammed Al Mutawaa, who became the first Arab driver to be accepted into the academy in 2012, has since become part of the new Abu Dhabi Racing team in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

He said: "The training and exposure that the academy gave me has not only made me a faster driver while competing, but has helped me mature as a person. I'll always be grateful to the ATCUAE for nominating and sponsoring me."

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