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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Richard Cregan and Rasgaira steering Emirati involvement in new F4 UAE Championship

Ahmed Rizvi talks to the founder of the Rasgaira Motorsport Team about the new championship, the two young Emirati drivers racing for his team, and what it all means for the future of UAE racing.
Richard Cregan's Rasgaira Motorsport Team will take part in the new Formula 4 UAE Championship. Christopher Pike / The National
Richard Cregan's Rasgaira Motorsport Team will take part in the new Formula 4 UAE Championship. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Rasgaira, according to former Yas Marina Circuit chief executive Richard Cregan, is a combination of two Irish words.

“‘Ras’ means race,” Cregan said, “and ‘gaira’ means smile”.

And racing with a smile is what Cregan endeavours to achieve in his latest venture in motorsport – the Rasgaira Motorsport Team – which will be taking part in the new Formula 4 UAE Championship, a single-seater competition which will be flagged off at the Yas Marina Circuit this weekend.

The 18-round F4 UAE series will be spread across six race weekends, including four at the Yas Marina Circuit and two at the Dubai Autodrome, with every one of those weekends seeing drivers as young as 15 competing around the tracks in three races of 20 minutes each.

Around eight teams are expected to take part in the FIA regulated series, and the grid could see as many as 14 to 16 cars by the second race weekend, as the first race weekend is a non-competitive one.

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Rasgaira is a Cregan family venture with Richard’s wife Patricia and son Robert, Daman Speed Academy programme director at Abu Dhabi Racing, also playing crucial roles in the team. Rasgaira could be managing as many as six cars on the grid.

The Cregans will have the two Qatari drivers, Ahmad Al Muhannadi and Abdulrahman Tolefat, of the Qatar Motorsport and Motorcycle Federation F4 Team, under their watch.

David Malukas, the promising 15-year-old 2015 Junior X30 world champion from the United States, will also be driving one of the Rasgaira cars.

Cregan, however, is most excited about the two young Emiratis, who will be driving for his team.

One of them is Saif ben Sulayem, the son of rallying hero Mohammed ben Sulayem, who is the president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and the Emirates Motorsport Federation. The other is karting sensation Amna Al Qubaisi, the 16-year-old daughter of Abu Dhabi Racing managing director Khaled Al Qubaisi.

“The big focus obviously is having Amna, who is coming out of the Daman Speed Academy,” Cregan said. “The special thing about Amna is she’s a girl. She has been racing and she has done very well. She is also part of the FIA Women in Motorsport, so that’s another achievement she has.

“Then obviously we have Saif ben Sulayem. To have two Emiratis representing young drivers in the UAE, I think that’s a big step for us.

“For both of them, it’s their first time in a single-seater. The good thing about this particular car is it’s very safe. It’s been built according to the FIA regulations.

“It has the same crash testing on the chassis as you would have on a Formula One car, the same head restraints.”

The cars have been designed and built by Italian chassis manufacturer Tatuus, with a 1.4cc, 160hp Fiat Abarth engine under the hood. The same chassis and engine combination is used in Formula 4 championships in Italy, Spain, Germany and the FIA’s North European Zone.

Cregan knows it will be a “big step up” for his drivers as they are getting into a single-seater race car where, unlike karting, they will “have a gear box and clutch to deal with”.

“But young racing drivers are very quick to adapt to different types of cars,” he said. “So they will be fine.

“For the young drivers, it’s about lap time, it’s about getting out there, understanding what they need to do to race a single-seater race car. If you do the whole championship, you have about 35-36 hours of track time. This is a lot of track time for a young driver.”

The most lucrative part of the championships for Cregan, however, is the super licence points on offer. According to the revised FIA regulations, a driver who has accumulated at least 40 points over a three-year period, driving in different FIA recognised championships, becomes eligible for a Formula One driver’s licence.

The top seven drivers in a Formula 4 championship are eligible for super licence points, with the champion getting 12 points, the runner-up 10 points, the third-placed seven.

These super licence points, Cregan said, could eventually lead to the UAE achieving their dream of seeing an Emirati driver on a Formula One grid.

“This is the big attraction,” he said.

“The Formula 4, then, can bring young drivers, especially here in the UAE, to a point where they can go and race in Europe. Then from there, who knows.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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