x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 December 2017

‘The traffic here is very, very tough’: Khaled Al Qubaisi expecting exhausting race at 24H Dubai

If you thought rush-hour traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road or any road linking Dubai and Sharjah was crazy, think again.

Emirati racer Khaled Al Qubaisi, who will be competing in the Abu Dhabi Racing Black Falcon Mercedes AMG GT3 in the 24H Dubai on Thursday-Friday, says that traffic on the 5.39-kilometre Dubai Autodrome "is very, very tough. The main challenge actually with the 24H Dubai is managing the traffic and staying out of trouble."  Satish Kumar / The National
Emirati racer Khaled Al Qubaisi, who will be competing in the Abu Dhabi Racing Black Falcon Mercedes AMG GT3 in the 24H Dubai on Thursday-Friday, says that traffic on the 5.39-kilometre Dubai Autodrome "is very, very tough. The main challenge actually with the 24H Dubai is managing the traffic and staying out of trouble." Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // If you thought rush-hour traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road or any road linking Dubai and Sharjah was crazy, think again.

This weekend, starting 2pm tomorrow, nearly 100 cars of the roaring and muscular sort will blaze around the 5.39-kilometre circuit at the Dubai Autodrome, running non-stop for 24 hours with the aim of crossing the finish line first in the 24H Dubai, the opening race of the seven-stop Creventic 24H Series.

“I did one in Mugello,” said Robert Kubica, the former Formula One driver, as he talked about the traffic on the circuit. “On the one side, it’s good fun and on the other side, it’s quite dangerous.

“There are a lot of run-off areas, so it’s quite a safe track here. But what everybody has to keep in mind is that the race is long and you often don’t have professional drivers behind the wheels. You have to keep that in mind.”

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Khaled Al Qubaisi, who will spearhead the Team Abu Dhabi Racing Black Falcon effort this weekend, inside a Mercedes AMG GT3, knows that better than most drivers here.

Winner of the 24H Dubai – his “home race” – in 2012 and 2013, he has suffered over the past three years because of “incidents and crashes”.

Last January, Al Qubaisi and his teammates were running in second when they made contact with the Attempto Porsche on Lap 119 as the Abu Dhabi Racing car attempted to overtake it, forcing them to retire.

They were forced to retire in 2015 too following an incident with a slower car, so Al Qubaisi is not very comfortable with the idea of seeing so many cars on the grid.

“The traffic here is very, very tough,” said Al Qubaisi, who will be sharing driving duties with Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen and the German duo of Patrick Assenheimer and Manuel Metzger.

“The main challenge actually with the 24H Dubai is managing the traffic and staying out of trouble, and it’s very hard to do that while you are racing and competing with a lot of top teams.

“We need to find the right balance between that and taking risks and hope to stay out of trouble.”

Al Qubaisi, who finished third in 2014 despite technical issues with the car, would prefer to see a reduction in the number of cars on the grid. He also suggested a couple of other measures to make sure only the best and fastest compete.

“The organisation has set a limit of 100 cars, but I think that is way too high for a race like this one, on such a track,” he said. “I think 70 cars is a good number. They could take one of the lowest category of cars out because I think they are too slow. Also, they could regulate the drivers a little bit to ensure their pace is within acceptable limits.

“It’s very hard sometimes to forecast who is in the cars, and whether he is good or not. You might take a risk and end up like we did last year, going out.”

Keen to avoid a repeat of last year, Al Qubaisi, who will be making his seventh appearance in the 24H Dubai, added: “It’s a home race, a very special race for us. It would be great to finish it, and, hopefully, finish it in first.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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