UAE motorsport: Mansour Bin Jabr ‘confident of victory’ at Dubai International Rally
Ahmed Rizvi reports the biggest stories from the UAE motorsport scene.
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL RALLY
Mansour Bin Jabr is making his final preparations for a professional assault at this weekend’s 37th Dubai International Rally, the final round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.
Driving a Tok Sport-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X in the Group N category, Bin Jabr features in a strong line-up of 17 drivers for the three day event.
Bin Jabr’s car, which will be co-driven by fellow Emirati Arif Yousef Mohammed, has been sign written in UAE army camouflage colours to show his support for troops who have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict in Yemen.
Bin Jabr, who is a former member of the Abu Dhabi Junior Team, warmed up for the Dubai International Rally in a local rally in Sharjah, and was going strong in third before mechanical issues intervened on the last stage.
“My time as a member of the Abu Dhabi Junior Team was successful and very enjoyable,” Bin Jabr said. “I took part in local and regional rallies and a round of the WRC.
“For the Dubai Rally, we wanted a car with top end speed and I have chosen the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. The goal in Dubai is to deliver a strong performance and go for the victory in the Group N category. I am confident I can do that. This rally is very important to me.
“I am also taking part in this rally to remember the UAE troops who have lost their lives in the conflict in Yemen and the colour scheme of our car has been changed to army print camouflage to reflect this. This is something I feel very strongly about.”
Bin Jabr’s biggest competition will come from the recently crowned champion Salah Bin Eidan of Kuwait, the Lebanese veteran driver Michel Saleh and Kuwait’s Meshari Al-Thafiri.
ROTAX MAX CHALLENGE GRAND FINALS
Luke Varley’s bid to bring glory for Team UAE at the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals in Algarve, Portugal, ended in disappointment last week after he was forced to retire from the final of the DD2 class following a tangle with a slower driver.
Varley, the 2009 Max World Champion, did not put a foot wrong all week, winning two of his heats and finishing second in the pre-final on Saturday. However, in the final, as he started from second on the grid, the Abu Dhabi Racing driver was swamped and overtaken by several drivers at the start.
Varley struggled to recover from the start and was making his way up the pack when a tangle with a slower driver put him out of the race when he was battling for third position.
The two other Team UAE drivers in the DD2 finals, Sanad Al Rawahi and Piers Pakenham-Walsh, did finish the race, both recovering from the chaotic start.
Al Rawahi, starting from 13th on the grid, dropped to the back of the 34-car field following a hectic first lap, but the Omani showed great resolve as he fought back to finish in sixth. He was one of the fastest drivers on the track in the second half of the race and only the winner, Hungary’s Ferenc Kancsar, had a quicker lap time.
“I am very pleased with this result as it is payback for the hard work we put into our racing programme,” Al Rawahi said. “I want to thank my father for making this happen, my brother for his support, my crew who provided me with a good kart and everyone in Team UAE.”
Pakenham-Walsh, who recovered from 29th on the grid to finish ninth, said: “I can’t believe it. The engine I had was not the fastest, but I gave it all I have and am very happy to be in the top ten.
“Big thanks to my family, my mechanic Tom Holland and Team UAE for a great effort. I am very, very happy.”
There was not much joy for Team UAE in the other classes. Tom Bale and Abdullah Al Rawahi, the team’s representatives in the Max class, crossed the line in 16th and 21st respectively after finishing 20th and 26th in the morning’s pre-finals.
In the Junior class, Taymour Kermanshahchi, the only Team UAE driver in action on the final day, was relegated to 30th on the grid for the final following a penalty for an incident in the pre-finals.
The UAE Junior MAX champion did try to fight it out in the final, but was bumped by a rival and eventually crossed the line in 28th out of 34 karts.
NGK RACING SERIES
Winner of the opening two Class 1 races of the NGK Racing Series at the Yas Marina Circuit last month, champion Costas Papantonis cruised to another double in the second round of the series at the Dubai Autodrome last week.
Papantonis, driving a Gulf Petrochem Seat Leon Super Copa, won both races with more than 30 seconds to spare from Peter England in his Vauxhall Astra, while Marcel Kusin finished third in both the races in his K&K Racing BMW 130i.
“It was a relatively easy today with no issues with the car — a good weekend,” said Papantonis. “I want to thank my sponsors Gulf Petrochem, who have been alongside us for the last five years.”
Class 2 of the NGK Racing Series was, however, a much closer affair with Alqassim Hamidaddin winning both the races in his Honda Civic, while Renault Cup Clio drivers Simon Dennis and Will Morisson scored a win each in the Clio Cup.
UAE SPORTBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP
Defending champion Abdulaziz bin Ladin and Mahmoud Tannir, last season’s runner-up, shared the honours in the opening round of the UAE Sportbike Championship at the Dubai Autodrome with a win apiece.
Fastest in qualifying, Libyan Tannir (Honda) was first to the flag in Race 1, finishing ahead of the two Kawasakis of Bin Ladin and Ahmed Al Muyin. The defending champion from Saudi Arabia, however, bounced back to win Race two, while Tannir edged Al Muyin in the battle for second place.
“All in all it was a really good weekend for us and it was a great beginning for the championship,” said Tannir after the two races.
In the Rookie Class, Leigh Young (Yamaha) finished ahead of Kris Murphy and Iliyas Campbell in both the races.
RADICAL MIDDLE EAST CUP
Lucco Racing’s French duo of Ludovic Loffreda and Romain Lutter dominated the opening round of the Radical Middle East Cup at the Dubai Autodrome last weekend, winning both the races.
Paolo Necchi of AUH Motorsports did put up a good fight in Race 1, finishing a mere 1.954 seconds behind the winners, followed by Julian Griffin in third, a further 25.445 seconds adrift.
Necchi, however, failed to finish Race 2 and Richard Ardolino finished second, 4.107 seconds behind the French duo, while Griffin was third again.
Mashhur Bal Hejaila and Cato Poulsen kick-started their Formula Gulf 1000 Championship campaign with a win apiece on a rain-affected opening weekend of the Gulf Oil and Campos Racing supported championship at the Dubai Autodrome’s National Circuit.
With the first day of testing lost to rains, the experience of Saudi driver Bal Hejaila allowed him to make a head start and he took pole position in qualifying, and with an extra five points, and then finished ahead of Poulsen, who was having his first ever race in a Formula car, in Race One.
A quick learner, Poulsen, 17, however, managed to turn it around in Race Two, finishing ahead of the Saudi. The young Italian driver Giulio Peroni, also 17, finished third in both races.
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @NatSportUAE
Updated: November 17, 2015 04:00 AM