x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UAE Touring Car champion Umair wants more improvement

Pakistan-born driver dominated the UAE Touring Car Class 2 Championship in his LAP57, but warns his rivals that he and his team will be piling on the agony in the coming season.

Umair Khan has dominated this season in his LAP57 Honda.
Umair Khan has dominated this season in his LAP57 Honda.

Umair Khan has issued an ominous warning to his flailing challengers in next season's UAE Touring Car Class 2 Championship by declaring his team have "lots in the pipeline" as he bids to claim a third successive title.

The Pakistan-born driver, who has lived in Dubai for the past 12 years, cruised to the 2010/2011 championship by a whopping margin of 57 points. He won eight of the 15 races - one of which was cancelled - and finished on the podium in every race.

But Umair is not resting on his laurels. His team at LAP57, which include his friends Mohammed Al Owais and Master Rizvi, are already in the advanced stages of planning for the start of the season in October but are planning to keep the modifications to the Honda Civic Type R car under wraps until the 11th hour.

"[We have] lots in the pipeline, but the concrete plan will come out two weeks prior to the start of the new season," Umair said. "Or maybe a week."

Umair has a formidable team at his disposal who helped build the car from scratch. He is also grateful for the work of the organising bodies behind motorsport in UAE.

"Dubai Autodrome with ATCUAE have done an amazing job and brought the motorsports scene up to a level that will let any of the local drivers compete anywhere in the world, I am sure they will make it even better and fairer for all in the coming season," Umair said.

"He will certainly be the man to catch again this season," said Paul Velasco, the communications manager at Dubai Autodrome.

"Umair is a very good race driver. He is fast when he needs to be, stays out of trouble, but also extremely canny and brings the car home in one piece while all around they are scraping paint. His 15 out of 15 podium finishes is a remarkable feat in the Total UAE Touring Car Championship Class 2, which has a high rate of attrition.

"Also winning the series two seasons in a row against top notch competitors is also a major accomplishment."

Umair made his timed-race bow at an Autocross event back in 1999 but his involvement thereafter was only really on the periphery of the automotive industry. That was until he moved to the UAE. "I was not able to do much back home, [I] came here, met some guys with same passion [like] Zlatko Mulabegovic, Khalid bin Hadher, Mohammed Al Owais and his brother, Omran."

Umair ran an automotive publication with Zlatko and Khalid, while he also helped Mohammed set-up LAP57, an Emirati race team & workshop based in Sharjah. Velasco can see why Umair makes a good friend and a good business ally.

"Umair is serious when he needs to be but also good for a laugh," Velasco said. "[He has a] good sense of humour out of the car, but is totally committed once his helmet is on."

Mulabegovic, Spencer Vanderpal and Rupesh Channake, his rivals last season, can testify to that. Umair managed to navigate a much heavier car - weighed down by the additional weight to level the playing field - to the summit last season with, according to Velasco, "consistent speed and a knack of avoiding trouble on track".

When Umair claims he has set his sights on "another championship win", you are inclined to believe him.