x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Top UAE drivers put their tilt to the test

Drivers compete for the best time around a challenging obstacle course in the world's first competition of its kind.

One driver goes through his manoeuvres, top, while spectators watch the competition on Jebel Hafeet yesterday.
One driver goes through his manoeuvres, top, while spectators watch the competition on Jebel Hafeet yesterday.

AL AIN // Nine of the UAE's top tilt drivers went up against each other atop Jebel Hafeet last night in the world's first competition of its kind.

Organised by Red Bull and sponsored by Nissan, drivers competed for the best time as they made their way around a challenging obstacle course on two wheels.

About 1,000 spectators braved the wind at the summit of the UAE's second highest mountain. Most of the attendees were young Emiratis, the sport's most ardent supporters.

Competitors welcomed the opportunity to race against one another at a legal venue with police, paramedics and civil defence ready to react to any eventuality.

Khaled al Mansouri first began tilting when he was only 12. Nineteen years after he began practising in his family's 4x4, he had a chance to show off his skills.

"This has been amazing," said Mr al Mansouri, 31. "I would like Red Bull to hold this competition every year. In Bani Yas, shall [Arabic for "tilt"] is very popular. On just about any weekend you can find young men practising. For next year, Red Bull should consider holding this competition there, many more will come to watch."

For Mohammed Abu Shaban, 24, a Palestinian administrative officer, watching the tilt competition fulfilled a desire to be close to the action.

"I have always seen this on television and wanted to see it live," Mr Abu Shaban said.

"This has been very exciting. I have always wanted to try this myself but the fear of crashing and the fear of being arrested has kept me from doing it. These drivers make it look so easy but I know that it isn't."

Zayed al Balooshi, 13, said he wants to become a tilt driver himself some day.

"It's only the very best of drivers that are able to tilt," he said. "I want to be just like them. I see their videos on the internet all the time. They are legends. I really want to ride in one of the cars and watch how they do it from inside."

He continued: "I met one of the drivers tonight and he encouraged me to wait a few years until I owned my own car. He said I shouldn't practise in the streets and that I should wear a helmet and my seat belt. I can't wait."

To take part in the competition, Red Bull stipulated that all drivers had to be at least 18 years old, with a valid licence and a vehicle registered and owned outright by its driver.

Competition marshals checked each vehicle to ensure that the seat belts worked properly, the brakes functioned normally and that it was not leaking any fluids, as oil on the tarmac could result in a truck losing traction.

According to a Red Bull representative, the tilt competition was hailed by Red Bull around the world as unique and innovative and could be the start of similar competitions being held in other cities - possibly leading to a world championship competition in the future.

Last night's competition was won by Mohammed al Matlaey with a time of one and a half minutes. Ahmed al Saif Shebly placed second with a time of 1:38.

ealghalib@thenational.ae