UAE National Race Day 1 paves the way for an intriguing season of motorsport
The opening round of the UAE National Racing season at Dubai Autodrome, on Friday 16 October 2009, produced close racing and first time winners. Fans and competitors endured a hot day at Dubai's premier motorsport venue to usher in the new season in style.
UAE Touring Cars - Al Mutawaa starts his season in style Glenn Portier, team principal of House of Portier made a shrewd move in promoting HSBC Racing Academy graduate Khalid Al Mutawaa to Class 1 of the UAE Touring Car Championship. The Emirati driver, behind the wheel of the TAM Auto Engineering prepared SEAT Leon Supercopa, stamped his authority on the series with two convincing wins. Jonathan Simmonds (DXB Racing SEAT Leon Spercopa) was the closest challenger, finishing second in both races, but really had no answer to Al Mutawaa's pace. Mark Hannak (VW GTi) was third in both races.
If the first day's races are anything to go by, Class 2 in the UAE Touring Car series looks set to be a close fought contest throughout the season. Honda duo of Umair Khan (Team Lap 57) and Aslam Moola set the early pace with Khan winning Race 1 and Race 2, with Moola crossing the line in his slip stream on both occasions. Another HSBC Racing Academy graduate, Saeed Al Mehairi (Team Lap 57 Honda) made an impressive debut in the series taking third place in Race 1 after fending off former UAE Champion Spencer Vanderpal (Honda). In Race 2, Al Mehairi battled with Lap 57 team mate Omran Al Owais. The latter managing to edge ahead and claim third place with Al Mehairi fourth.
Notable mention for 16 year old Emirati Mohammed Al Mutawaa who made his debut in the House of Portier Renault and hence became the youngest driver to compete at national level in the UAE. He had technical problems in Race 1 but bounced back impressively in Race 2, where he started from the back of the grid, to finish fourth in Class 2.
UAE GT - Al Azhari wins inaugural race for Corvette
The much anticipated UAE GT Championship lived up to the hype with a strong field of GT cars taking to the grid. All eyes were on former Porsche stalwart Karim Al Azhari who, for 2009/2010 season, will campaign for the House of Portier team at the wheel of a Corvette. From the outset the multiple UAE Champion meant business in the GTA Class and was quickest in qualifying and went on to dominate the mini-enduro 45 minutes race which he controlled from the start. Behind him the Tarek Elgammal/Cabell Fisher (Khaleji Porsche) gave spirited chase but had no answer for the TAM Engineering prepared Corvette. Third place went to the Abu Dhabi Falcons Porsche with Khaled Al Qubaisi/Michael Seifart at the wheel.
Al Azhari said after his win, "I would like to thank House of Portier and the TAM Auto Engineering team for giving me a race winning car. We worked hard for this victory and I am looking forward to a good season with my great team. I am delighted to win the first round of this new Championship."
Highlight of the race was the GTB Class battle between Martin Hope driving GulfSport Ginetta and Steve Adams in a Porsche 944. The two slugged it out for the entire 45 minutes. In the end, after 34 laps, Hope managed to edge out Adams by less than a quarter of a second. Unfortunately Hope's Ginetta failed post race scrutineering and was excluded from the results.
UAE Sportbikes 1000 Class - Moodley too hot to handle South African Arushen Moodley has previously raced in the UAE with great success for Aprilia as a guest rider, ineligible for UAE Championship points. The team obtained an ATCUAE license for Moodley and he rewarded them with two victories in the UAE Sportbike 1000 Class. The multiple South African Champion was the class of the field and ended the day with a giant wheelie in celebration as he crossed the finish line. Behind him Saudi ace Abdulaziz Binladen, also riding an Aprilia, was second in both races. Reigning UAE Sportbike Champion Hussein Al Kooheji, who has moved into the 1000 Class for 2009/2010 season, finished a strong third in Race 1, but could only manage sixth place in Race 2 on his Yamaha. Veteran Rod Scott was fourth in Race 1 and gave Binladin a run for his money in Race 2, finishing third to the Saudi rider. The duo crossing the finish line almost side by side.
Pascal Grosjean, who moved from Kawasaki to Yamaha for this season, was the man to beat in the 600 Class where he took wins in both races. His closest challenger was Jussi Hoikka, who was runner-up in both races.
Andrea Capoccia finished third in Race 1, making it a 1-2-3 clean sweep for Yamaha. In Race 2, Kawasaki debutant, Omran Al Sayed was third.
GulfSport Radical Cup - Abu Dhabi team dominate The Abu Dhabi based AUH Racing Team, fresh from their triumph in the European Radical Masters Series, brought their race winning form to Dubai Autodrome. European Masters Champion Christophe Hissette was joined in the team by Jordan Grogor. From qualifying onwards they were clearly the drivers who would be setting the pace. In Race 1 the two circulated in close attendance, scything through the back markers in impressive style, with Grogor doing the leading until the very last lap when a slower car impeded him and Hissette managed to get the break he need to take the chequered flag and win the first race of the season. Usmaan Mughal finished in third place. In Race 2 the roles were reversed with Grogor trailing Hissette in the initial stages, but a fumble by the latter gave Grogor the gap he needed to turn the tables and notch up victory. Hissette had to settle for second with reigning Champion Bassam Kronfli taking third place.
The largest number of spectators, for a UAE National Racing event, turned up to witness Race Day 1 and would have gone home having seen impressive showings by the House of Portier team who were victorious in the UAE GT and UAE Touring Car categories, AUH Racing whose two drivers were the class of the GulfSport Radical Cup field and a fine showing by Aprilia in the UAE Sportbike races.
Round 2 of the UAE National Championships take place at the Dubai Motorsport Festival on 13 November at Dubai Autodrome.
-credit: uae nc