Q&A with Tarek Elgammal of the Khaleji Porsche team competing in the Total UAE GT Championship
Dubai based Aussie Tarek Elgammal will have a challenging race weekend at Yas Marina as he jumps out of his Castrol Edge Chevrolet Supercar and into the Khaleji Motorsport Porsche Cup S, which he shares with team mate, Cabell Fisher in the Total UAE GT Championship.
Elgammal speaks ahead of the Abu Dhabi "Thunder from Down Under" weekend where UAE national racing will be seen at Yas Marina for the first time.
What are your feelings/thoughts leading up to your first ever race in the Total UAE GT Championship at Yas Marina this weekend?
Tarek: For me, this upcoming race weekend at Yas Marina Circuit is very important. It is no secret that my ultimate goal in life is to get into V8 Supercars, so it is extremely important that I perform well and do a good job in front of those teams. It's going to be a busy weekend for me as I'm racing in the Supercars ME Championship as well as the Total UAE GT Championship. I'm fairly confident that I'll do the best job possible with the equipment I am given, that's the main concern for me.
It is great that the Total UAE GT Championship has been chosen to race at such a big race weekend, and I'm really looking forward to racing at Yas in the Khaleji Motorsport Porsche. The circuit is just beautiful, the first half feels like a real race track and the area around the marina and Yas Hotel have a real street circuit feel to it. I'm very excited about it.
Karim Al Azhari has yet to lose a race in the Total UAE GT Chyampionship this year. What do you make of this and what is the plan to beat him at Yas?
Tarek: I believe Karim Al Azhari is doing a great job this season. He knows I have a huge amount of respect for him and at the end of the day he has driven the car superbly and made no mistakes. he is a very good driver and has done a perfect job so deserves the highest accolades. Perhaps the equalization formula will be tweaked to better level the playing field.
What do you make of teams buying better and faster cars and even importing drivers from abroad such as Rene Rast a known Porsche Cup expert who has won twice at Yas Marina in the Porsche Cup?
Tarek: I know it has upset a few people that Muhlner Motorsport have brought over Rene Rast, however, from my perspective, I see it as an opportunity to race against and learn from a great driver. As a racing driver, you want to race against the best there is. Yes, winning is great, but for me it is much more satisfying to be able to measure yourself against a known quantity; someone who has excelled in championships across the world. Having said that, I think Andrew Donaldson did a wonderful job last time, particularly in qualifying so it will be a shame not to have him out there. I have a lot of respect for him and he is a great guy.
The only issue I am concerned about is cost. There are teams out there who are spending crazy money on this championship. Great if you have it, but my main concern is to make it sustainable. We all know how difficult it is to get sponsorship in this part of the world, and I'm concerned that the people currently paying the bills will get fed up with the expense and decide to pull out. That won't be good for anyone. We need to get sponsors engaged with the various teams and provide value to them.
Who are the teams/drivers who will set the pace around Yas Marina?
Tarek: Obviously TAM/House of Portier Corvette with Karim Al Azhari will be up there, they are the team to beat and I don't see anyone beating them at this point unless their car is equalized with the rest of the field. DXB Racing with their Viper and Julian Griffin driving is always a factor, he will give the Corvette a good run. Of course, Rene Rast driving the Muhlner Motorsport Cup S will be very quick. He will shake things up a bit for sure and I fully expect that he will hound Karim and force him to show their true speed.
We at Khaleji Motorsport have worked hard on resolving our set up issues, and we expect the car to be nicer to drive than last time, however we did not manage to get any more speed out of it. On the positive side, the car should now do the full race distance at a very consistent pace but in terms of outright speed and lap times, I don't believe we will be able to challenge for the win just yet. Having said that, Cabell Fisher and I will be pushing like crazy to try amd bring the car home on the podium.
It is the fist year of UAE GT and we have seen impressive and growing entries. What do you attribute the success of series to?
Tarek: The series has been very impressive and more and more teams want to join in. I think motorsport in this region is on a steady climb in popularity and the timing to launch the series was almost perfect. Unfortunately the global financial crisis got in the way a little bit, but hopefully we will get over that and continue the steady climb the series and motorsport in general have had.
-source: uae gt