DUBAI: As Abu Dhabi prepares to serve up one of the most dramatic ever finishes to a Formula 1 season, former UAE rally ace Mohammed Ben Sulayem has predicted that the Middle East’s top young drivers are on course to reach the top level in motorsports.
Sunday’s showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one of the most anticipated in years, and capable of inspiring a new generation of young talent, said the president of the Emirates Motorsports Organization.
That was the objective behind the launch last year of the MENA Karting Nations Cup, instigated by Ben Sulayem, and the regional FIA vice president for sport sees clear indications that the championship is already paying dividends.
“It has given many of the region’s top drivers a chance to compete on the same stage for the first time, and the early signs are very encouraging.
“What we’re noticing is that the best drivers are getting better, and those chasing them are also making advancements. This is the basic aim of the MENA Karting Nations Cup – to raise standards all round,” he added.
“In all branches of motorsport, when you come up against the best drivers at your level, you quickly get to understand what you need to improve and get ahead.
“This is exactly what Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen did during their karting careers. Seeing these two fantastic drivers going head-to-head in Abu Dhabi on Sunday can only fire up those who dream of following them,” Ben Sulayem said.
The MENA Karting Nations Cup has been designed as a multi-year development project for young drivers on track to become future F1 and rally stars.
Last month’s second edition, staged by the Oman Automobile Association at the Muscat Speedway, attracted 138 drivers from 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
It was a particularly successful event for the UAE, whose national team replaced the host country as overall champions, with Oman finishing runners-up, and Lebanon taking third place.
In addition, UAE drivers finished on the podium in each of the Rotax Max Challenge (six), RD1 Elite Endurance, and RD1 Elite Sprint race categories.
The UAE team was Faris Haroun, Maxim Bobreshov, Kaiden Higgins, Max Murray, Conor Clancy, Harry Hannam, Theo Kekati, Lewis England, Sebastian Murray, Mohammed Matar Al-Shamsi, Kyle Kumaran, Aly Beig, Mohammed Haroun, Hussain Umid Ali, and Greg Watt.