- Text: Downforce UK
- Photos: Aaron Meriwether / Dubai Autodrome
Drivers from all four corners of the globe descended on Dubai Kartdrome in Motor City for a sensational contest that saw champions crowned with IAME International Finals tickets for the October showcase, during a hotly contested IAME UAE Series. Amongst the achievements for Ronni Sala’s red and white brigade, Suleiman Zanfari gave the new Leclerc chassis a maiden international victory on its competitive debut and former World champion Danny Keirle stormed from the back of the grid in the Senior X30 final to grab a sensational victory after an epic drive.
Rashid Al Dhaheri became a record breaker as he swept his fifth winning trophy at the O Plate in the Cadets final, whilst local favourite Amna Al Qubaisi claimed a richly deserved Shifter final title at her sixth attempt at the event. Oliver and Cohen Naylor bagged the O Plate in Rookie and Bambino classes respectively, the Veteran title was seized by Jean-Pierre Van Der Hart to cap a sensational week for BirelART Middle East, and female star Maxime Voorbraak won the Master competition on her first-ever race entry in the UAE.
The youngest class saw some great performances throughout the field as four drivers duelled for victory, but Cohen Naylor would eventually emerge victorious after claiming two of the four-time trials. He didn’t find it easy, however, as he was pushed throughout the contest by Lennard Titica, Nicholas Stura and Mohammed Al Qassemi. All four young racers were covered by less than a quarter of a second during the second time trial, so it proved to be the most exciting Bambino contest in recent years at the Emirati showcase.
There were also some strong drives in the field from Ray Kabalan who made massive progress during the competition, whilst Leonidas Peruzzi and Timur Salikhov stayed very much in contention throughout and Mason Van Der Hart made an impressive debut outing as the youngest man in the field.
Cadets / Rookies
Rashid Al Dhaheri managed to convert pole position into an exceptional race week but only after Jordan’s young superstar Hamza Al Fayez was excluded from Qualifying after a technicality. Two wins later and Al Dhaheri was marching into a stride but Adam Al Azhari gave him pause for thought with a fabulous third heat win. Federico Al Rifai was also a strong part of the battle as he gave his rivals a fierce run for their money. British aces Harry Hannam and Sebastien Murray were also in contention at the sharp end for the duration of the Friday heats whilst Italian heroes Fillippo Parmeggiani and Matteo Quintarelli gave plenty of pressure to the leaders in addition.
The Prefinal would see Al Dhaheri fend off all opponents to maintain pole position for the Final, but the drive of the weekend came from Al Fayez who had recovered from a nasty crash in the second heat to storm back from 22nd on the grid to fourth. There were also exceptional come back drives after a difficult Friday from local star Zain El Homossany, Sultan Kurdali and Shivali Sinha and South African sensation Luviwe Sambudla, with all impressing ahead of the final race of the week.
The Final would see a smooth run from Rashid Al Dhaheri until the overtake from Federico Al Rifai and Harry Hannam dropped him back to third ahead of Hamzah Al Fayez. At this moment, a caution period was called after an incident between Max Murray, Randy Nader and El Homossany. With a mere two laps of racing left, Harry Hannam took the lead in fine fashion heading into the last lap only for Al Dhaheri to reclaim the lead on the final lap and storm home for a majestic victory ahead of Hannam and Italy’s Filippo Parmeggiani. Sambudla stormed through the pack for a brilliant fourth-place finish but would lose it post-race after a front fairing penalty, which promoted Quintarelli, Al Azhari and Al Rifai into the top six. Oliver Naylor claimed the win in the rookie category in ninth place overall behind Kurdali and Al Fayez, a fraction ahead of Dojomoto star Nicholas Mathews.
Kamal Agha controlled the early pace of the meeting after pole position in Qualifying was backed up by a clean sweep of wins in the heats. Suleiman Zanfari and Daryl Taylor pushed him hard in the first, whilst Keanu Al Azhari and William Wade duelled with him in the second. Al Azhari and Taylor were back in action behind Agha in the third, whilst Alfie Rigby and Anshul Gandhi gave the pack the closest consistent challenge – both men returning after a solid effort in 2019.
At the start of the Prefinal, Agha stormed into a lead he wouldn’t lose despite an intense challenge from Zanfari in the closing stages, but it would be a disaster for Al Azhari after he failed to take the start with mechanical trouble. Taylor and Rigby remained in touch in preparation for the Final, whilst Gandhi was backed up by his Brand Racing teammate Kayne Cherian.
However, for the first time all week, Agha was finally vanquished after a stellar effort from Morocco’s Suleiman Zanfari saw the young star surge forward at Turn 2 with just a few laps remaining as he guided the Leclerc chassis to its first win on its debut. It was a truly magnificent win considering that firstly Agha had been unbeaten up until that stage and that Zanfari had been suffering the after-effects of a tough illness. Rigby would finish up third after an impressive start to the race to place him on the podium, but heartbreak for Daryl Taylor ended his chances as his kart cruised to a halt on Lap 6. Gandhi and Wade were next up whilst in sixth position was the Australian talent Zack Scoular who had bounced back from a potential arm injury on Thursday to storm back into contention. Alex Renner brought his kart home seventh ahead of Cherian whilst Valerio Rinicella managed to score a Top Ten-finish along with Egyptian comeback kid Khalifa Al Qubaisi, with the two Ambition Motorsport youngsters Rylan Echberg and Danny Shields just behind.
Senior / Master
Three different drivers grabbed victory on Friday after an unbelievably close contest. 2017 FIA Karting World champion Danny Keirle sealed pole position in Qualifying ahead of last year’s winner Liam Crystal, but the Brazilian would get the win in the first heat ahead of his team-mate Kyle Kumuran and KZ2 star Kas Haverkort who was making his UAE debut for Brand Racing. Keirle bounced back for the second heat to win in front of last year’s Junior O Plate winner Jamie Day with Crystal and Haverkort in pursuit. The third heat was Haverkort’s to command, with Keirle, Crystal, Day and Kumuran hot on his heels.
Drama struck in the Prefinal as Danny Keirle’s engine seized on the home straight putting him out of the race and meaning he would have to start the final from a lowly 17th place. That allowed Haverkort to claim the win ahead of Crystal whilst Day finished ahead of Kumuran with Lebanese ace Khaled Saab in fifth and the Lotus colours of Denis Bahar in sixth.
A tough race to the first corner between Crystal and Haverkort saw the latter squeezed to the dust on the main straight and dropping back down the order. Crystal led for the first lap before he dramatically spun off at the end of the lap. All the drama put young Jamie Day in the lead in his first event as a senior, but Haverkort eventually passed him again on lap 4. Kyle Kumuran’s race then ended dramatically on Lap 5 after an incident on track put him out of contention. Meanwhile, Danny Keirle was picking off his opposition one-by-one and had sensationally reached third by the end of Lap 6. He passed Jamie Day but couldn’t quite catch Kas Haverkort before the flag.
The Dutchman crossed the line first but a front fairing penalty post-race dropped him to third, and so Danny Keirle had stupendously driven from the back of the grid to the front to win an unbelievable Senior X30 Final ahead of Day and Haverkort. Saab brought his Dan Holland Racing kart home in fourth with Crystal recovering to fifth, with BirelART Middle East teammates Abdelrahman Fraij and Ameer Al Najjar in pursuit. Alice Haynes was the highest female on the grid in a superb eighth ahead of Patrick Debattista and Denis Bahar, whilst in the Master class, it would be Maxime Voorbraak who claimed victory in 12th overall after spending a lot of the race duelling with Alex Wareing and Ksenia Phoenix, in her first-ever outing in Dubai.
Shifter / Veteran
Alessandro Stura set his sights on victory from the very start of Friday qualifying as he grabbed pole position ahead of Tony Hogg, but come to the heats he would actually find the going quite tough. Heat 1 was straightforward enough as he stormed to victory ahead of Amna Al Qubaisi and Hogg, but he escaped a major scare in the second heat as a mechanical issue nearly robbed him of a second win. Al Qubaisi would finish behind him but would be excluded post-race for a technical infringement, allowing Hogg to finish second ahead of Shifter novice Omar Al Dereyaan. The problem returned in the final heat for not just Stura who dropped to third but his team-mate Horia Alexandru Roca who spun out after an engine seize. This handed Amna Al Qubaisi a life-line victory ahead of Hogg and Stura.
Lightning struck twice for poor Roca in the Prefinal as his chances of victory were snatched away in a similar fashion on the final lap, but Stura charged on to victory ahead of Al Qubaisi and Al Dereyaan. Heading into the Final, Stura and Roca suffered even more issues on the opening lap allowing Amna Al Qubaisi into a strong lead that she would never lose, whilst Hogg would retire from the race on Lap 2 after suffering damage from contact with Roca after his kart failed on the opening lap. Stura lost nearly half a minute with his own issues but stormed back to second past Al Dereyaan in the closing laps. Meanwhile, Hogg’s retirement left Walid Al Qassem to lead John Van Der Hart for the Veteran battle, but the former would seal victory eventually as Al Qassemi pulled off with just three laps remaining.
It meant that after six years of hard work, Amna Al Qubaisi finally clinched the Dubai O Plate title, and in the Shifter Final which means she is now awarded a ticket to the IAME International Final and a race drive with GP Xtreme in the UAE Renault Clio Cup.
Sodi World Series
Marc Roca grabbed a win and a third place across the two heats to clinch an IAME weekend later in the season as an incredible prize, with Romaldo Labrooy winning the second race and Ahmed Al Hammadi challenging in both heats. Atef Al Bargain won the masters class across both races despite fierce opposition from Gianluca Elmosi.
Federico Al Rifai and Oscar Lambert fought for the win in both encounters and were challenged by the Ambition Motorsport pairing in each race – Rylan Echberg finishing third in the first race and Danny Shields joining them on the podium in the second. The race would see exceptional talent from both the Cadet and Junior classes making guest appearances, but in particular, there was a great fight from Yashish Manohar who led early on in race one before an incident forced him to retire, but his fightback from last to seventh in race two impressed many around the paddock.
The IAME UAE Series will continue on February 21st at Al Forsan.
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