Khalid ready for new challenge
17 year old to join Al Faisal al Zubair from Oman in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series
It may not be an exaggeration to say that motorsports runs in the blood of this Muscat-based family. Be it the illustrious achievements of Oman’s rallying legend, Hamed al Wahaibi, or the exploits of his other brothers - Khalid and Ibrahim - in go-kart racing, the Wahaibi siblings seem to wear the mantle of sultanate’s racing family with pride.
And on Tuesday, the trio was there to cheer and support the 17 year old, Khalid al Wahaibi, as he announced his decision officially of making debut in the competitive 2017-18 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series.
“It is a big step in my racing career as I carry forward my family’s motorsports legacy,” said Khalid. The six-round series will begin at the Sakhir International Circuit in Bahrain on Thursday.
Khalid will become the second Omani youngster to feature in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East this season as he joins another Omani teenager, Al Faisal al Zubair, in the region's racing extravaganza.
It will be the first time ever that two Omanis will race against each other at a competitive racing series outside the sultanate and certainly sends a strong signal of the growing pool of talented Omani racers.
Though Khalid will be making his debut in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, the teenager is no stranger to racing, having achieved many laurels as a go-karting racer like his father, Ibrahim al Wahaibi.
Growing up in a family at a time when his uncle, Hamed, dominated the rallying scene in the region, Khalid’s love for wheels began when he was just a three year old.
However, lack of an operational go-karting track in Oman between 2004-13, did become a stumbling block and it was only when he turned 13 that he began active kart racing.
The opening of the karting track at the Oman Automobile Association (OAA) in 2013 gave him the platform to showcase his potential and soon Khalid was among the top drivers in the country, winning quite a few titles in 2014-15.
“We always knew that he was talented and I believe that he is destined to make it big in motorsports,” said Ibrahim.
After dominating the karting classes in Oman and UAE in junior Rotax and X30 class, Khalid switched to single-seater open-wheel series – Formula 4 South East Asia Championship (F4 SEA) – last year.
“The F4 stint was a good learning curve and I was quite satisfied with my overall seventh-place finish in the inaugural season that was held from August 2016 to January this year,” said Khalid.
With four podiums in the 30 races he competed, Khalid also finished as the third best rookie in the F4 championship.
Buoyed by the impressive F4 run, Khalid is now eager to make a mark in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series.
“It will be my debut but I am excited as my results during the testing session held last week were quite encouraging.
“I am prepared to slug it out with the rest of drivers, including my friend Al Faisal [al Zubair]. Having a friend and fellow national will also help us push each other. It will be fun off the tracks but I am sure both of us will be competitive on the circuit.
“I am eager to learn during my first season. As I has not yet raced on any of the circuits, it will be a new experience. I hope to adapt quickly and hopefully, by the end of season, I will have some good results.”
A student of the American British Academy (ABA), Khalid is also a teenager who is crazy about football and supports Spanish League giant Barcelona.
The schoolboy has set himself high goals in his racing career and hopes to enrich himself with his participation in the upcoming series, where he will compete in six rounds of two races each.
Khalid thanked Oman's endurance racing star Ahmad al Harthy and Suleiman al Rawahi, the OAA managing director, for their constant support and said, “The success of Ahmad and my uncle Hamed certainly strengthened my resolve to pursue racing. They served as my role models and I looked up to them. I am glad that they are present along with Suleiman [al Rawahi] to support me.”
Rawahi said, “Khalid has had a strong foundation in go-karting and it is crucial to have a solid foundation to move ahead. GT3 racing is the future and a more viable option for regional drivers.”
Ahmad al Harthy said that the “presence of two Omanis in a series is a testimony to the growing talent of racers here and augurs well for Oman motorsports future.”
“For long, I have been Oman’s flag-bearer at overseas series. It is encouraging to have two talented racers showcase their potential abroad,” said Ahmad.
A file photo of cars competing during the 2016-17 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East series at the Sakhir International F1 circuit in Bahrain
A file photo of Khalid al Wahaibi racing during the F4 South East Asia Championship in January in Malaysia
Khalid al Wahaibi (left) and Suleiman al Rawahi on Tuesday