Khalid ready for new chal­lenge

17 year old to join Al Faisal al Zubair from Oman in Porsche GT3 Cup Chal­lenge Mid­dle East se­ries

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

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

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