EX­PE­RI­ENCE THE THRILL

MOTORSPORTS IN MUS­CAT

HI Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - STORY SHRUTHI NAIR

Af­ter spend­ing a few years in Oman, I’ve re­alised that Oma­nis have an in­ces­sant pas­sion to­wards ve­hi­cles — whether it is driv­ing long hours, or even do­ing things that you’re not legally not al­lowed to do with ve­hi­cles. There is a cer­tain amount of craze that could be at­trib­uted to the fact that Oman’s roads are lovely and are at most times traf­fic free, or be­cause of the na­tion’s scenic land­scape that forces you to go on long road trips. Even the chal­leng­ing ter­rains beckon the ad­ven­tur­ous riders and driv­ers.

Hence the pop­u­lar­ity of motorsports and the crav­ing for a venue that could sat­isfy all th­ese en­thu­si­asts’ needs comes as no sur­prise at all. The Oman Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion founded in 1979 is Oman’s ul­ti­mate venue for all kinds of motorsports. It is di­rectly af­fil­i­ated to the Fed­er­a­tion In­ter­na­tionale de l’Au­to­mo­bile (FIA) and hosts and pro­motes var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing Rally, GoKart, Moto Cross, Clas­sic Bike, and Rac­ing Bike.

RALLY

Oman’s gift is its ter­rain and hence ral­ly­ing is one of the old­est motorsports in Oman that the OAA has tried to pro­mote. The wadis, the rugged plains, the hilly patches and ev­ery­thing in be­tween proves to be ideal for ral­ly­ing, which is a form of mo­tor­sport that takes place on un­paved roads with mod­i­fied and spe­cially-built cars. Ac­cord­ing to records, ral­ly­ing in Oman un­of­fi­cially started back in 1970s when a bunch of en­thu­si­asts took to the rugged roads of Oman but soon grew to be­come an or­gan­ised mo­tor­sport to such an ex­tent that the first Oman International Rally took place in 1979. To­day Oman has a num­ber of skilled rally driv­ers who have been par­tic­i­pat­ing in international and lo­cal com­pe­ti­tions.

DRIFT

Drift­ing is pos­si­bly the most pop­u­lar form of mo­tor­sport in Oman. The thrill, the rush, and the skills is what has lured Oma­nis to­wards tak­ing it up pro­fes­sion­ally (which is le­gal) and other­wise (which is il­le­gal) too. Drift­ing in a com­pe­ti­tion is not just about burn­ing the tyres or letting your car skid ran­domly but in­volves a skilled set of reper­toires that takes years of prac­tice to per­fect. In a usual drift­ing arena pro­fes­sional drift­ing has how­ever sky­rock­eted in Oman af­ter Omani rac­ers and driv­ers started par­tic­i­pat­ing in the world-renowned RedBull Car Park Drift and es­pe­cially af­ter the pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion was hosted in Oman. Oma­nis have flaunted their drift­ing skills and won the top po­si­tions in the con­test. Some of the known Omani drifters in­clude Ali Al Balushi, and Re­faat Al Yahyai who will rep­re­sent Oman in the Car Park Drift tak­ing place in Kuwait this year.

KARTING

Many of you who are into ad­ven­ture and recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties would’ve def­i­nitely tried go-karting in Oman. How­ever, the Oman Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion is also home to pro­fes­sional gokart­ing and hosts a num­ber of cham­pi­onships dur­ing the course of the sea­son. There are races for var­i­ous age cat­e­gories and ex­per­tise lev­els and the tracks at the OAA al­lows peo­ple to train there. The Sodi World Series En­durance and the Ro­tax Max Chal­lenge are the kart races that the Oma­nis par­tic­i­pate in on a reg­u­lar ba­sis here in Oman.

Some of the stars that have emerged out of the Oman Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion and made the na­tion proud in­clude:

AH­MAD AL HARTHY

This 36-year-old driver whose re­la­tion­ship with the OAA started at the age of seven when he was taken for go-karting has turned out to be a na­tional hero who has held Oman’s flag up high on mul­ti­ple cham­pi­onships in mul­ti­ple coun­tries. He set foot in pro­fes­sional mo­tor rac­ing in 2006 in Bahrain where he broke new ground as the first Omani driver to com­pete in for­mula rac­ing. From them on, there was no stop­ping him. From sin­gle seaters to sports car com­pe­ti­tions to en­durance races, his ca­reer graph kept mov­ing up­ward. Ear­lier this year, he won the cov­eted Pro-Am ti­tle along with his part­ner Jonny Adam mak­ing his­tory and bring­ing Oman in the world map in the most pres­ti­gious way.

HAITHAM AL HADIDI

This young lad who won the RedBull Car Park Drift 2016 that was held in Oman at just 18 years of age, be­came a su­per­star that gained fans and ad­mir­ers as soon as he started his ca­reer. The fact that he re­ceived his driver’s li­cence just months prior to his glo­ri­ous vic­tory amused crowds and on-look­ers. The young drifter al­ways loved cars and made sure he’d put his skills to test at the Oman Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion by par­tic­i­pat­ing in the events he would be al­lowed to be a part of from a younger age. He has con­sis­tently proven him­self as an ace drifter by se­cur­ing strong po­si­tions in ev­ery cham­pi­onship af­ter his first vic­tory.

AL FAISAL AL ZUBAIR

Another young driver Al Faisal Al Zubair has al­ready started mak­ing a mark in the world of mo­tor rac­ing. Like most young driv­ers he started with karts in both Oman and the UK and as soon as it was time stepped into the pro­fes­sional mo­tor rac­ing realm with pres­ti­gious Bri­tish For­mula 3 cham­pi­onship. He then went on to start rac­ing in the Porsche Su­per­cup in Europe and Porsche GT3 Mid­dle East Cham­pi­onship for the FZ Rac­ing team in 2017. —[email protected]­so­fo­man.com

Ah­mad Al Harthy

Haitham Al Hadidi

Al Faisal Al Zubair

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