Meet the United Arab Emirates Team at the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals, currently taking place at Al Ain Raceway
MOHAMMED AL DHAHERI Emirati DD2
Mohammed is a double UAE National Karting Champion competing in the Al Ain Raceway Kart Club. Mohammed's first ever experience behind the wheel of a kart was at a rental circuit in Germany when he was 15 years old. Then one day in 2008, he popped into Al Ain Raceway out of pure curiosity and the rest - as they say - is history.
At first Mohammed entered every single rental kart race Al Ain Raceway had to offer, and within a matter of months had established himself firmly as a man to beat. In early 2009, Mohammed purchased an Intrepid Sirius DD2 and spent the rest of the year testing and familiarising himself with it. His first competitive season was the 2009/2010 campaign and he got off to a flying start, winning at the first time of asking. The rest of the season was much of the same and Mohammed wrapped up the title with a couple of rounds to spare. This accolade qualified him for the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals 2010 at La Conca, Italy. In preparation, Mohammed entered a host of European rounds before flying to Italy to represent the UAE. He did very well, but was sadly involved in a collision that saw him eliminated.
The 2010/2011 season presented Mohammed with a true test. The grids were bigger and competition more aggressive. After some early season set-backs with mechanical problems, he eventually triumphed to take his second – and hard fought – championship. Mohammed has also made several appearances racing in the Radical Super-car Championship and is considered an Ambassador for the sport in the UAE.
Mohammed was born and raised in Al Ain. He is exceptionally proud of his culture and is widely seen as a role model for young Emiratis who also wish to get into racing seriously. When asked about his feelings about the Grand Finals he said "This is a hugely proud moment for me. I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet! I am representing the country that I love, not just in my home country, but my home town! I will give everything I have to do well, and to make my Nation proud. Insh' Allah I will stay out of trouble and my ambition is to win. But first I must focus on getting myself fit and ready."
SHEIKH KHALID KHALIFA AL NAHYAN Emirati DD2
ABDULLAH AL RAWAHI Omani Junior MAX
Abdullah - and brother Sanad - followed the same path in their formative years. Abdullah first turned a wheel on a kart at the age of eight. Like Sanad he also raced leisure karts for fun until in 2008 when he started to visit Al Ain Raceway on a regular basis.
Abdullah is the only UAE representative in the Junior MAX class at this year's Grand Finals. After an abundance of success whilst racing in Al Ain Raceway's rental kart races, Abdullah purchased a 125 Junior MAX on an Intrepid Cruiser chassis for the 2009/2010 season. After struggling with the wrong seating position in the first 2 races Abdullah really started to show his form. With several podium finishes in his first year he finished the Junior MAX season in third place overall.
The following season, 2010/2011, saw Abdullah raise the bar to a whole new level. He kick-started his season with a crushing win which proved to be a trend that would carry on throughout the year. Rarely outside of the top 3, Abdullah clinched the championship on the final day of the season and made his family very proud indeed. "I am very happy with what I have achieved, and eternally grateful for the support of my Father who has guided me to this success, I hope to do him proud in the Grand Finals. Being a part of Team UAE is something very special. I feel that we will show the world how close we are. We will help each other and encourage each other like no other team."
Abdullah will be following the same training regime as his brother throughout the summer. Like his older brother, Abdullah follows football, and supports Real Madrid. Surely there must be some banter at the dinner table after any El Classico game! His Father, Suleiman Al Rawahi, had this to say about their aspirations for the upcoming Grand Finals: "We have worked hard over the last 2 years to make this happen. To bring both of the boys here to Al Ain Raceway for the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals is a fantastic achievement that we are very proud of. We must now bring the boys into shape, we must train hard right to the last day and hopefully we will finish in good positions under the UAE flag. It is humbling to have the Grand Finals here in the Middle East and whatever the case may be we will enjoy ourselves."
SANAD AL RAWAHI Omani Senior MAX
Sanad Al Rawahi has become a major competitor in the AARKC (the national series of the UAE) over the last two seasons. Sanad started karting in Oman when he was 10 years old, where he showed early signs of promise around a rental circuit. It was back in 2004 that his love affair with motorsport began. Between 2005 and 2008 Sanad and his younger brother Abdullah were karting in rental karts, just enjoying themselves. However in 2008 things started to get serious.
Sanad came to Al Ain Raceway for the first time in the early summer of 2008 and was quickly identified as someone with lots of potential. The following year - after he had proven just how capable he was - he started competing in Al Ain Raceway's "Open" rental kart events, with near-instant success. At the same time his father, and Team Manager, Sulieman Al Rawahi had bought him and his younger brother their first karts each - a 125 Junior MAX engine on an Intrepid chassis.
Throughout the summer of 2009 Sanad put as many laps in at Al Ain Raceway as he could, and his first season in the AARKC Junior MAX class was a success. Flying under the flag of the Oman Karting Team, and after having finished on the podium in 75% of the races he entered, Sanad walked away from his first season as Runner-Up.
The following season, Sanad progressed up to the Senior MAX 125 category, where grids are 3 times the size of the Junior class and furiously competitive. It was a coming of age season and from the outset Sanad was on the pace and more often than not always challenging for victories. Sadly, a couple of non-finishes along the way meant the title was just out of reach. However, another Runner-Up position was enough for Sanad to qualify for the Grand Finals for the first time, an opportunity he is relishing. "I didn't expect to make it, to be honest" said Sanad. "It was a surprise for me when Al Ain Raceway made the announcement. I will give it my best! Both my brother and I really feel a part of Team UAE, and it is a true honour for us to fly the UAE flag at the Grand Finals, and Insh' Allah we will do our best when we compete against the best drivers in the world ".
He has been training hard at Al Ain Raceway in the run up to the Grand Finals, until the circuit curfew came in, and has stayed fresh by lapping other tracks in the UAE. Beyond karting, Sanad enjoys football, and is a massive Barcelona fan.
PATRICK JARJOUR Lebanese Senior MAX
Patrick Jarjour has made the most rapid rise through the karting levels imaginable. Patrick spent a year competing in various rental series at circuits across the UAE, including Al Ain Raceway's own Honda Challenge. In the summer of 2010 Patrick invested in a DD2 and spent the whole of pre-season testing relentlessly at Al Ain.
The 2010/2011 season was Patrick's first professional campaign, and he started well, with the initial intention to simply finish each race, score points consistently and gain experience. Throughout the championship Patrick started to edge closer to the pace setters, and at half distance defied all the odds to take a spectacular maiden win in Abu Dhabi. It served as a confidence booster and the rest of the year saw Patrick regularly fight at the front. His new-found form secured the runner-up spot in the AARKC DD2 championship. Rarely has a driver in his first year made it through to the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals.
A keen horse-back rider (a former member of the Lebanese national equestrian team), Patrick has set himself a rigorous training regime in preparation for the Grand Finals, with an enhanced diet and visits to the gym 3-4 times a week. Naturally, he will also be putting in as many laps as he can, with dedicated on-track sessions 1-2 times per week. Although having competed in DD2, Patrick will be representing the UAE in the Senior MAX 125 class.
When asked about his thoughts on the Grand Finals, he said "I am looking forward to it, it will be a great experience and I will try to achieve the best result possible. Team UAE is training together and the spirit between us is important." He went on to say "A big thank you to Mohammed Al Dhaheri, a gentleman and a true champion, and to Suleiman Al Rawahi, who has played a big part in Team UAE. Of course a big thank you must also go to Al Ain Raceway who has really turned karting around in the UAE, they have worked tirelessly. I am one of the oldest in the category [Senior MAX], with only one year's experience; I am ready for the challenge and will surprise a lot of people. See you all in November!"
ARNAUD BOUF French DD2 Master
Arnaud Bouf is a popular character within the Al Ain Raceway Kart Club (AARKC), the National series of the UAE. Comparatively late to karting, Arnaud began racing in Dubai at a 24 hour Endurance event in 2007. The following year, Arnaud joined the AARKC in the Senior MAX 125 class. With sound success at the beginning, Arnaud started to make progress, and by the end of the season was classified in third place overall.
The following year - 2009/2010 - Arnaud continued to be a threat to the order, and some fantastic performances lead to him qualifying for the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals 2010 at La Conca, Italy. Arnaud put on an excellent display and was eventually classified 26th in the world in the DD2 Master class.
The 2010/2011 season was without doubt his best yet. Having missed the opening rounds of the season, Arnaud drove as hard as he could to score 8 consecutive victories in the MAX Master class. This culminated in him taking the Championship title on the last round of the season, and once again sending him through to the Grand Finals for the second year in a row.
Arnaud said "It is very satisfying to be representing the UAE. I have lived here for 11 years, and I would love nothing more than to win a trophy and help to bring the UAE flag to the top step of the podium. Of course racing in the Grand Finals on our home circuit - Al Ain Raceway - is in one respect an advantage, but there is also a lot of pressure to do well. I hope to do well, and to make those who have entrusted me to race for them very proud."
MAURITS KNOPJES Dutch DD2 Master
Maurits is the most experienced driver in Team UAE with a karting career stretching back years. After finishing as runner-up in the 2003 Dutch Rotax MAX Master Challenge, he went on to win the series as out-right champion in 2005. After moving to the UAE in the mid-2000's he quickly established himself as a karting super-power, laying claim to many wins across various categories.
As part of a 24-hour team he helped win the Middle East 24 hours endurance championship in the same year as becoming the UAE's national DD2 Champion in the AARKC for the first time. Maurits went on to retain his DD2 title in the following 2008/2009 AARKC championship. For the 2009/2010 campaign he switched to Senior MAX 125 where again he would take the Championship; and remarkably held onto the crown after a highly competitive 2010/2011 season. Four titles in a row certainly make Maurits a force to be reckoned with. Maurits' is no stranger to the Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals having represented Team UAE in each of the last 3 years. Maurits said "With the help of my friend and mechanic Richie we hope to make it 5 Championships in a row this season. We are focused since Al Ain Raceway is the proud organiser of this year's event."
He is best remembered for his astonishing 3rd place at La Conca, Italy 2008. That race could have so nearly provided Maurits with the world Championship title, but in actual fact serves as the benchmark for his aspirations this time around. Maurits says that "We are dreaming about a better result than three years ago which would mean first or second place". He goes on to say "It is a cliche but second place is the first loser so the only goal is to win the DD2 Master category at this year's Rotax MAX Challenge Grand Finals".
Not only can Maurits light up the kart circuit, but he is also a successful race-car driver. Over 2007 and 2008, he competed in four rounds of the UAE Gold GTi championship scoring 2 wins, and a further 2 wins from 5 rounds in the Middle East Radical Sports Cars series. He is certainly one to watch this November.