Two years ago, a young man was driving through Dubai when an advert came on the radio advertising Formula Drift‘s visit to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. After nearly crashing the car in surprise, the Emirati immediately got on the phone to the organisers and asked if he could take part.
Thankfully for the spectators, this young man was no ordinary wannabe. He was – and still is – Ahmed Al Ameri, a 28-year-old Emirati who at the time of the radio advertisement had not long returned from college in Japan. A life-long petrolhead, he’d gone to Japan several years previously as a drag racer, but returned a fully fledged drifter after discovering the joy of sideways in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Today, Ahmed has just signed up as the driver for the newly formed Toyota Emirates Drifting Team. UAE Toyota dealer Al Futtaim has joined forces with the EDT to provide Ahmed with a sponsorship package that includes a custom-built Toyota 86, which he will use at drifting competitions around the region. We’ll have updates on the building of the car in the coming weeks (no, it’s not the one in the top picture), but first, here’s an introduction to the UAE‘s hottest drifting talent.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get into drifting?
“When I was about 13 I had an unbelievable passion for sports cars and I saw a Toyota Supra. I dreamed of having one. After high school I got my driving licence and my older brother had bought a Supra. At that time he was studying in the UK and he said I could drive his Supra as my car. It had almost 600bhp and it was my first car!
“After that I studied in Japan. I was a big motorsport fan in general and when I bought a car over there I ran it in drag races. I started with a Toyota Mark II and after that changed it, as it was too heavy, to another car. It wasn’t a Toyota, so I won’t tell you what it was! But in 2005 I got a fifth place in the Japanese drag racing championships with a nine second quarter mile. But I was spending a lot of money on the car, and drag racing never quite gave me the feeling I was looking for. I tried Time Attack, and it was exciting but still not what I wanted. And then in 2005, I started drifting. I’d seen it on YouTube and in movies but I’d never tried it.
“Motorsport is a big family and when I hung out with my friends in Japan there would be drifters, drag racers and even a couple of F3000 guys. One of them is one of the best Japanese drifters and through him I started to get more interested in it. I sold my Time Attack car and bought a drifting machine, a Lexus IS200 and put a 2JZ Supra engine in it. Less than six months later it was broken and I bought another IS200 with a stock 2000cc engine and put a turbocharger on it.
“In 2008 I came back to the UAE and was looking around for somewhere to drift and there was no proper place to do it at that time. I decided to make my own modified sports car to drive normally on the weekends, an SC 300. And then at the end of 2010, I heard about Formula Drift at Yas Marina Circuit. This was the biggest surprise.”
So this is where we came in. Our conversation went on for some time – check back next week for part 2, with more details on how Ahmed got started, his successes so far and his plans for a very large horsepower Toyota 86, as well as growing drifting in the Middle East.