We go behind the scenes – and compete – at the first round of the 2013 Dubai Kartdrome Endurance Championship.
It’s all very well us covering myriad motorsport series around the Middle East and further afield, but when it comes to actually taking part, my salary doesn’t quite stretch to a GT3 racing car. So for my personal racing kicks, I go karting.
This weekend past was the first round of the 2013 Dubai Kartdrome Endurance Championship, generally acknowledged as the biggest such series in the region. As well as a plethora of local talent, it regularly attracts teams from abroad, especially when the West is suffering from racing withdrawal symptoms during winter. Past entrants have even included Formula 1 drivers like Andy Soucek and Oliver Turvey.
Best of all, it’s considerably more affordable than racing a proper car. For the cost of 12 solid hours of racing, you pay less than you’d have to stump up for an hour of low-level car racing. Don’t think that means fewer thrills either – the racing on a kart track is more visceral and close than in many car racing series, even if the speeds are lower.
The venue then is the Dubai Kartdrome‘s 1.2-kilometre outdoor track, and 30 teams signed up for the season opener. Reigning champions Batelco, from Bahrain, have decided to campaign in Europe this year, so are conspicuous by their absence. That leaves a relatively open field, but the favourites are the CG Pro team, one of three teams entered by the Choueiri Group, a company that’s invested a large sum of money in its corporate teams over recent years. The Pro team is made up of established racing drivers – including former Batelco stars Alban Verutti and Ramez Azzam – while the two corporate teams consists of company employees.
Also in with a good chance is the Dubai Falcons, featuring long-time local star Hasher Al Maktoum and Red Bull athlete Mohammed Al Mutawaa. I race with the TrackTalk Mediaboltz team, a group made up of media workers. Alongside me is Gautam Sharma, editor of Autocar magazine; Anas Al Halabi, who runs a Dubai media production company; and team captain Joao Gouveia. We’ve all been at this lark for a couple of years now, and have generally been content with finishing in the top 10. But it seems the practice pays off – at the final round of last year’s championship, the Mediaboltz finished fourth, agonisingly close to a podium place and a trophy. We can sense success is just round the corner, so hopes are high.