Nissan GT Academy. Salman Al Khater. Britcar challenge

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Put two academy graduates into the same car with a former IndyCar winner though and it’s difficult to keep the competitive stirrings in check. Indeed, as each session passed and with both car and driver improving their outright pace, it wasn’t too long before the racing driver’s instinct sprung to life.

“Oh for sure! They do say that your teammate is your first rival. And that’s a goal you have, especially with someone like Tomas. You want to be at the same level as he is because you’re only as fast as your slowest guy, and you don’t want to be the slowest guy!

“But endurance racing taught me something we hadn’t done before. During the development program we’d do 20 or 30-minute sprint races, so we learnt how to pass and how to keep fighting. With endurance racing it’s different: working out when it’s best to pass a slower car or when to let faster cars go past, for instance; managing the tyres, the traffic, the fuel, everything. As a racer you always want go fast and are always pushing the car, and it’s that ability to back off half a second or a second and keep it like that for an hour that’s the challenging part.”

Clearly the challenge paid dividends, Tomas, Ashley and Salman bringing the #128 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN 370Z home first in-class, eighth overall and three places ahead of their nearest class rivals.

One race, one class victory. It’s a strong start to Nissan’s latest prodigy and validation of Middle East motorsport’ effectiveness, despite its comparably minnow status. Indeed, with the Academy’s latest success in the Blancpain Endurance Series and its now frequent 24-hour appearances at Le Mans and Dubai, Salman’s prospects appear wide open. In the meantime though, the Qatari is looking to further his experience with something a little closer to home.

“I’ve been looking at different series here in the Middle East, the main one being the Radical Middle East Cup. I think it’s the best championship in the Middle East. It has probably the largest grid and is the most competitive, plus you’ve got some really great guys out there too. And that’s what I need. I need a series that’s competitive where I can learn racecraft and take my skills to the another level.

“Any racing is a bonus, and I think that racing here will be a big bonus to both myself and to the Middle East. One responsibility I now have with Nissan is to try and help develop regional motorsport. It’s been a long-time dream for me, even before GT Academy. I never thought I’d be racing cars, but now I’m working with guys who are trying to make motorsport stronger in the region, I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Such is life now for Nissan’s GT Academy Middle East winner, come race winner. The hunt for the next drive is a constant one, as is his now daily health and fitness regime (he’s already lost 12kg since March). Some might baulk at such a prospect, but not Salman. After chasing his dream with the Nissan GT Academy and working his way to the top, he’s looking to make the most of whatever comes his way. Of course, whatever does, Salman Al Khater has the same goal regardless.

“To win. That’s always my goal. If your aim is to win and you fall short of it, you might still be second or third. And that again drives you to improve. That’s the best way to look at it and it’s got me where I am today.”

– Shots courtesy of James Davison and Tom Loomes

Categories: Race


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