Dubai: There are many ways a local automaker can celebrate the unveiling of a new car. Naming a country-wide drifting team under their sponsorship is one of them.
So when the Toyota 86 was released earlier this year, Al Futtaim Motors Toyota officially unveiled the Toyota Emirates Drifting Team — a large group of drivers, technicians, and support staff united by their love of drifting.
Leading the team is 27-year-old Ahmad Al Amiri, the recently crowned UAE King of Drift after a first-place finish in the Red Bull Car Park Drift challenge in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
“I’m the kind of person who’s always looking for a challenge,” the Abu Dhabi-born Al Amiri said. “I love being under the spotlight and at the same time being under a lot of pressure — drifting gives me all of that.”
Still a relatively young motorsport in the UAE, drifting has come forward in leaps and bounds in the last few years. From only a handful of people officially drifting, UAE Drift, the country’s main drifting body, now has 55 registered drivers.
Al Amiri said he is excited by the next two years as he and his team set out to promote the high octane motorsport around the Gulf.
“We’re going to visit many universities and schools in the UAE, where we plan to spread awareness and promote drifting as a motorsport,” he said.
Driven by the adrenaline-pumping nature of the sport and the country’s passion for anything that goes fast and has four wheels, Al Amiri believes that there is a healthy appetite for drifting in the UAE.
“It has so much action, and I think this is what spectators are looking for — action and excitement,” he said.
“The competition level is very high, and there are many teams coming in from around the GCC and sometimes from other Arab countries to compete here.”
And people are showing interest. At a Drift UAE event held at the Dubai Autodrome late last year, more than 3,000 spectators came out to see the country’s finest drifters in action.
The future of drifting in the country looks bright as well. According to Al Amiri, many drivers from the UAE will take their prowess behind the wheel abroad to showcase their skills at bigger and better events.
“I think there are many people who are going to go out from the UAE to the international level,” he said. “Not necessarily Emiratis, but drifters from the UAE.”
But it’s not just the sport of drifting that Al Amiri and his team will be hoping to spread around the region. Awareness about safe driving is very much on their agenda of what they want to get across to their audience, and more importantly to youth.
Al Amiri said it was especially important to target high school students, who would soon be getting their driver’s licences and buying cars.
“We have an awareness message for all of these guys: drive safe on the public street, and take off in the safe environment,” he said. “Where the safety requirements are met [helmets, racing suits, etc.], you can take off, because it’s a safe place to do so.”
For this exciting motorsport that still finds itself in its early days in this part of the world, the only way is up as more people get a taste of the spectacle Al Amiri calls “motortainment.”
— Mohammad Suleiman is an intern at Gulf News