Dubai: It's amazing what friends can do. Now in the off-season, and left to ponder on his second title in as many years, Umair Khan can't stop being effusive in his praise for his friends and supporters.
"Friends! That's what made all the difference for me. I was not able to do much back home in Pakistan. But, after coming here I met some guys like Zlatko Mulabegovic, Khalid Bin Hadher, Mohammed Al Owais and his brother Omran, with same passion, and that's it," Khan reflected after cruising to an emphatic win in the 2010-11 Total UAE Touring Car Class 2 Championship in his Lap57 Honda.
Khan's entry into the UAE world of motorsport got under way in 1999 when he entered the UAE Autocross Championship. He was hooked. He worked in the automotive field for five years, ran an automotive publication with Mulabegovic and Bin Khader, while also helping Al Owais set up lap 57. "Things progressed and went well for us and here we are today — one win after another," he said.
On paper, it would seem that Khan cruised to the crown as he amassed 136 points — 57 more than his closest rival — while winning no fewer than eight of the 15 rounds during the course of the season. Remarkably, Khan made it to the podium at the end of every race.
However, the truth is that the title was hard fought for, particularly in the first half of the season. But it was Khan's consistency and his rivals' lack of focus that resulted in the Pakistani taking a well-deserved second title in two years.
It all started with the 31 year old putting together an immaculately prepared Honda Civic Type R — backed by Milwaukee, Hoover, NGK, Exedy and Yokohama — in what was not only a triumphant season but also a steep learning curve for the team.
"We worked on a new car, which was heavier compared to all other cars in the class plus the new rule with success ballast [additional weight] making it difficult for us to fight for top step of the podium. But since we did not have any mechanical issues this year, we could focus on car set-up and strategies.
"A mix of all of this made us learn several things which one should consider when racing in a championship," Khan said.
With the 2011-12 season a few weeks away, everyone is in the throes of planning their campaigns, but for him, the main goal for the season is crystal clear. "Another championship win."