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Battle of the Falcons: inspiring tale of Khalid Al Qubaisi’s Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai victory

Documentary captures the essence of Al Qubaisi’s historic win

Gulf News

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to be at the premier screening of The Battle of the Falcons which depicts the remarkable story of Khalid Al Qubaisi’s win in the 2013 Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai.

Produced by Tewe Pannier and his team at GTV, the one-hour documentary is a tour de force, a riveting piece of journalism undoubtedly aided by the subject giving the crew carte blanche in their coverage. This is not just the good bits, but also the warts and all that came along with the adventure.

The manner in which the tale is told means that this is not a TV piece merely for petrol-heads, but rather a story with broad appeal. Those with passing interest in motor racing will no doubt be entertained (to say the least) by a story of determination and an absolute resolve to win despite what fate throws in your way. The story revolves around Al Qubaisi’s quest to win the 2013 edition of the annual 24-hour race at Dubai Autodrome, which is now established as one of the premier endurance events in the world. The Emirati driver had won in 2012, but no one had ever scored back-to-back triumphs and this was his goal.

Along the way he, and his Abu Dhabi Black Falcons Mercedes Team, took on the might of the Saudi Falcons Schubert Motorsport BMW team headed by Prince Abdul Aziz Al Faisal and Faisal Bin Laden along with a formidable field of more than 80 teams from around the world.

The story revolves around the trio — Al Qubaisi, Al Faisal and Bin Laden — who despite being great friends off the track, are arch-rivals on it, particularly in the instance of the contest at the 24-hour race. They speak fondly of one another but at the same time have a steely resolve to triumph on track.

On his way to an unlikely triumph Al Qubaisi, the hero of the piece, is subject to incredible duress, including crashing the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 early on in practice, forking out $300,000 (Dh1.1 million) for another one that just happened to be available, the conversion of a new car to race car, qualifying on pole and last minute problems that only a 24-hour race can produce.

The victory impacted enormously on our hero. A motor racing ‘epic’ as Gulf News reported in their review. It’s one of those that prompt the cliché — you have to be there to understand.

His inspiration

Good news is the documentary is set to be broadcast by Abu Dhabi Sports Channel on a date to be scheduled shortly, while other UAE broadcasters have expressed an interest along with German channel Motorvision HD. It is not to be missed; in fact press ‘record’ because you will want to watch it again and again if just for the inspiration.

In my capacity as Dubai Autodrome communications manager I have had the good fortune of interviewing and speaking with Al Qubaisi. The things that linger after any meeting with him is his modesty and good sense of humour… an all-round cool dude. But beneath the genuine politeness and good manners is a determined young man whose ‘day job’ is executive director of human capital at Mubadala.

Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak is the CEO and managing director of Mubadala, and why I mention this is that throughout the documentary and on the night of the premier Al Qubaisi made it known that his inspiration and mentor was his boss.

There is clearly a great affinity between the two, with Al Mubarak supporting Al Qubaisi’s motor racing exploits with advice and encouragement. He comes across as a benefactor who not only provides time off from work for his protege but also valuable support in what is his passion.

I would venture to say that success comes easier when talented people are allowed to flourish, but true mentorship is what really helps to build a solid foundation for this success.

There are many talented people out there in all spheres of life; however I would bet that those who maximise their talent are those who have a genuine mentor, backing them with wise advice, support through the bad times and a pat on the back during the good times. But most of all be a pillar of strength to help inspire, temper and motivate the young talent whose ambitions know no bounds. Al Qubaisi is fortunate to have this. And being the gentleman that he is, made it abundantly clear that he owed his success to several factors including his team Abu Dhabi Racing, but also Khaldoon Al Mubarak who was there on the night. By the end of it he was receiving the biggest round of applause.

The writer is the Corporate Communications Manager at Dubai Autodrome llc.

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