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Bin Sulayem renews call for Emirati drivers

Wants the UAE to take up Bahrain and Qatar models

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Mohammad Bin Sulayem(
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Mohammad Bin Sulayem, FIA Vice-President and the President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates (ATCUAE), and has called on for a “desperate search” for a UAE driver to better sustain motorsport in the country.

“It is not about the number of events we have each year, but rather it is about the desperate need now to have a local hero from the grassroots level. Whether it is rallying, circuit racing or go karting, we need a hero and we are desperate for it,” Mohammad Bin Sulayem told Gulf News in a chat on the sidelines of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“The good thing is that finding a hero is achievable if we consider the love of the Emiratis for speed and cars. What we need to do is find a basic way of embracing talent at the early stages and make it easy to get them in and then keep them,” he added.

“To an extent the sustenance of motorsport has been done, thanks mainly to the initiative shown by the government. But one of the factors to sustain the sport further is the need to have new drivers come aboard,” Bin Sulayem said.

Following his exploits, a lot of Emirati drivers took up to rallying and Bin Sulayem does not see anything wrong in this as long as the sport can sustain itself. “I can understand this demand for rallying, but we have to also realise that motorsport has changed here in the past few years with two major circuits and three approved go-karting circuits. It can be either rallying or karting or even circuit driving as long as we can encourage new drivers to come in,” he added.

Bin Sulayem was further in favour of setting up a separate entity dedicated entirely to handle a programme for talented drivers. “Times have changed and we need to perhaps have a national team of drivers, be it in karting or circuit racing or rallying. We would need a separate budget and a committee to look after this group of drivers so that they get the right kind of support for the future,” he offered.

The FIA Vice-President further urged that the UAE needs to learn from neighbouring nations of Bahrain and Qatar. “The first thing we have to make our own people understand the need to have a long-time commitment. Bahrain has raised the level of motorsport by simply embracing it. It is the biggest event they have and for them it is a matter of national pride, and we need to learn from the Bahrainis,” Bin Sulayem urged.

“Qatar has a much better budget and they have a champion as well [Nasser Al Attiyah]. Motorsport is not only about Formula One. They have a will to make things happen. The returns from motorsport are important. We should complement each other,” he added.