Runner-up Shihab Al Faheem, winner Karim Al Azhari and third-place finisher Tom Verkooijen (from left), on the podium after Race 1 of the inaugural TRD 86 Cup at Yas Marina. Image Credit: Courtesy: Organiser

Abu Dhabi: UAE motor racing fans were treated to some close-fought action as the inaugural TRD 86 Cup kicked off with its opening weekend at Yas Marina Circuit.

On Friday, 10 UAE-based drivers lined up on the grid for the inaugural race of Yas Marina’s first ever homegrown championship.

German driver Karim Al Azhari crossed the line in first place, pipping Emirati Shihab Al Faheem. Al Azhari started from pole and completed the eight laps of the race in 22 minutes and 12.538 seconds, taking the chequered flag ahead of Al Faheem by just 0.576s. Rookie Dutchman Tom Verkooijen took third place.

Later that day, the drivers were back on track for race two, with the grid reversed from race one.

Continuing their earlier battle, competition was fierce between Al Azhari and Al Faheem. Following a head-to-head battle, first and second was a mirror image of race one, with Al Azhari storming through the field to claim his second victory of the day in 22:07.368, beating Al Faheem by just 0.579s.

“It’s been a wonderful day of motor racing and I’m just so happy to have claimed top spot in round one of the TRD 86 Cup,” said Al Azhari after the race. “The organisation of the event was first class, very professional and I’m just pleased to have the opportunity to race here. This was a very special day for me and my team.”

Runner-up Al Faheem was delighted with his second place. “My weekend has been fantastic and very enjoyable. I am glad I finished round one on the podium despite it being a very tough competition,” he said.

Iranian driver Sam Taheri placed third in race two, with Verkooijen fourth. The rest of the pack included Emirati drivers Ahmad Al Milaihi, Farhan Al Bastaki, Ahmad Junaibi and Sultan Al Rahoomi, plus Lebanese Edy Saaiby, while Indian Shibin Yousaf was forced to retire early.

Al Tareq Al Ameri, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit, said: “Through our Yas Motor Racing Club, we wanted to bring an affordable and accessible motor racing series to motorsport enthusiasts in the community.

“It was great to see such exciting racing. The drivers seemed to have the time of their lives and that’s what this championship is all about.”