He may be just 15 but Dubai-based Canadian Ramez Azzam is already accelerating at breakneck speed towards his ambitions of making it big in the glamorous world of motorsport.
In two years, Azzam has risen from the average kart-loving teenager at the Dubai Autodrome to a prodigy on the circuit currently competing in the Formula Campus Renault Elf French Championship 2007 series.
More remarkable is the fact that he shifted from hiring karts for fun to racing them seriously only at the beginning of this year.
So how did this sudden need for speed develop? “When the Autodrome opened, I just got interested, and I used to like Formula 1 a lot,'' Azzam told XPRESS in his first interview in the UAE.
“I live close by and I had the opportunity to start karting here. I started getting trained by David Terrien and some of the other instructors and I improved slightly and moved up to single seaters where I am right now. Hopefully I will keep stepping up, but that depends on my results.''
But when did he realise he wanted to derive more than just fun from life in the fast lane?
“When I started karting in February 2005, I thought we have the opportunity to kart as often as we like. But then I started getting more serious about it I thought ‘I want to do that when I grow up'.''
Adele Schultz, a project co-ordinator at Dubai Autodrome added: “Ramez and his brother would come down to the track every day and make excuses like ‘We will help you clean the sand off the track'.
“It was for fun but when racing, David noticed Ramez was doing well and finally approached his father and said, ‘Look, he's got talent and I think we should develop it'.''
This is his debut season in the Formula Campus Renault cars and his highest position of seventh in his last race suggests a smooth adjustment from the world of karting. “Last year, my dad told me that we could go to a training session in France and we could try out the cars. That was straight from karting, I didn't even know how to drive a manual car or anything,'' said Azzam who leaves for France today to compete in the fourth round of the Elf French Championship series at the weekend.
“This was not so different from karting, but you have to be a lot smoother in the driving style but again it's a lot faster.''
Azzam is currently in year 11 at Emirates International School at the Meadows, Dubai, but said school and studies have never stood in the way of his racing career.
“I'm lucky this year that the race dates don't clash with my exam dates so I was fine except for one exam, but I compensated for that and otherwise I don't really miss much school other than one occasion where I had to go for training.
“We have spoken to the principal and she has granted me permission to take time out if I need to.''
Born: July 9, 1991
Hobbies: Motorsports, football, basketball, rugby, squash and snowboarding
Favourite motorsport stars: Valentino Rossi and Kimi Raikkonen
- Secured pole position in the Nivea For Men 1,000km race (February 2-3, 2007)
- Holds the record fastest lap of 1 minute 11.071 seconds at the Dubai Autodrome Kartdrome
- Was the 2005 Ramadan Championship winner in the Junior Class
- Has been awarded full-season sponsorship from Courtyard by Marriot to participate in the 2007 Formula Campus Renault Elf French Championship.