Tell us a little about the city’s karting scene…
There are two main series, one run by the Dubai Autodrome and one by Al Ain Raceway. The latter series allows the top UAE drivers to compete in the annual international Rotax Challenge and also includes rounds at the Autodrome but, frankly, it’s pretty confusing as to what is what. There’s another track in Jebel Ali, but I’ve never been there. A track is also due to open at the new Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi in the next year or so.
What events do you compete in?
I work in the motoring press and, through a contact at the Autodrome, I heard about a media team that takes part in the ‘24 Hours of Dubai’ endurance race at the Kartdrome. There are three a year with up to 40 teams taking part from around the world. Our best result has been 11th place, which, considering the competition, we were very pleased with – the team in the pit next to us included a guy who’d tested for an F1 team the week before. I’ve also competed in several shorter races – the Sodi World Series (SWS) at the Kartdrome and some events at Al Ain Raceway. The beauty of these, and of the 24-hour races, is that you don’t need your own kart or a ton of equipment to take part. The karts are provided and engineered by the venues, and they’ll even provide equipment like suit, gloves and helmet if necessary – all you need are some closed shoes.
When, where and how can we get involved?
The karting season runs through the winter months at Al Ain and Dubai. There are also a few open events in the evenings during the summer. In addition, there are three ‘24 Hours of Dubai’ endurance races each year at the Kartdrome. These are also part of the SWS, which is a global world ranking system run by Sodi, makers of the ‘arrive-and-drive’ karts at the Dubai Autodrome.
Other than a good pair of shoes, what other kit would you recommend investing in?
I bought a helmet – to stop other people’s sweat running into my eyes – which cost about Dhs3,000. This might seem pricey, but it’s worth it for several reasons. Firstly, it’ll last a while, and secondly, you should never scrimp on safety! Decent gloves are also a worthwhile investment – they increase grip on the steering wheel, meaning you don’t have to hold on so hard, which is much less tiring. Some people get a neck protector and a rib protector to give extra support around corners.
It’s said that F1 drivers have to keep incredibly fit for racing. Can karting benefit your fitness?
I’ve been a fairly active guy all my life, but from my first 24-hour race it became clear that you need to be in decent shape to kart properly. Even in entry-level machines, you’re whipping round corners at average speeds of 60kmph. My arms and shoulders have got a lot stronger through karting, and I’ve started swimming and going to the gym a lot more to try and stay in shape. There’s nothing worse than knowing you can go faster than you are, but your arms just won’t hold out or react as quickly as you’d like. There’s also an incentive to lose weight – the less you weigh, the faster you’ll go!
Get your race on at Dubai Autodrome (04 367 8700, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.dubaiautodrome.com) or Al Ain Raceway (03 768 6662, www.alainraceway.com). To buy racewear, check out www.gulf-sport.com or Al Ain Raceway