Rashid Al Dhaheri ended his 2016 European karting season in style as he mixed it with the front-runners competing for the the prestigious Ayrton Senna Trophy at Circuito di Napoli in Sarno on Sunday.
The Abu Dhabi schoolboy, racing for the Babyrace team, was part of a field of 58 drivers in the 60cc Mini Class contesting at the event named after and in honour of the late, Formula 1 great Ayrton Senna. Eight year old Rashid was the second youngest in the category for 8 to 12 year old drivers.
Due to the number of drivers, 58 in total, the Mini class was split into two groups for qualifying, Rashid set the fastest lap in Group A which gave him a fifth place starting slot when the group times were combined.
In Heat 1, Rashid was constantly at the sharp end of proceedings and ended the race in third with the top two just ahead of him. In the action packed Heat 2, he started from third but dropped down the order after a chaotic start.
This did not deter Rashid as he rose to the challenge and started to pick his way up the field. He made a memorable pass on the brakes, at the end of the main straight into the tricky Turn 2, passing two drivers to claim third place.
Ahead of him there was a fight between the leading duo for first place which allowed Rashid to close in, stalk the leaders and then make another shrewd move to win the heat.
In the Final, the Emirati youngster started from fourth and from the moment the track went green he was in a thrilling battle for the lead, with half a dozen rivals slugging out at the front. Positions swapped with every lap and when the chequered flag waved he was fifth, a mere second down on the winner and in a slipstream of five karts as they crossed the finish line.
Due to the size of the grid the top five were awarded trophies and thus Rashid was given the opportunity to celebrate his achievement on the podium.
Rashid said: “It was tough to start the Final from fourth on the grid, being surrounded by experienced and older drivers, 3 years older than me. I stayed focused and managed a good start by concentrating on my driving, this was the key to the good result. I had a lot of fun in Italy this year and learnt a lot at the same time.”
Babyrace team founder and team principal Sandro Lorandi said: “It was not an easy race weekend for Rashid, who was one of the youngest of the field. However he has clearly established himself as one of the front runners throughout the event in qualifying, heats and final.”
“No doubt his older and experienced rivals, who are the main front runners, have something to worry about when they see such a talent who will start troubling the established drivers. Next year looks very promising for the boy from Abu Dhabi!”
Rashid’s 2016 European karting campaign has now come to an end, he will continue to do select events in the UAE karting calendar when time permits but mainly prepare for a very challening seaons 2017 in Italy.