Rashid Al Dhaheri’s summer campaign of karting in Europe continued, this time out at the highly competitive 2017 Italian Championship at the Circuito di Siena near Florence on the weekend of 1, 2 and 3 September, and once again the nine year old Emirati kart driver delivered above expectations claiming two podiums in an action packed weekend.
With nearly 70 drivers entered in the Mini class (for 8 to 12 year old drivers) it was always going to be a tough contest against Italy’s best young drivers, as well as top drivers from 14 other nations.
Qualifying proved tricky as the tyres used had a one lap window of opportunity to set a fast lap. Al Dhaheri caught traffic in his flying lap which resulted into a 29th out of the 67 drivers during qualifying session.
With drivers split into four groups Al Dhaheri started his first heat from 11th. He managed a good start to slot into seventh place after which he started to pick off his rivals ahead one-by-one. At the end of the race he was third, setting the fastest lap in the process.
In his second heat he lined up 12th. Again, made a rapid start and carved his way up the field and was seventh by the end of the first lap. He continued to move up the ranks to finish fourth and again claim the fastest lap.
Luck ran out for the Abu Dhabi schoolboy in his third heat despite starting well and running at the sharp end before his chain worked itself loose and forced him to stop at the side of the track with a DNF.
In the fourth heat he made a customary good start from 12th and by the end of the race had worked himself up to to fourth, the fastest lap again his. But he received a five seconds penalty when officials deemed that he gained an advantage by contact. This dropped him down to 11th.
This meant Al Dhaheri started Final 1 from 19th on the grid. He made a solid start, kept out of trouble and began picking off the drivers ahead. He was ninth when the chequered flag waved to end action packed race. He was the second best rookie which saw him celebrate the feat on the podium.
In Final 2, Al Dhaheri lined up ninth on the grid, one of the top placed rookies in a field packed with experienced youngsters. He showed himself capable of staying out of trouble while keeping up with the frenetic pace throughout the race. He crossed the line in eighth and again found himself on the podium as second best rookie of the weekend.
BabyRace team chief Sandro Lorandi said, “The Mini category in the Italian Championship this weekend saw a crowded field with 67 quality young drivers competing. Rashid confirmed his talent and commitment. He overcame an issue in qualyfying to deliver solid results in the heats, showing everyone that he was one of the fastest Mini drivers. Setting the fastest lap in three of his four heats.”
“He showed impressive pace and race-craft in Final 1 and Final 2, firmly establishing himself in the top ten of the Mini drivers in the Italian Championship, although he is still one of the youngest drivers on the grid,” concluded Lorandi.
Al Dhaheri summed up, “I really enjoyed this weekend. There was lots of overtaking and fast lap times. Again two podiums in a row.I am very happy and I look forward to the next race, the ROK CUP Finals Italy which will take place at the Adria Karting Raceways on 15-17 September.”