Alvin Thomas chats to a young Omani driver, Al Faisal al Zubair, who is making his mark in the world of motor racing and who hopes to one day put Oman on the Formula One winner’s podium.
It’s not every day that I get to talk to a professional racing driver about cars and his life but when I do, I make sure I take the opportunity to make it count.
And when it comes to racing drivers, it doesn’t get any better than my interviewee for this week – Al Faisal al Zubair – the young Omani racer from the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East.
And my interview, would be one of my first interviews with an Omani racing driver.
Our interview is mediated by his PR agency as the 18-year-old youngster currently resides and studies in London, in the UK. But Al Faisal is quite keen to answer my questions despite being thousands of kilometres away.
Al Faisal recently grabbed headlines when he ended the first half of the 2016/17 season with a second-place overall finish and double-class win in round five of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East at the Dubai Autodrome racetrack.
He had come within sight of the winner’s podium.
However, a last-minute mishap – when a rival driver shunted Al Faisal’s car – sank his dreams of a podium finish.
But from where I’m standing, I cannot sense any hostility to his opponent. As a matter of fact, he says: “Finishing Round 3 and being placed in 2nd position overall in Dubai Autodrome was the happiest moment for me so far in this series.
“We [Al Faisal and his team] are currently leading both the Silver category and the GCC Rookie Championship category [in the championship]. These are amazing results for my first year of GT driving,” he adds.
“The series has gone much better than I ever anticipated and with every race, I work on becoming quicker and quicker,” he says, adding that the “results have proved that I’m not only there to compete against my class and win, but to also fight with the overall top drivers in the lead.”
Al Faisal’s determination to win and excitement to race goes way back to the time when he was a
“As a child, I was always involved in some form of motorsport. I grew up watching racing series and being around bikes and cars. My father is a big car fan so I think that helped to trigger my passion for motorsport too,” he tells me.
“At the age of 13, I started go-karting and the more time I spent karting, the more it grew on me and I just fell in love with the real sense of racing,”
Al Faisal is also fascinated by everything about racing, from the body shell of a car to its engine.
By 2016, he was already part of British Formula 3 (F3) – a stepping stone for many drivers to the thrilling world of Formula One.
Al Faisal, who is currently being home-schooled, is pursuing his A-Levels, and is expecting to enter university next year. But, as he points out, he is currently giving his all to raise his game and become a professional racing driver.
“A lot of training and effort is put into becoming a racing driver, which, in my opinion, not many people seem to understand,” says Al Faisal.
“Starting from go-karting at a young age changes your lifestyle. Training comes in the forms of fitness, testing and planning ahead for races. All of this digs into your regular lifestyle of spending time
for yourself and with family and
“But to me, it is all worth it because I’m very passionate about the sport and building my racing career. “In the next 10 years, I would like to see myself racing for a factory team – ideally for Porsche. I’m a true fan of the Porsche GT3 Cup car – I love it! One of my favourite things of my car is the steering. Unlike other single seaters, the GT3 Cup cars have power steering. Although, this makes it a bit easier for me to physically control the wheel, I think because it’s so light, it takes that smoothness, and then translates it into more speed.
“I have done single-seaters (racing in single-seater cars) for the past two years but I think I always knew I wanted to race in a GT series. It has always been a goal of mine. And the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East has been a great opportunity to test my driving skills against racing professionals from different backgrounds and experiences.”
Al Faisal’s dreams don’t end with the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East. He is working hard to build a career towards becoming a pro-driver and taking part in the top GT championships, adding that his ultimate goal is to race at the 24 hours of Le Mans in France.
Of course, the young racer has a long way to go. However, if you consider his progress so far, Al Faisal is on his way to achieving his dream and etching the Sultanate’s name on the international racing scene – just like Oman’s paramount racing driver, Ahmed al Harthy.
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