7th Formula Gulf Academy Champion Crowned

The 2017/18 Formula Gulf Academy young driver development program was completed over the weekend at the Dubai Autodrome.

The Championship title went to 17 year old Kane Shepherd who won 5 of the 10 academy races that were held at the Yas Marina F1 Circuit and the Dubai Autodrome. Shepherd flew from his home in Thailand to attend. 

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The Vice Champion is 16 year old Filip Kaminiarz from Poland after scoring consistently and reaching the podium no less than 6 times.

Third championship place overall went to another 16 year old, Talal Beshara from Bahrain.

At the last event of the season, where temperatures peaked at 38C it was business as usual for Shepherd who took pole position and two impressive wins.

Kaminiarz made life tricky for himself this weekend by taking the opportunity to test and race a Radical SR3 alongside his single seater campaign. He finished the first of two 50kms Academy races in 3rd place and was sidelined in the second when a battery terminal broke.

But the 18 year old driver from India, Nabil Zakir Hussein had a very strong day, finishing in second place in both races. His occasional absence due to college exams took its toll on his overall championship position.

A 4th and 3rd place finish was a bit below par for Azerbaijan’s Gulhuseyn Abullayev who was handicapped when a visit visa issue meant he missed the testing and training on the first day.

The drivers all benefited from intense professional coaching by Thomas (Tommy) Erdos and Andy Pardoe.

For Season 8 of this ASN Recognised Competition Driving School, organiser GulfSport Racing will offer the local equivalent of a UK ARDS test which has been approved by the ATCUE to enable 15 year olds to gain an Academy License in their first season so they can race in Formula Gulf Academy.

Yas Race Report

Racing a fast single seater racing car on the 5.5kms Formula One Grand Prix Circuit is a real privilege that very few people in this world will ever experience. Braking extremely hard at 230kph into a second gear corner at the end of the one kilometre back straight, negotiating 21 corners, and powering under the hotel, an experience not likely to be forgotten.

So it was for the five young racing drivers who had come from Azerbaijan, Thailand, Poland, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to benefit from working with multiple Le Mans, Formula Renault and British GT Champion, Thomas (Tommy) Erdos in the Formula Gulf Academy.

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The cars are quick. Seriously quick. But perhaps more important is the fact that these drivers are also able to experience something that the manufacturers seem intent on getting rid of - ‘involvement’. As Gulhuseyn explained, “ I raced an F4 car last year. It is a very simple car to drive in that is has a brake, a throttle and two paddles on the steering wheel to tell it when I want it to change gear. It is very un-involving from a drivers point of view. By contrast, I love the fact that the Formula Gulf car has a traditional three pedal arrangement with a manual six-speed sequential gearbox. The work rate in the car is high as we have to change gear with a lever, we have to simultaneously brake and blip the throttle as we down shift, sometimes going down 4 gears whilst braking from 230 down to 60 within a space of just 60 metres. Its difficult but extremely satisfying. Nice to have blisters on my hands again”!

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The most experienced driver on the day was Saudi’s top single seater racer, Omar Gazzaz who would win pole position, and would have won all three races were it not for a spin at the end of the last race. Why the Saudi federation does not support this very talented driver is a mystery. Next up was the up and coming 17 year old British/Thai driver Kane Shepherd who is also a proven race winner and very successful kart racer. He was on the podium for every race and set fastest lap in race three, giving himself a problem with hand baggage on the way back to Thailand with Etihad Airways.

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Azerbaijan’s most well know racer was back after a two year break since learning the ropes in the Formula Gulf Academy. Gulhuseyn, know as Quka to his friends, made a mistake in the first race as he clashed with the 16 year old Bahraini, Talal Beshara, but then finished on the podium in race two and won the last race to take home a brace of trophies.

Also making great progress with their driving technique was 16 year old Filip Kaminiarz (who is being mentored by his team to follow in the footsteps of Poland’s successful racing drivers such as Robert Kubica and current Formula Gulf Champion, Alex Karkosik) and another 16 year old kart racer, Talal Beshara, who finished runner up in the GCC Young Drivers Academy program last year.

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The last event of this the seventh season of Formula Gulf Academy will take place over the last weekend in March.

Formula Gulf Heads back to Yas

Young racing drivers from Poland, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, India and Saudi Arabia will arrive in the UAE this weekend to continue with their training in GulfSport Racing’s renowned young driver development program.

They will undergo two days of intensive coaching and mentoring as they practise and race on the very same circuit that challenges the world’s best drivers in Formula One. 

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Said GulfSport’s Martin Hope “This really will be a very special weekend for our students. They have already made great progress under the tuition of pro driver coach Andy Pardoe, and this weekend they will be mentored by a very successful Brazilian racing driver, Tommy Erdos”.

“It is no coincidence that 16 year old Kane Shepherd, who has already spent nine days with us, won two Formula 4 races against stiff competition in Malaysia last week ” said Martin.  

“Experience has shown us that with the right training and experience, some drivers are able to skip that F4 step and go straight into F3 cars in the EuroFormula Open which visits some of Europe’s greatest race circuits. In some countries F4 is incredibly expensive, so F3 has become a viable option”.

As is usual, the experience of the academy group varies with 16 year old kart racer Talal Beshara from Bahrain enjoying his first step into cars, whilst Saudi racer Omar Gazzaz has already driven F3 cars in Spain and the UK. This weekend will also see the return of Azerbaijan’s most popular racing driver Gulhuseyn (Quka) Abdullayev, who also has experience of both F4 and F3.

Another student who harbours great ambition is Filip Kaminiarz, who is well aware that the current Formula Gulf Academy Champion Alex Karkosik is a Polish compatriot.

With Formula Renault, British GT and multiple Le Mans titles to his name, let’s hope that Tommy Erdos can sprinkle some more success dust onto these very committed and ambitious young racers.

The action commences on Friday 23rd February at Yas Marina Circuit - please come along and say hello to the team and drivers.

Round 5 Review

26/1/18 With just a four day break since their last two-day academy session at Yas Marina F1 Circuit, the young racers assembled in Dubai this time for further training. With the UK’s top driver coach in attendance, the drivers were treated to three training sessions on Thursday where they got to grips with the demanding 4.3 kms International Circuit.

After one-on-one meetings where their coach was able to pinpoint any driving weaknesses they knew exactly what faults to correct and what was expected of them. 

Big surprise in the Friday morning Qualification Practise was Kane Shepherd stopping on track with a puncture which allowed Poland’s 16 year old Filip Kaminiarz to take pole position for the race.

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After a textbook start that had the Clerk of the Course visiting the GulfSport camp to congratulate all the drivers after the race, it was Thailand’s Kane Shepherd who got the holeshot and headed off into the sunset, building nearly a 2 second gap on every lap thus denying Kaminiarz the biggest trophy. But he was nevertheless very pleased with 12 consistent lap times which proved enough to grab second place from Bahrain’s Talal Beshara. Nabil Hussain, who skipped some of the practise to concentrate on his college exams had held 3rd place on track until he stopped on lap 8 with a problem.

Intensive coaching continues tomorrow with another qualification practise and race.