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