Kuwait eager to rev up motor sport industry

April 22, 2014 - 2:20:33 am
Sheikh Athbi Nayef Jaber Al Sabah (right), Chairman of Kuwait Quarter Mile Auto & Motorcycle Club (KMRC), is seen with rally star Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah (left) at the flag-off ceremony at Losail International Circuit yesterday. Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah, President of QMMF and Vice-President at FIA and FIA, is also seen.

DOHA: Kuwait is eyeing a surge in the number of motor sport events to go along with its academy plans for young riders and drivers, the country’s top racing official said yesterday.

Sheikh Athbi Nayef Jaber Al-Sabah, Chairman of Kuwait Quarter Mile Auto & Motorcycle Club (KMRC), said Kuwait is also contemplating to host a round of Kuwait Baja in the near future.  

“Motor sport (in Kuwait) is picking up like never before. There was a time when motor sport was in a freeze mode but we’ve managed to assemble an enthusiastic group of Kuwaitis who are pushing themselves to raise the profile of the sport in our country,” Sheikh Athbi said on day one of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally yesterday.

“These officials have the love for the sport - whether in drag racing, rally racing or motocross. It is a slow-paced development but we have a vision to have more events,” Sheikh Athbi said confidently.

“We would like to add more events to our calender. We just don’t want to be satisfied by staging the Kuwait International Rally, which is a round of the FIA Middle East Championship,” he explained.

“I would like to mention that Mr Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah (QMMF President) was saying to me ‘why don’t you think of doing a Baja race and get feedback?’ Hopefully we will have a round of cross-country rally soon,” Sheikh Athbi said.

Sheikh Athbi said Al Attiyah, Vice-President at FIA and FIM, was ‘expertly guiding the Middle East and MENA regions with his vast experience in motor sport as an organiser of events’. 

“Mr Nasser is proactive around the Gulf area, not only in the MENA region. He has been our right hand with any question that we need an answer to,” Sheikh Athbi said. 

“He gives us assistance when we need help. We really appreciate his support. After the MENA conference that was held here three weeks ago, a lot promising strategies have been put in place. A whole lot has been rearranged for countries with meagre (sports) funds mainly African nations. Mr Nasser is trying to bring the budgets down so that (more) countries can host events that was not possible previously,” Sheikh Athbi explained.

The Kuwaiti said KMRC was keeping things simple by taking ‘baby steps’ before going out with full force for greater involvement in motor sport.

“Having more numbers of marshals will help us. These are the small steps that will help us and hopefully we will be a complete (motor sport) entity within the next year,” Sheikh Athbi said.

“We are looking at (having) a road racing circuit. We don’t need a surface for rally events as we have open desert terrain for rallies. We just finished working on a motocross track - one of the biggest tracks - close to 2kms.

“We have few national races. We just need to look at the finish touches. Things are looking good. Having these enthusiastic guys will take us forward. We will push as much as we can. That’s out target,” Sheikh Athbi added. Sheikh Athbi said Kuwait is keen to build ‘on the country’s potential in motor sport’.

“The present racing clubs are under the Public Authority of Youth and Sports. The main people have been changed. People who are serious about (motor sport) work with us. They seek no personal benefits and that was a problem that we faced in Kuwait. This is promising that people who want to work for betterment of motor sports is what we are looking at. We have to get such people in the right places,” Sheikh Athbhi said. “We got great feedback after the opening round if the Kuwait International Rally,” he said.

Sheikh Athbi candidly admitted that Kuwait needed better bench strength in bike and car racing.

“We have three riders. None of them are ready for the top level. Hopefully we will push them (to do better),” Sheikh Athbi said.

“You need exceptional endurance to complete a race and cross the finish line. We will be looking into it. They have places to race. We need to establish a youth group of drivers and riders to replace the older ones. We have had a few rally drivers and bikers. But when we need replacements. That’s the reality.

“We are also looking at having an academy where we would like to look at having people from around the world to share their racing or administrative experience,” Sheikh Athbi said. “This will promote the sport all around the region. This will cover the plans for the next five to 10 years,” he said. THE PENINSULA

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