UAE star revs up to defend ‘24 Hours of Dubai’ title
Khaled Al Qubaisi, the first UAE driver to celebrate overall victory in the Dunlop 24 Hours of Dubai, has recruited German racing legend Bernd Schneider to strengthen his title defence this weekend.
As part of a new-look, two-car Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcons, Al Qubaisi will link up with the record-breaking five-time German Touring Car (DTM) champion for a mammoth push to retain his Dubai Autodrome title.
The team’s two Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 cars will carry the branding of the newly-established Abu Dhabi Racing (ADR), with Al Qubaisi due to take stints behind the wheel of both vehicles - emulating new team-mate Schneider, who came close to winning when he doubled up in the classic Dubai race 12 months ago.
“Bernd is a legend and his outstanding pedigree will significantly boost the team,” said Al Qubaisi. “Last year he drove for more than ten hours between his team’s two cars and they finished second and third. I’m looking for a similar driving programme this year and with Bernd and I splitting our time across two cars we are effectively doubling our chances of victory.
“Driving both cars will be even more demanding and I’ve been working hard over the last two months to build up muscle and stamina, doing a lot of running, working in the gym and on an exercise machine at home.”
In the lead ADR-backed car, Al Qubaisi will be reunited with two of his victorious 2012 team-mates, British star Sean Edwards and flying Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen, as well as Schneider.
In the team’s second car he will share the driving with Andreas Simonson, who finished third last year, Steve Jans, one of the Black Falcons’ rising stars, experienced Russian ex-formula driver Sergei Afanasiev, and Dutchman Simon Knap.
Al Qubaisi’s excitement at the prospect of a successful 24 Hours of Dubai title defence is matched only by his enthusiasm for the establishment of ADR, which is already working on a number of initiatives to bolster the emirate’s presence in global motorsport and increase Emirati participation in various global motorsport series, including circuit racing, rallying and off-road events.
“Abu Dhabi Racing is very important for UAE motor sport because it aims to discover and develop young, local talent,” he said. “We’re very pleased to be carrying its branding on our cars to raise awareness of the company and its goals.”
Al Qubaisi sits alongside Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, the ADR Chairman, and Khalid Bin Shaiban, Vice Chairman of Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, on the three-man ADR board.
The company’s three-year agreement with Citroen will see Sheikh Khalid return to World Rally Championship action this season in the Abu Dhabi Total Citroen World Rally Team, while also spearheading a powerful team challenge in the 2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship.
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