RECORD ENTRIES FOR 2017 DUBAI O PLATE
Nine victory podiums including karting stars Babington and Al Dhaheri
Dubai, UAE, 21 January 2017: With 31 sponsor prizes on offer, 101 local and international drivers were enticed to contest the 2017 Dubai O Plate Karting Championship over the weekend (20-21 January) at Dubai Kartdrome.
Top karters battled it out over two days to determine O Plate champions in nine categories, including Bambino, Rotax Max Micro, Rotax Max Mini, IAME X30 Cadet, IAME X30 Junior, IAME X30 Senior, IAME X30 Masters, IAME X30 Shifter and IAME X30 Shifter Veterans.
The combined grid of IAME X30 Senior (ages 15 and older) and Masters (ages 30 and older), was the largest of the event and also had the most famous names in the karting community. F4 UAE driver Sean Babington, winner of multiple British, European and world karting titles, was the class favourite, but karting aces Abdullah Al Rawahi, and Mauricio Hernandez made sure it wasn’t easy.
Babington, outfitted with an Energy Corse chassis, earned pole position in the Pre-Finals over Tony Kart driver Tom Bale. Sean made a great getaway to start the Final Race and looked set to run away with it until a collision in the backfield halted the race with a red flag.
When racing resumed, Babington came under great pressure and almost gave up the lead on several corners. Once he fought off the challengers and regained control, Babington sailed in for the victory, 0.901 seconds ahead of Abdullah Al Rawahi. Mauricio Hernandez claimed third.
The fight for the IAME X30 Masters category was waged within the same race as Senior, and reigning champ Ali Al Najjar, also with Energy, took top honours for the second year running. Dario Rubio settled for second place silverware while Nadia Khan earned third.
Young Emirati karting icon Rashid Al Dhaheri was likewise a dominant force on the weekend. Driving a Tony Kart body, he earned pole position in the IAME X30 (ages 10-12) Pre-Finals and then went on to demolish the field in the Final Race, taking the chequered flag almost eight seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Ahmed Al Saadi, for second and Mohammed Al Habsi in third.
Al Dhaheri also set a Dubai O Plate record, taking top honours on the podium four years in a row.
The racing was close in the IAME X30 Junior category (ages 13 to 15), with the top three drivers finishing with half a second of each other in the final race. Manaf Jaafar Hijjawi, piloting a Birel Art kart, crossed the finish line first, just 0.249 seconds ahead of Vaskelis Kasparas, who was closely tailed by Denis Bahar to take third.
Both Rotax Max classes were also closely fought, with Energy kart driver Diaraf Keinde nabbing the lead in the final two laps of the Rotax Max Micro (ages 7 to 10) Final, and hanging on for the win by just 0.949 seconds over Finn Morton. Alexander Renner trailed in for third.
With three laps to go in the Rotax Max Mini (ages 9-12) Final Race there was a heartbreak spin for race leader Ziggy Kermanshahchi, which opened up the contest and allowed Theo Kekati, with DR Racing Kart, to jump in take victory. Kamal Agha and Ali Al Shamsi also benefitted, seizing second and third respectively.
The combined gear-shifter grid of IAME X30 Shifter (ages 15 and up) and IAME X30 Shifter Veterans (ages 35 and up) witnessed a chaotic start and the entire pack of drivers stayed in tight formation throughout most of the race. A ten second penalty on race leader Tom Bale allowed Formula K driver Frederic Op de Beeck to take victory over Bale. Matteo Orengo got third. Alexandros Annivas survived the opening lap skirmish to bring home his Techno Kart for the IAME X30 Shifter Veterans O Plate.
All 2017 Dubai O Plate podium finishers walked away with prizes, with the winners receiving premium awards. Prizes included an Energy entry into the IAME Grand Finals and World Championships, Mach1/Roos Motorsport entry into the Las Vegas Super Nationals, test drives with F4 and Toyota TRD 86, Tag Heuer watches, GulfSport helmet paint jobs, Dubai Autodrome motorsport experiences and a selection of merchandise vouchers.
Dubai O Plate Race Director David Bright remarked afterwards, “The O Plate has been growing organically over the last four years, breaking records each time. Over one hundred entries this year was a landmark achievement.”
He added, “The turnout was so successful because of the fantastic prizes that our sponsors brought to the table, thanks to Energy Dubai, Roo Motorsports, Mach1 USA, Tag Heuer, GulfSport, Birel Art, OMP and IAME.”
Report: Aaron Meriwether
Photos: Darren Rycroft & Aaron Meriwether