Passion kick-starts life in the fast lane

The Life: Saeed Al Mehairi discusses turning an off hours passion for race car driving into a career at Yas Marina Circuit.

Saeed Al Mehairi is an Emirati race car driver and instructor at Yas Marina Circuit. Delores Johnson / The National
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Saeed Al Mehairi turned his passion for race car driving into a career as a racing instructor and employee in the commercial department of Yas Marina Circuit. He talks about making the high-speed transition.

How did you get involved in racing before you started working at Yas?

I started go-karting in 2007 as a hobby. I wanted to devote myself to reach high levels in go-karting. Then I bought a second-hand go-kart to enter local championships. I finished third place out of 25.

Then what did you do to develop your hobby into more of a profession?

I continued racing, and there was an academy in Dubai Autodrome that was going to choose three local [Emirati] young drivers and promote and sponsor them to race in Europe. I joined and there were 700 who applied for that scholarship.

How did you do?

They chose about 60 from the 700 in phase one. That was go-karting. Phase two was going to the circuit and driving the Audi TT. They chose 30. Phase three was to drive a Subaru and a truck. From 30 we went to 15. Phase four was difficult because there was physical testing and mental testing.

What kind of mental tests did they run?

If we are under pressure, can we still talk politely and not get mad or confused, especially when it came to media and people. They teach us how to stay calm and prepare mentally.

And how did you do in the final phase of testing?

That time it was very difficult, because it was all about driving and coming on time. They chose three. I'm the one who was number one.

You were then sponsored to train and race in Europe. But you were working and studying part-time back then.

I had some difficulty. I could not focus on racing and working and studying for Bachelor of business. I had to stop studying, [which I later] finished in 2008. I had very good results in Europe when I was there.

How did you try to keep racing upon your return?

Because of the [financial] crisis, Dubai Autodrome wasn't able to sponsor us to go to the next level. I didn't quit. I went back to go-karting to develop myself for training. Then I wanted to participate in local championships with my own money. With my touring car I got a sponsor. In 2009, we won the Dubai 24 hours karting championship.

How did you end up at Yas?

I joined Yas in 2010, part-time, to be an instructor. I was the first Emirati instructor, and youngest so far. I'm 24. I just joined full-time recently. Now, I don't do much instructing - only in my free time. Now I work in the commercial department. I look for sponsors for the circuit.