Racing exploits keep laser chief beaming

The Life: Karim al Azhari, Telsar's director of Middle East operations, has a laser-like focus when it comes to racing.

Karim al Azhari is the UAE Touring Car Champion. Pawan Singh / The National
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Karim al Azhari is the director of Middle East operations for Telsar, a medical laser manufacturer, but spends all of his spare time either car racing or planning his next racing exploits. He is also president of Porsche Club UAE.

How long have you been racing?

I have been racing for the last 15 years. I left for the US to do my university studies for six years and got heavily involved in circuits there.

At that time there were no circuits here in the UAE. Where did you practice before the Yas Marina Circuit and the Dubai Autodrome opened?

The GCC was a late bloomer when it came to circuits. Prior to that I used to do karting. I started racing at Yas at the end of 2009 when it first opened and here in the UAE in 2005 we started racing at the Dubai Autodrome. Before that in the GCC I raced at the Bahrain International Circuit and at Losail in Qatar. The government has shown a huge investment in these facilities and I am very proud to become a champion here at home.

And you are the current UAE champion?

I have been the UAE circuit champion for the last seven years, however I also race internationally. In the summer it is very hot so I go and do racing in Europe.

You sound like you have quite a high-pressured job. Do you use racing as a way to unwind?

There are gentlemen racers, as they are called, who do it to get away from stress at work. But I don't know what they're talking about because I have no stress. I do it because I love it and I am passionate about it. It's what I live for.

What does it take to get ready to race?

The planning, organising your car, your team and the funding for the racing takes much more time than the race itself. That is why I need to dedicate so much of my time. The race may last an hour or 24 hours depending on the type of race but each hour may have taken hundreds of hours [in preparation].

So where is your next race?

My next race is in a few days. It's the Nurburgring 24 Hour Race. I drive for a European team but I wish to one day be able to create a UAE team that can go there. We're not very far from doing that.

What's it like to drive in a 24-hour race?

It is very easy. The car runs out of fuel, depending on the type of car, between one to two hours. At that time you come into the pits and when you are getting your refuel you change drivers. Each team normally has four drivers.

Do you get many speeding fines?

They say the more you drive around circuits, you can explore your car and your own limits so when you're on the road you don't have this curiosity or urge to drive fast. But I must admit I still get a few speeding tickets. Every now and then I misbehave a little bit.

* Gillian Duncan