It was 10.30pm and we were standing on the pit wall at Yas Marina Circuit running the last night of Formula Gulf 1000 testing. We had been at the circuit for four days putting our first group of young drivers through their paces.
Harsh Rajpal from India was doing a solid job of piloting his FG1000 around the southern circuit. The car looked great as it gleamed under the lights. And it sounded right as he changed down from 6th to 2nd gear going into Turn 11 with a series of beautifully timed blips on the throttle.
This was the first of three pre-season testing sessions held by GulfSport Racing, and five of the series' 12 drivers were on hand for our intense training.
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The drivers all sounded very professional with equally crisp down changes as they attacked the corners in the hope of impressing our roving driver coach, Andy Pardoe. He was cycling from corner to corner on the access road to watch the drivers close up and to offer them advice about their driving after each session. Andy doesn't miss much, and with data loggers and in-car cameras, the drivers had made great progress.
They had started day one with a very interesting presentation about how the key to driving a single seater was being able to simultaneously brake and change gear properly. Those from karting would left-foot brake quite naturally and use their right foot to match the revs on the downshift. The others learnt a technique called "heel and toe" whereby they would brake and blip the throttle simultaneously.
Natasha Seatter, a confident and quick 17-year-old driver from Kuala Lumpur, had already perfected this during her first season racing Formula BMW in Malaysia. She's a very confident and quick driver and the final session dicing with the Pakistani driver Usmaan Mughal had the cameras flashing from the balcony ovelooking the entry to the Yas Hotel complex, where the Stevie Wonder fans were gathering for what was to be a wonderful two and a half hour concert the following evening.
We also witnessed the talents of two Omani karters, Haitham al Saqri and Maher al Shibani, who had driven up from Muscat. They particularly enjoyed being put through their paces by our fitness coach, Phil Robson, who had the group doing a variety of workouts in the paddock to illustrate the role of fitness in enabling high levels of concentration throughout a race. Natasha had the hardest kick in the boxing segment. Nobody should mess with her - she studies martial arts.
Andrea Akehurst offered the group some great advice on the subject of dealing with the media and sponsors. Quite timely really because the group was already being shadowed by a TV production crew and a newspaper reporter, so interviews were the order of the day.
It's quite clear from the reaction of all concerned to the sight and sound of these cars and drivers that the introduction of single-seater racing to the UAE race calendar next season is long overdue.
The next FG1000 test session starts on Tuesday.
Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to produce the first Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.singleseaterblog.com