UAE companies 'have a part to play' in helping local racers compete
Atif al Zarouni let out an exasperated cry for help when his clutch broke more than 400 kilometres from the finishing line of last month's Pharaons International cross-country rally in Egypt. But nobody was listening.
The UAE's most talented quad bike rider had made similarly fruitless pleas as all but one of the six spare tyres he had taken with him on the gruelling 2,700km battle against the cream of his sport's international talent burst on the rocky Egyptian terrain.
Al Zarouni, a multiple winner of his home Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, is convinced that he can bring fame to himself and recognition to his country if local motorsport enthusiasts showed greater faith in his riding ability.
"I have tried many places for sponsorship, the bank, other institutions, but they don't seem to have a desire to help local guys like me," said al Zarouni, a decade into his productive career in his specialist branch of motorsport.
"If I attracted sponsorship I reckon I could bring tremendous success to the UAE," he said. "I believe I am good enough to have won in Egypt with the right backing. I will be more qualified to race next year and if I can get enough financial help I can do really well there."
Al Zarouni had to settle for fifth place in a class of 11 riders - more than 80 competitors took part overall - but considering what he was up against, he regards that as a phenomenal achievement.
"Every evening when I arrived at the overnight camp, I worked on repairs to my bike while the other riders were able to relax, knowing that they had teams of up to seven guys working on their bikes."
Al Zarouni cuts costs by carrying out all his own modifications and repairs in his Dubai workshop at which he employs seven staff. "I knew I needed to learn how to cope when things go wrong - and I've done that," he said.
"I have got used to being a one-man team but I would love to welcome support to that team," said al Zarouni, 36, the second-eldest of eight siblings, who has been grateful to the amount of help he has received from his parents.
Al Zarouni was given some assistance towards the Pharaons by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, a vice-president of the FIA, motorsport's governing body, and president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE.
Ben Sulayem said: "I'd like to see more UAE companies come forward and sponsor Emirati competitors like Atif who have shown a lot of ability but need financial backing to help them develop their careers.
"We can give only limited backing as a club, and at a time when motorsport here is growing in popularity, UAE companies have a part to play in partnering with the best local talent to allow them to reach their full potential, while sharing in their success."
Published: November 10, 2010 04:00 AM