UAE quartet are in Italy for karting finals

Four UAE-based drivers are in southern Italy to compete in the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals, the largest professional karting event on the sport's calendar.

When Sebastian Vettel stood with tears in his eyes and a Formula One championship to his name, much like the majority of his sport's most prominent drivers, he owed a lot to his earlier career in professional karting.

From Ayrton Senna to Lewis Hamilton, F1 is full of examples of where karting can lead. And with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix proving such a success, the pressure is on for the Emirates to produce an F1 driver of its own.

Those involved in developing the sport in this country will be buoyed then by the news that four UAE-based drivers have travelled to southern Italy to compete in this weekend's Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals - the largest professional karting event on the sport's calendar.

Mohammed al Dhaheri, the only Emirati of the quartet, raced his first kart in September of 2009. Fourteen months later he arrives at La Conca International Circuit as winner of the UAE Karting Championship. He won eight of the season's 10 races.

With 252 drivers from 61 countries making the trip, the competition will be stiff. Al Dhaheri, 23, who calls Al Ain Raceway home, says he would have it no other way. "Karting is a perfect stepping stone into GP2 or Formula Renault, so I want to race in Europe against the best in the world," he said. "Of course I want to win, but I have to be realistic. That is why I have set a more tangible target: I want to finish in the top 10."

Al Dhaheri's campaign starts with two days of free practice, before Friday's qualifying session. The 72 drivers in the premium class are then whittled down to 34 by way of three heats on Saturday. Sunday sees a pre-final session to determine grid positions before the main event.

"I want to make my country proud," al Dhaheri said.

He is joined by the UAE-based drivers Edward Jones, Maurits Knopjes and Arnaud Bouf.