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Karim of the crop
/ 16 June 2012
Karim Al Azhari, one of the UAE’s most successful racing drivers, is passionate about motor sport, his family, and his prized collection of classic Porsches.
After making an impressive debut in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East last season with Dubai’s Al Nabooda Racing, he has now embarked on a summer race programme in Europe.
Here he talks about what drives him, on and off the circuit.
FEW THINGS COME between Karim Al Azhari and his cars, on or off the track.
When the UAE-born racing driver is not competing on one of the Middle East’s top circuits for Al Nabooda Racing, he is often to be found in another driving seat as President of the Porsche Club in the Emirates.
And then there is own personal collection of vehicles - eight Porsches, including four classic 911 Turbos - which compete for the attention of this passionate motor enthusiast who heads up a family group of businesses.
Al Azhari, a devoted father of three young boys, is currently doing his best not to influence them with his love for life in the fast lane, although he will not stand in their way should they decide to follow his footsteps into racing.
“Over the past few years my wife, Violetta, and I have been busy raising our three lovely young sons, Enzo (6), Keanu (4) and Adam (3),” he says proudly.
“When not racing or looking after the Porsche Club, I’ve spent just about every bit of my time with them.
“I try to keep them away from racing as much as possible to broaden their experiences in life, but I believe there is a big chance they may finally find their way into motor sport.”
Should any of his sons decide to follow him into the cockpit of a racing car, they will do well to match his achievements with Dubai-based Al Nabooda Racing, the team he set up with Al Nabooda Automobiles seven years ago.
Together they won the Gulf Radical Championship in 2005 and 2006 and then collected successive UAE GT racing titles in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Last season saw the team enter the exciting Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Middle East, now firmly established as the region’s headline motor racing series.
Despite starting his campaign halfway through the season, Al Azhari was quickly up to speed, notching his first podium place in Qatar in only his third race outing, and grabbing another third place finish during the final race weekend in Bahrain.
While many of his rivals head for the gym this summer, Al Azhari will be sharpening his driving skills on the race tracks of Europe as he looks to boost his assault on the Porsche GT3 Cup series next season.
With the new season still several months away, he will be aiming to snatch an advantage over some of his main rivals over the next few months.
“I believe the best preparation for racing is to spend as much time as you can in the car, both during the season and our off season between April and November,” said Al Azhari.
“During the summer I go racing in Europe while other drivers spend time in the gym. That may make them fitter, but by the time the new season comes around I’ll be sharper as a driver.
“This has always been one of my strengths. If I was out of racing for four months I’d be useless. I’m never out of a racing car for more than a few weeks at a time. That’s what keeps me at my top level.”
He adds: “I’m competing in a series of races in Europe this summer at FIA GT3 level. I’ve already done one race a few weeks ago in a Porsche at the Nurburgring where I finished on the podium.
“The aim is continue my advancement in motor sport internationally. Racing in Europe during the summer will also be beneficial for me in GT3 Cup terms because it will keep me sharp for the start of next season.”
Proud of his record to date, Al Azhari is determined to secure more honours to share with his family. “When I look at what I’ve done over the last decade I feel I’ve accomplished my dreams and in fact exceeded my expectations,” he says. “I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, and from where I’m standing the next decade looks good.
“I honestly was very surprised, and excited, to achieve my first podium in my third race in the Porsche GT3 Cup series last season,” he admits. “That was a big moment for me so soon into my first GT3 Cup series.
“I really exceeded my expectations. It’s a very challenging championship and I knew that the competition was going to be very strong, particularly as I was starting at the half way point.”
Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz Al Faisal will start the 2012-13 season as the favourite to retain the title he has won twice in the last three years, and Al Azhari knows he has a battle ahead of him.
“Abdulaziz will be starting as strong as he finished last season which makes it extremely tough for the rest of us,” he confesses. “From my point of view, I’ll be working very hard from the start and before the end of the season I should start reaping the benefits.”
“Having had two podium finishes last season, the targets now are to get my first pole position and my first race victory in the Porsche GT3 Cup series.
“To be realistic, there’s a lot of hard work to do before I can really expect to achieve those targets, but towards the end of next season I hope to be in a position to challenge.”
“In racing they say that when you have your first kid you slow down as a driver. But having three kids in the last six years has made me faster. Maybe I need to have some more kids.”
Lexus has announced the arrival of the 2012 luxury sedan ES350, incorporating interior and exterior upgrades.
The ES350 comes with standard amenities including smart entry and start system, leather seats with heating and cooling options for the driver and passenger; 10-way power front seats with standard driver memory, HID headlamps with Day Running Lamps - DRL, front and rear corner sensors; multi-information display and Bluetooth connectivity.
The ES350 comes in two new colours: Mercury Grey and Starlight Black and is available at Al-Futtaim Motors Lexus showrooms in four different packages: from Dhs166,000 to Dhs205,000.
As children tear through halls at this month’s Summer in Abu Dhabi festival at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), parents visiting the edu-tainment blockbuster - running from June 21 to July 19 – can register for a one-off draw to win a brand new Ford Expedition.
The prize, which combines full size SUV capability with comfort and technology, follows a landmark partnership between Premier Motors, the exclusive dealer for Ford and Lincoln vehicles in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, and Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), the festival organiser.
With Premier Motors - the ‘Official Car Partner’ for Summer in Abu Dhabi 2012 - displaying the latest Ford vehicles at ADNEC, all ticket-paying visitors can register to win the new Ford Expedition. A lucky winner will be drawn during the festival’s final week.
Ladies vs Ricky Bahl actress Anushka Sharma is revelling in her appointment as the new brand ambassador of The VS Motor Company for its Scooty range of two-wheelers. After being seen cavorting around London with Shah Rukh Khan on another motorbike for her, as yet untitled, latest Yash Raj film, this little hottie has become a hit among the biking fraternity.
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