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UAE’s seven-year-old karting prodigy Dhaheri gears up for 2016 challenge
By Agnelo Rodrigues December 17, 2015
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ABU DHABI: Seven-year-old UAE karting sensation Rashid Al Dhaheri has still another ten years on hand if he is to beat Max Verstappen’s record of being the youngest Formula One driver, but if his current success formula is any indication, he may just race into history books much earlier.

Known as ‘Little Alonso’ after his favourite driver Fernando Alonso, the Abu Dhabi prodigy made headlines this year on the international karting circuit by finishing second in one of the world’s toughest junior karting championships -- the Parolin Academy Championship in Italy.

Despite missing the first race of the championship because he was too young, he clinched back-to-back victories to excel at the Italian series, adding pace to his dream of being the UAE’s first F1 driver.

“I was very happy (with my performance) though I missed the first round,” said the young champion in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

“I learnt how to drive in wet conditions because here in the UAE we don’t get rain and I also learnt to be patient and how to stay within the lines,” added the smiling racer who prefers wet tracks.

“I feel I can be the first Formula One driver for the UAE,” he said while stating that 2016 could be more challenging. “Yes, (it will be more difficult), because everybody learns and they will try even harder. I want to be a champion not only next year, but every year.”

Rashid moves up an age category in 2016 and will be participating for the first time in the ROK Championship (Italy) in the Mini ROK Category (8-12 years old). The ROK Championship is the biggest and toughest karting event in the world with over 80 top drivers competing sometimes in the mini category alone.

Rashid will also be moving up to the Mini Category (8-12 years old) In the Parolin Academy Championship 2016 while on home turf he will be participating in the UAE Rotax Max Championship and debut in the Micro Max Category while he will be in the Rookie Category in the RAK Championship.

And how does he feel being nominated for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award in the ‘Local Young Athlete’ category?

“I am very happy and proud,” he said, a sentiment which was echoed by both his father and team principal.

“We are very proud of his achievements. Despite the challenge Rashid is very much looking forward to the 2016 season -- his enthusiasm for all things racing is incredible. Rashid learning curve has been exponential since he started, he never stopped to surprise us,” said his father Dr Ali Obaid Al Yabhouni.

Rashid has won over 20 races locally and internationally having reached the podium 38 times.

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