Round two of the Monster Energy Middle East Drift Championship saw the championship descend on Ras Al Khaima’s only karting track, RAK Track. As you can imagine, karting tracks are not the widest, which left little room for error when it came to the tandem drives. This didn’t stop the drivers putting it all on the line, as we witnessed yet another competitive door to door top 16.
Ali Maksheed had been absent at the first round in Liwa (a delayed new turbo halted his participation). His 2JZ 86 made its maiden appearance last season and it’s taken him some time to get used to it but, after a string of recent positive performances in his home country Kuwait, it didn’t take him long to light up the early practice session.
This was the first time we had seen Sultan Al Qassimi’s S15 (which features full carbon fibre panels) in action on UAE soil. Built towards the start of last summer, it was shipped straight to Europe to compete in both the BDC and IDC. Unfortunately it didn’t make it back in time for the first round of EDC so this was its first official competitive UAE debut.
There was however, one substantial change to it, the more powerful LSX engine had been swapped for a stock LS3. The reason? Finding the perfect balance between grip and power – something that is beneficial for smaller more technical tracks.
Have you ever seen a convertible 350Z drift? Ahmed Khalil’s definitely looked the part in his unconventional 350Z. It wasn’t originally a convertible/pick up but after a quick session with an angle grinding it was looking like one.
Ahmed Al Ameri, fresh from completing his military service, had the biggest smile on his face now that he can focus his time on drifting. He nearly missed the qualification after losing his rear right wheel late on during practice. He was able to get his 2J powered 86 out just in time, and laid down one of the most fluid runs of the session, scoring 91 seeing him top qualification.
Abdul Hadi sat in second in his LS powered RTR Mustang after scoring a clinical 90 on his last run. And Ali Maksheed just topped Adbul’s team mate Muath Al Essa, to third.
The real action kicked off in the top 16 and Al Ameri cruised into the top 8 as Ahmed Khalil was unable to match his pace during his chase run. At this point Al Ameri looked to be a sure favourite, appearing to be the fastest through the first three clipping points which was proving to be a make or break section of the track. His run toward the Final was sadly halted by mechanical failure during his battle with Dany Neville.
Ali Maksheed suffered a similar fate in his top 16 battle with Saeed Ahmed. Both drivers made mistakes at clipping point three in their first runs and the judges called one more time. On the run during Maksheed’s lead he almost pulled off a near perfect backward entry into the first clipping point giving him a decent lead. But as he entered clipping point four whilst being bang on Saeed’s bumper, his engine let go. Putting Saeed into the last 8.
This robbed us of a goliath battle between him and Ahmad Daham (who was missing 3rd gear after an issue in practice) in the top 8. Daham, who could only use first and second gears in his battle, easily fought off Mohammed Abdul and Saeed Ahmed early on. It wasnt until the final 4 where Daham met his match in Abdul Hadi. A result which went Daham’s way after Hadi over rotated in his chase run.
On the other side of the top 4, team mates Sultan and Dany met. We looked forward to another repeat run from Round One and there was nothing between their first run, which caused the judges to call one more time. In their second run Sultan was the more aggressive driver, scrubbing off part of his carbon fibre panels on Dany’s S14. This meant that Sultan progressed to the Final.
Before the final Dany and Abdul Hadi battled it out for third. The judges only needed one run to call this one (although we are still not sure how they called it). And it was Hadi who took the slender win.
In the Final it was Redbull vs Monster, 2J vs LS, FI vs NA. A Final that should have ended all arguments!…Or added more fuel to the fire. This battle should have been close, but Sultan’s lack of power from his stock LS3 let him down. Even with the lack of gears, Daham’s 700HP+ was a tough match and he manged to pull a sizeable gap during his lead run. One Sultan was only able to close up late on. And in his chase, Daham stayed glued to Sultans door. Take nothing away from Redbull driver, even with considerable more power sticking that close in such a tight track isn’t an easy task. It was chase run worthy of taking the top spot.
Sultan will not be disappointed though, as he heads into the final round in Oman with a healthy lead at the top of the Championship. He admitted that there would be a small increase in power for Oman. Which will be needed with the much larger layout which favours the higher powered cars. And rumor has it there are a few big Internationals flying in for this one!
Daham will surely be one of the favourites in Oman if he manages to keep all six gears. But, will he be able to close the gap on Sultan in the Championship cownsidering his early retirement in Liwa?
And what can the smiley face of Al Ameri do? He still sits second overall in the Championship and will be in the mix.
With the EDC shaping up to be not just the most exciting but also the most well organised championship to hit the Middle East in years, we certainly won’t be the action in Oman on the 9th and 10th of Feb.