Undisputed Ace of Rally

Winning the Oman Rally Championship 2012 last week was arguably the biggest comebacks by former international rally champion Hamed Al Wahaibi but the legendary driver confessed he has nothing more to prove in his otherwise illustrious career.

Speaking to Times Sport, Hamed said his return to the rally stage has instigated the 'young drivers' to be more competitive.

"I think it's a fantastic comeback and it all happened because of the way I worked hard throughout this year. My return to the rally scene has certainly increased the level of competitiveness the sport required that is indeed a good thing," he said.  
Hamed, who placed Oman in the international motorsport arena through a career which spanned over a decade, made a return last year with an aim to further develop the sport.  On Friday, Hamed emerged the overall champion despite his competitor Khalid Soomar winning the fifth and final round of the Oman Rally Championship to finish on same points as Hamed. However, Hamed was declared the eventual winner thanks to more number of first place finishes than Khalid.

Bright future
"I know quite a lot of these drivers for sometime though I never got to race against them before. I must tell you that these drivers are a good bunch of people. They have immense talent and I am sure on the long run they can certainly put Oman Rally scene on top," Hamed noted. Hamed who has created history when he became the first Omani to win second position in the World Rally Championship group N, while he is also the first Omani and the first athlete in the Gulf to be selected as a Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations Children Organisation (UNICEF). He is also the only Arab to participate in 36 World Rally Championship races. Winning the Oman Rally championship for the first time, Hamed said his decision to drive in Toyota Yaris hatch-pack, made the difference in the rally.

"Everyone was having that big sporting cars but our plans were different. Having driven for over two decades and with all the experience, it would have been unfair in not letting these young drivers race against me.

"It was this passion to drive forced me to return and when I had all the facilities to and a strong team to support; we decided to convert Yaris into a racing car. The specifications were fully integrated by my team of engineers and it is such a brilliant car," he said.

Different plans
According to Hamed, in the next season, he will have different plans for the rally. "Our purpose is to promote the young drivers and to develop a strong foundation for this sport and as part of that we have many innovative programmes coming on our way.  Who knows we might try out some other car for the next season," Hamed said.Talking about the growth of motorsport in the country, Hamed while praising the efforts made by Oman Automobile Association (OAA), said the sport has a bright future in the country. "OAA is doing a fantastic job as far as promoting the sport is concerned. They have increased the number of rallies over the years and that is a good sign. More youngsters have taken-up the sport with great passion and I think there is a bright future for the sport in the country," Hamed added.


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