Muscat: The reward of a place in the inaugural Oman Youth Rally Cup is now one step away for 36 young hopefuls entering the final phase of an intensive selection programme this week.
Many young Omanis were attracted by the launch last month of a project that uses motor sports as a platform to boost road-safety awareness, while creating future champions. Ultimately, 30 candidates will be selected later this month to enter the 2013 Oman Youth Rally Cup, forming three teams of ten people — each consisting of a driver, co-driver, four technicians, a team manager, test driver, a marketing executive, and a PR executive. The teams will contest all five rounds of the Oman National Rally Championship.The first winners of the Oman Youth Rally Cup will be decided by a scoring system based not only on rally results but also on each team's performance during community activities designed to encourage the public to become safer drivers.
The Oman Youth Rally Cup was conceived by the Sultanate's top rallying figure, Hamed Al Wahaibi, founder of Safety First, Oman's leading, independent, not-for-profit road-safety campaigning organisation. The project is officially supported by Oman Air Cargo and Oman Sail.
"I'm very excited about this project, especially because it allows me to give something back to Oman and lets me thank my country for supporting me in my international rallying career," said Al Wahaibi.
"Beyond that, it will help to increase awareness of and support for the main objective of Safety First, which is to contribute to the future prosperity of Oman by making its roads a safer place for all road users."
Over the last week, Al Wahaibi has supervised the penultimate phase of the selection process. Short-listed from the initial flow of applicants, 56 candidates underwent driver, co-driver, and technician assessment programmes at the Oman Automobile Association facility in Seeb. Those already engaged in motorsports and rallying in Oman were channelled into driver and co-driver programmes. A written test was combined with kart laps and slalom exercises, and the programme ended with a drift exercise using a Toyota Yaris car.
The drivers were assessed by Lebanese rally and hill climb multi-champion Abdo Feghali and Al Wahaibi, while the co-drivers were assessed by international rally co-driver Allan Harryman. Candidates currently involved in engineering studies went through a series of practical and written mechanical tests and were assessed by Chris Hodgson, an experienced international rally-team engineer, as well as the Al Wahaibi Motor Sports technicians' team.
"We are very impressed with the level of interest and enthusiasm shown, and the performance of all those who took part in the selection programmes this week was extremely encouraging," stated Al Wahaibi. The 36 candidates selected will now progress to an intensive three-day fitness assessment programme at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Bausher, starting today. The three teams for the 2013 Oman Youth Rally Cup will be announced at a media conference in Muscat on Feb. 16.
The final teams will then undergo professional training in first aid, fire fighting, CPR, defensive driving, road safety, rally driving, and navigation. They will also receive training in communication, sports psychology, media relations, presentations, sponsor relations, and various commercial aspects and will undergo continuous fitness assessments and interviews.
Using specially designed Toyota Yaris models that were built and tested in the Sultanate for rallying, the three teams will compete in their own category in this year's Oman National Rally Championship, which gets underway next month and concludes in December.
The winning team will automatically qualify for the 2014 Oman Youth Rally Cup, which will be expanded to accept additional teams. Members of the other teams can choose to participate in the Oman Rally Championship on their own by securing sponsors, or they can seek employment opportunities in their preferred industry.
Safety First campaigns to reduce road accidents and fatalities in Oman by 50 per cent by the year 2020 are in line with the United Nations' Decade of Action for Road Safety initiatives. Activities such as the Oman Youth Rally Cup are being planned and executed to help Safety First realise its end goal.