Muscat: The wait is almost over for 32 young Omanis, who will be groomed as the Sultanate's next generation of rally drivers and road-safety ambassadors.
Four teams of eight youths each, who will take part in the inaugural Oman Youth Rally Cup, will be announced at a press conference on Saturday, following the completion of an intensive selection programme. Ahead of them lies an exciting double challenge: to compete in the 2013 Oman Rally Championship and to play a key role in a year-long series of community activities designed to encourage the general public in the Sultanate to become safer drivers.
"We had a great response to the project from the youth of Oman, and all the candidates who went through the selection programme have worked very hard," said Hamed Al Wahaibi, Oman's top rallying figure and creator of the Oman Youth Rally Cup.
"We adjusted our original plan to select three teams and added an extra team because of the demand. Even then, it has been a difficult task to select 32 from all those who wanted to take part. But we're now looking forward to introducing them on Saturday and to working with them to achieve our main objectives: to raise road-safety awareness in Oman and to create future rally champions."
The Oman Youth Rally Cup was conceived by Safety First, Oman's leading, independent, not-for-profit, road-safety campaigning organisation, which was founded by Al Wahaibi. Safety First is officially supported by Oman Air Cargo and Oman Sail.
The four teams to be announced on Saturday will each consist of a driver, co-driver, five technicians, and a team captain. They were selected at the end of a demanding three-day fitness assessment programme held this week at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Bausher, which included "reaction" tests for the selection of drivers and co-drivers.
This fitness programme had followed intensive driver, co-driver, and technician assessment programmes, as part of the selection process, at the Oman Automobile Association facilities in Seeb last week. The final teams will next 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, presentation, sponsor relations, and the commercial aspects of rally driving and will undergo continuous fitness assessments and interviews.
"This level of intensive training and education within the project is intended not just to create future business leaders and sports champions but also to create better, safer drivers, grooming them to become road-safety ambassadors who reach out to the community and encourage everyone to adopt the habit of being safer road users," stated Al Wahaibi.
Using specially designed Toyota Yaris 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 starts next month and finishes in December. The winners of the inaugural Oman Youth Rally Cup will be decided by a scoring system based on a combination of rally results and the team's performance in a series of community activities aimed at making the general public safer drivers.
This event reflects the mission of Safety First: to reduce road accidents and fatalities in Oman by 50 per cent by the year 2020 in line with the United Nations' Decade of Action for Road Safety initiative.