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Egypt's Ghibli raceway hosts Middle East Karting Cup

CAIRO: Although local motorsport is still taking baby steps, Egypt will have the honor of hosting the Middle East Karting Cup. Ghibli raceway, located in Sharm El-Sheikh, will co-host the championship in conjunction with the Kartdrome raceway in Dubai. The move is hailed as a step forward, if not a leap, in the still struggling …


CAIRO: Although local motorsport is still taking baby steps, Egypt will have the honor of hosting the Middle East Karting Cup.

Ghibli raceway, located in Sharm El-Sheikh, will co-host the championship in conjunction with the Kartdrome raceway in Dubai.

The move is hailed as a step forward, if not a leap, in the still struggling motorsport. Experts say that karting is the first step for any serious racer interested in ultimately competing in the Formula One and NASCAR championships; most well known champions like Michael Shumacher started their careers in karting.

“The Middle East Karting Cup marks the dawn of a new era for motorsports like karting, says Ghibli Raceway Chairman Hany Soufrakis. “It serves as a critical development feeder for higher motorsport formulas for all aspiring Middle East nationals seeking a place in the fast developing motorsport world.

Soufrakis announced the news on Tuesday at the ongoing Mediterranean Travel Fair. The championship is expected to boost the tourism industry with an increasing influx of visitors interested in this sport.

“Sporting enthusiasts already know Egypt for its world-class diving and more recently its golfing, dune buggying and even sandboarding and kite-surfing, says Soufrakis. “Motorsport and karting have also become increasingly popular in Egypt, especially since Ghibli Raceway hosted the prestigious Rotax Max Challenge World Finals in 2004 and many high profile corporate events since; all our top-notch circuits. Now we are raising the bar again with the Middle East Karting Cup.

Ghibli Raceway has hosted many world leaders including the king of Bahrain, Michael Schumacher and several Arab and European entertainment stars.

Derek Ledger, vice president and head of the Middle East and Africa division of the Federation International d’Automobile (FIA), attended the press conference. Representing the official global association responsible for karting and other motorsports including Formula One, Ledger complemented the raceway, saying it is one of the top four internationally licensed karting tracks.

The Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt is the Egyptian member of the FIA and consequently one of the participants. The club’s vice chairman and CEO attended the press conference. This won’t be the first time the club works with motorsports championships; the Pharaoh Rally is only one example of its previous efforts.

Roland Geidel Mostorsport Marketing Company (RGMMC), a leading organizer of high profile motorsports champions around the world, is also part of the event. “We believe strongly that the Middle East can produce world-class kart races equivalent to any of their counterparts in Europe, says Roland Geidel, RGMMC general manager.

“The Middle East Karting Cup will be open to drivers from around the world, similar to the 28-country Euro Challenge, which RGMMC also organizes and promotes, he adds.

Geidel says that he expects that this cup will grow in the next three years until it is on par with other European races.

Also taking part in the organization and handling the UAE rounds is Bahrain-based Thunder Arabia, the first Arab company working professionally in motorsports.

Sherif Al-Mahdy, marketing director of Thunder Arabia Motorsport and Driver Development, says that the company’s main target is to make a Middle East championship in motorsports. Thunder Arabia participates in the Formula One race in Bahrain. In the upcoming Karting Cup, it will offer the winner sponsorship for a whole season.

The event is only being held in two countries this time, says Ledger, but hopefully more will join in future rounds. Ghibli has a two-year deal, running through 2008 to organize the championship. As more countries build karting tracks to international standards, they will join the rounds of the Cup. This time, the 2007 Cup will kick off in Dubai in January. The second round will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in February, the third in Dubai in April and the final will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in June. The same schedule applies to the 2008 Cup.

The championship is divided into three categories: one for juniors in the 13-16 age bracket, one for seniors aged 16 or over and another for masters aged 32 or over. There will be an adjacent celebrity charity race at the finals, featuring singer Ragheb Alama and Mohamed Ben Sulayem, president of the Automobile and Touring Club in the United Arab Emirates.

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