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Sheikh Khalid drives the FW31

the first Qatari to drive a F1 car


By Franck Drui

10 December 2009 - 16:23
Sheikh Khalid drives the FW31

His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar, owner of the Al-Anabi Group of Drag Racing Teams in the US and the Middle East, became the first Qatari to drive a Formula One car when he took to the 5.3km Losail International Circuit in a Williams FW31 today.

His Highness completed a comprehensive preparation process including travelling to the AT&T Williams team base in Oxford, UK, earlier this week for a seat fit and a detailed instruction process in the team’s advanced simulator. Combined with his tireless preparation and training with his Al Anabi Drag Racing team, His Highness Sheikh Khalid was fully prepared to use his competition driving experience to become the first Qatari ever to drive a Formula One car.

Having completed 5 laps of the circuit, His Highness commented, “The Williams FW31 is a remarkable vehicle, unlike any other race car I’ve ever driven. Being the first Qatarian to drive a Formula One car was an amazing experience I will not forget. I am proud that I was able to experience this honour at home in the State of Qatar.”

His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani recently took first place at a 2009-10 Arabian Drag Racing League event at the Qatar Race Club, making the second-quickest Pro Extreme pass in the world. His Highness is a patron of motorsport in Qatar and internationally. He also heads the development of the Qatar Motor City project, a planned international destination which aims to further His Highness’ vision of the State of Qatar as a centre for international motorsports by combining a world-class oval track, road racing course and drag racing track into a motorsports dedicated city. His Highness has been in lengthy discussions with NASCAR in the US about involvement in Qatar Motor City. Combined with his leadership in international drag racing through Al Anabi Racing and his continuing relationship with the Williams Team and others involved in Formula One racing, under his direction Qatar Motor City aims to be one of the world’s leading motorsports hubs for all forms of racing.

Sir Frank Williams, the AT&T Williams Team Principal said, “It was a privilege to be able to facilitate this historic first for His Highness and the State of Qatar today. The team of engineers that worked with Sheikh Khalid reported that he demonstrated considerable skill and aptitude in the DIL simulator at our headquarters near Oxford this week. Based on his established competition experience and competence in the DIL, we extended an additional invitation to enable His Highness Sheikh Khalid to drive the FW31, and he acquitted himself with honours. We are delighted and honoured that His Highness has not only sampled our simulator technology which is the basis for our recent investment in the Qatar Science and Technology Park in Doha, but that he has now driven the FW31 and can not only draw comparison between the virtual and real world. Equally we hope a first-hand Formula One experience will assist in His Highness with his future vision for the Qatar Motor City.”

The team additionally ran a series of demonstration laps led by 2010 season team race driver, Nico Hulkenberg. Having raced and won at the circuit in the GP2 Asia Championship, he commented, “I really like this circuit, it has a flow that suits my driving style, so it was great to come back here for a filming project with the team and to provide His Highness with some assistance in his first drive in a Formula One car. Although I doubt the straight line speed compares with a Top Fuel Dragster that he is used to racing, I hope some of the other performance aspects of Formula One technology impressed him.” Nico Hulkenberg will stay in Doha next week to use some of the first-class sporting facilities to conduct a winter training camp.

AT&T Williams’ other 2010 season race driver, the vastly experienced Rubens Barrichello sampled the Losail International Circuit for first time this week and remarked that, “There are plenty of corners on the Losail Circuit, so it took a while to memorise, but it had great grip level and the layout is great. It has a long enough straight to promote good overtaking and it would make a great venue for a Grand Prix.”

The team’s visit to Losail concluded a filming and photography project generating material that will be used by the team’s numerous sponsors, promoting Qatar around the world.

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