Dubai, UAE, 15 December 2019: On Saturday the podium was once again silent following a long afternoon of trophies and smiles in the final round of the Dubai Kartdrome Endurance Championship Powered by Motorsport Wheels. Teams were packing up gear and visiting drivers were looking for the next flight out of Dubai. After 24 hours of track action and the lively atmosphere of a full race paddock, the circuit was suddenly empty and quiet.
This was a good time to finally catch up with Emirates Group Karting Club (EGKC) Teams Principal Redza Jamil and see how the two Emirates teams were faring after an eventful final race.
Going into the final round, both Emirates Racing (#8) and Team Emirates (#9) were leading their respective championship categories. It was a long hard-fought road to get to this point, with EGKC essentially fighting a war on two fronts, against defending champion Bin Drai Karting Team (#21) in the Pro Class and against old nemesis LD Russia (#18) for Corporate honours.
If that wasn’t enough, two-time Formula One Champion Fernando Alonso and his racing buddies Pedro de le Rosa, Alberto Albilares and Ángel Burgueño rolled into town with FA Racing (#14) to join a hefty grid full of talent. It would not be easy, but Emirates Group Karting Club had the opportunity to win a historic double, a feat only achieved by one other team, CG Racing.
They almost pulled it off.
Emirates teams have long ruled the Corporate category with titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but the coveted Pro championship have always eluded them. Emirates Racing, with drivers Arjun Manjunath, Romaldo Labrooy, Ramez Azzam and Tom Bale, finally delivered the Pro title for 2019 but it would come at a price.
LD Russia earned its first Corporate crown at the expense of Team Emirates, the Russian racers beating out the Emirates squad by a mere two championship points. Having traded one title for another I found Redza and his teams recovering in Emirates pit garage, looking weary but smiling.
The comradery of the Emirates teams is unmistakable, from the trademark EGKC pit lane salute to the traditional podium selfie, this band of drivers and crew show great character, class and fellowship.
I sat down with their ever-popular leader for a chat. Here are some highlight quotes…
It Wasn’t Easy
“There was a period of about two or three hours where we were just losing so much. The drivers were giving their all. It’s a very physically demanding track and towards the end you could see the drivers were just getting so exhausted.”
“We’ve done really well in the last three years with the Corporate championship, winning three in row. That was a lot of fun, but we know the competition is going to get more difficult every year.”
We’re Still Having a Great Time
“We always have a lot of fun here. The atmosphere here is always, always amazing.”
“We feel the hype every time we come here. Everyone’s in a good mood and it’s just a friendly racing environment, which is why we’re here. We’re here for fun and that’s what we’re getting.”
Ready to Challenge for the Nations Cup?
“We thought about it; we actually can. We have enough drivers to form at least one team, I think. I won’t say no to that; it’s a new challenge. Why not?”
Did I Mention It Wasn’t Easy?
“I’m so tired (laughs), I just can’t think anymore! I think everyone is so tired. It’s been a long gruelling race. Everyone had to pull together, everyone is pushing each other, everyone is just putting so much effort, throughout not just the 24 hours but throughout the whole year we’ve been competing here.”
2019 Season Final Thoughts
“Very proud for the team. Very proud for every individual here who has done so much; I’m just so happy that I have these people around me.”
Right after Redza said that one of his teammates who had been listening to the interview piped up with, “And thanks to you!”
Nothing more to say. I switched off the recorder and wished the teams the best of luck in 2020. I look forward to watching the Emirates teams take on their rivals Bin Drai Karting Team and LD Russia in another thrilling edition of the Dubai Kartdrome Endurance Championship Powered by Motorsport Wheels.
Report: Aaron Meriwether
Photos: Aaron Meriwether & Arthur Rosales