LOCAL riders have struggled to make their mark in Qatar racing ever since Mishal Al Naimi’s five-year reign in the Qatar Superbikes Championship had ended in 2010.
Frenchman Anthony Delhalle had halted Mishal’s domination back then. Australian Alexander Cudlin had a five-year run at the top as foreign riders kept dominating at local talents’ expense.
Wiser counsel has finally prevailed at the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) as it decided to replace the Qatar International Superbike Championship with the Qatar Superstock 600cc (QSTK).
The idea was plain and simple — give more chance to local riders and cut the costs.
The one-make championship involving a stock 600cc motorcycle has created a level-playing field unlike the now discarded event, which saw powerful machines enjoy undue advantage.
“Our aim is to open doors to more local riders. With the help of Losail Circuit Sports Club, we’re trying to keep the cost as low as possible so that we can have maximum competitors,” QMMF President Abdulrahman Al Mannai said during the championship’s opening round last week.
The QSTK features 12 races over six rounds run until May. The third round, held concurrently with the MotoGP season opener on March 26, will be the only night race.
The riders, including Mishal, Saeed Al Sulaiti (Qatar’s World Superbike competitor) and Nasser Al Malki (ex-Spanish CEV rider) were picked after a round of official testing.
“We would like to assess the skills of young Qatari riders. Currently, we’ve only Saeed competing at the international level. We want to see more nationals to follow suit. This is a perfect platform for them to develop,” said Al Mannai.
Lack of enough opportunities and sponsorship has hindered the local talents’ growth. The QMMF believes QSTK can bring about the desired change.
“The QSTK has a consolidated entry fee covering all costs, including that of the bike, fuel and services of professional mechanics. And with all riders using the same machine, there won’t be any undue advantage. The most talented rider should reach on top and that’s our aim,” added Al Mannai.
Five-time World SuperSport champion Kenan Sofuoglu, who was at Losail last October for the World Superbike Championship’s final round, when the QMMF launched the new initiative, had lauded it, saying, “This is a great platform for people who want to start a motor sports career. When I started off 16 years ago, my dream was to race in a World Championship. I think there’ll be a Qatari rider somewhere dreaming it really big after the launch of QSTK,” said the Turkish star.
QMMF too will expect the competition to make such an impact.