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THE first Arab team is all set to make waves during the Gulf Air Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix weekend at the home of motor sport in the Middle East.
Qi-Meritus.Mahara team will take to the track at the Bahrain International Circuit in the GP2 Asia series which will be a support race for the F1 weekend. The Bahrain event will be the fourth and penultimate round of the series, which was officially announced during last year's Monaco Grand Prix.
The GP2 has been the launch pad into the coveted Formula One hot-seat for a number of drivers including last year's World Championship runners-up Lewis Hamilton, who won the 2006 race in Bahrain. Hamilton's McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen and Toyota's Timo Glock also came into F1 through the GP2 series after fine performances.
Saudi businessman Raad Abduljawad, who is an ardent fan of the Williams F1 team, is the team chairman of Qi-Meritus.Mahara. He joined up with old friend Peter Thompson and applied for a franchise when the GP2 Asia series was launched.
Following the launch of his team Abduljawad said: "With Qi-Meritus.Mahara we have now created a local team for drivers and fans to support. The proven format of GP2 encouraged me to combine forces with Peter's Meritus brand. His experience and energy will no doubt make a great success of the Qi-Meritus.Mahara GP2 team."
After three rounds of the series, Qi-Meritus.Mahara, which is the only Asian team in the series, has done reasonably well with their drivers - Italian Luca Fillippi and Japanese Hiroki Yoshimoto - taking fifth and sixth place respectively in the feature race in Dubai while Yoshimoto took fourth place in the sprint race.
The next two rounds in Indonesia and Malaysia - a support event for the F1 race - was a forgettable one for the team.
One week after Bahrain, the series will return to its base in Dubai for its season finale and the final Grand Racing event of 2008 (April 11-12).
On their chances in the next round in Bahrain, Abduljawad said: "We are looking forward to race at the Bahrain Grand Prix as the team races under a Saudi licence. The team has plenty of potential and is in a determined mood to record a strong result in Bahrain and fight at the front for our fans."
He is the business manager and the managing director of Saudi Diesel Equipment, a company which manufactures generators and sells construction equipment.
Abduljawad's family business was importing cars to Saudi Arabia and that was his initiation into the world of motor sport. He later took to the race tracks when he was pursuing higher studies in the US by competing in the Formula Ford in California.
"My confidence grew after putting in a lot of training and practice over the three years when I was in the States. Thereafter, I worked for a finance institute in Europe and met Peter while competing in the Vauxhall Lotus Series with him," said Abduljawad, 45.
He has also participated in the Bahrain Autocross races and won a number of them.
"I got to feel what it is like to stand on the top step of the podium!" he said.