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On Sunday night, while the world’s eyes were glued on the inferno at the Formula One Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix as driver Romain Grosjean was helped from the wreckage of his car, chief scrutineer Abdulrahman Ghuloom and his 32-member team were busy ensuring that the other F1 cars followed the strict rules that a red flag entails.
Abdulrahman, who was crowned the ‘Best Scrutineer in the World’ in 2019 by the FIA, has been the chief scrutineer at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) since it opened in 2004.
For him, Sunday night was the crescendo of a lifetime of technical scrutineering, borne out of a deep love for cars that started when he was just 14 years old.
“We always go through the red flag scenario during our Saturday meeting but this was the first time in BIC’s history that we actually had to implement that protocol,” the 73-year-old former race driver told GulfWeekly.
“We worked like a well-oiled machine, as each of us took our place beside our designated car to make sure all of FIA’s rules and regulations were followed.
“There are certain things that teams are allowed to change during this time and many that they are not allowed to adjust. We had to detail exactly what was done and by which team during the 80-minute-long red flag period.”
It is this attention to detail, quick response and willingness to serve for which Abdulrahman was recognised on a global stage in May.
Every year, each F1 host country nominates their best officials and FIA picks the best scrutineer, marshal, secretary, timekeeper and steward, and recognises the efforts of every volunteer during the FIA Volunteers Weekend at the end of November.
Serendipitously, for the first time in F1 history, the FIA Volunteers Weekend was celebrated in Bahrain, just before the volunteers earned their laurels during an incident-packed race about which the world is still talking.
“Receiving this global recognition means the world to me,” Abdulrahman said. “I’m incredibly proud of the achievement as well as the opportunity to show the world how much hard work Bahrain’s volunteers and scrutineers put in, to make the race weekend happen.
“I would like to thank the Bahrain Motor Federation and its president Shaikh Abdulla bin Isa Al Khalifa for their constant support.”
The overture of Abdulrahman’s love affair with motorsports started from behind the window of his school in Salmaniya, from where he would eye the garages across the road with great interest.
Soon, he started volunteering there to learn as much as he could about cars and before long, he was repairing them for friends and family. He was just 16 at the time.
When he went to the UK for his higher studies, he bought his first car, a Mini Cooper, from a scrap yard for £45 (BD22.64) and before long, he was ‘bashing cars with friends, as one did, back in the day’.
When he returned to Bahrain during the 1980s, he started competing in rally races and went on to drive in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UK and the UAE, amongst others.
“I love 4x4 cars and whenever I travel, I try to find a race to compete in,” the motorsport devotee, who regularly manages scrutineering teams of up to 65, added.
“I even got my wife, Esther and daughter, Carina, into racing, and they were co-drivers during a number of races.”
In fact, Carina, whom he lovingly calls Coco, was the inspiration for his auto shop, Coco’s Car Care.
Abdulrahman’s experience and technical knowledge was the reason he was picked as the Chief Scrutineer when the BIC opened in 2004, and since then, he has been inspiring and educating others in the fine art and science of scrutineering.
“Motorsport volunteers and officials are among the biggest contributors to motor racing events around the world,” BIC chief executive Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa commented.
“This is especially true here in Bahrain, and we could not be more grateful for such a capable and dedicated team that we have here.”
Last Sunday the marshals and scrutineers really showed their mettle ... and they’re up to the challenge again this weekend.
To learn more about the volunteers driving the BIC, see Page 7