Supercars MEBahraini Raed Raffii, representing leading motorsport solutions specialists Meezer Group, showed his unlimited potential over the past weekend by taking a double podium, including a fantastic victory, in the second round of the Chevrolet Supercars Middle East Championship at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).

Raed, sponsored by Tamooz and Batelco, upstaged the nearly 20-car field of more experienced regional talent with third place in race one and then a dominant win in race two. The 20-year-old was in fine form from the very moment he stepped into the car for the first session of practices on Friday.

n qualifying held later the same day, Raed secured a spot on the front row alongside defending champion and compatriot Fahad Al Musalam. It was a promising start to a busy day, and was a fitting sign of things to come.

On to race one, where Raed steered clear of trouble at turn one after a rip-roaring start but lost a position to fellow-competitor Mohammed Al Owais of the UAE and dropped to third. Raed tried hard to pressure the Emirati into making a mistake over the race’s early stages and a fierce battle ensued, with both drivers touching a few times. Al Owais defended well so Raed shifted his focus to keeping his place on the podium as he was beginning to experience some car trouble. Raed eventually completed the race distance 9.852 seconds behind winner Al Musalam, and his strong showing helped him secure his first podium of the season and paved the way for even greater things to come in the round.

Raed RaffiiRaed commented: “I was thinking of avoiding any accidents at the start, so I thought I’d let Mohammed go and just follow him and hope he makes a mistake. “Once I touched him, I didn’t want to lose his race and mine, so I thought I would just maintain the car on a certain pace so I could finish in third. Mohammed was also very competitive. He did a good job defending, and he built a gap on me as I had an issue with the braking prior to the end.”

For race two, Raed was positioned in fourth for the rolling start behind pole-sitter Al Musalam, Al Owais and fellow-Bahraini Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. With all three ahead of him, Raed faced the tough task of overtaking some of the Middle East’s most renowned names in the sport, but the youngster rose to the challenge. Pushing with an unwavering determination and an SC09 car that was set up to perfection, Raed stormed down the main straight as the green lights came on and took the inside line to pass Al Musalam. By turn one, he was in front, and even to his surprise, it was a clear path the rest of the way. Raed’s pace was so impressive that midway through the race, he was six seconds clear of the trailing pack, and despite the heavy downpo! ur that blanketed BIC over the final few laps, Raed actually extended his advantage. He took the chequered flag while enjoying a 9.835-second gap ahead ofAl Musalam, who was followed to the finish line by Shaikh Hamad Ecstatic with his win, Raed was seen celebrating on top of his car’s hood and then later with team manager Fahad Hizam and Coach Malcolm Edeson. Raed then led his countrymen Al Musalam and Shaikh Hamad out onto the podium, and could not hide his ecstasy as he jumped up in joy, with fist pumped high in victory, to cap a brilliant weekend.

Raed said with a bright smile on his face: “I was totally surprised when I went through and took the lead at the start. “I was expecting Fahad to close the door on me, but he didn’t. From there, I just tried to do the quickest laps I could, as if it were qualifying. When the rain came down, I got a bit nervous, but next thing I know, I saw the chequered flag and I had won. “I’m competing against some really great drivers, and I’m so glad to be here in this championship. This is a very big win for me and the team, and I hope we can continue like this until the season’s end.” Raed’s results made up for a disappointing first round held in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit in October/November, where he was seventh in race one but did not finish race two.

An elated Fahad commented: “I’m very glad that everything we did between now and the first round has paid off today. I’m very glad that we won and that Raed did what he always wanted, and of course, what we as a team, wanted. It’s really great to be a part of this here today.”

The second round’s results helped Raed rocket to third place on the championship standings after a 17-point haul that brought his overall season tally to 19 points. He continues to trail leader Al Musalam, who extended his total to 34 points, while another Bahraini, Shaikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa, stayed in second place with 20 points.

Fahad added: “Raed has always been ready to race, but the car did not perform to its best in the previous three races. Today, the car was ready, so Raed won by a big gap, beating the defending champion.”

Coach Malcolm said: “To see him on top of the podium is extremely satisfying. I was worried prior to the last race that he had taken too much out of the tyres previously because we put new ones on for race one. But I told him he would actually be in better position from the start, and that proved to be the case. He was in first by turn one and he had no tyre problems from there. “I feel for Raed because he had such a terrible weekend at Yas Marina Circuit through no fault of his own, but because of car issues. He knew he was fast, but at this level you’ve got to prove it. That’s what counts. You can be fast, but if you don’t finish, there’s no points. “But following this spectacular second round, I think he can win the championship. That’s what we’re here for. In race one, we had many problems in the car, which we sorted. In race two, he was dominant. With reliability on our side and with a little bit of luck in this game, Raed can be the new champion.”

Raed will definitely get a chance to show his worth once more when the season heads to Reem International Circuit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for round three on January 6 and 7.

Meezer Group
Supercars ME