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Ulster Experts Help Drive Motorsport Talent

27 July 2011

The University of Ulster has strengthened its ties with the Automobile and Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates (ATCUAE) through a groundbreaking new project designed to develop young driver talent in the UAE.

The UAE Motorsport Star Programme is a talent identification and training initiative targeted at potentially elite drivers in order to develop the skills and attitudes they require to progress their motorsport careers. Promising drivers from 16 to 24 years old, from all disciplines of racing such as track, rallying and karting, took part.

The initiative commanded huge media attention across the Middle East and Dubai TV will be broadcasting a series of documentaries charting the selection progress in the UAE as part of its new season of programming.

After a rigorous period of testing Mohammed Al Mutawaa from Dubai and Mohammed Al Dhaheri from Al Ain were announced as the joint winners of the inaugural UAE Motorsport Star Programme 2011. Along with a host of other benefits both will attend the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campus, one of the leading sports centres in the UK, to continue their development and training under the watchful eye of expert sport scientists.

During their time in Belfast both Al Mutawaa and Al Dhaheri will undergo a stringent training course designed to condition them for a successful career in elite motor sport.

Dr David Hassan, from the University’s School of Sports Studies, said: “This intensive programme will benefit these young drivers as it will reveal what is required of them physically and mentally to compete on the world stage. The University is bringing its sporting expertise to the forefront of driver development. Through our physiological and psychological analysis of promising driving talent, we can help develop and guide the motorsport stars of the future.”

The decision to send these elite drivers to the University of Ulster emerged from the signing of an historic agreement with the United Arab Emirates' motor sport federation in December 2010 when Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the Vice President of Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) visited the University, accompanied by His Excellency Abdulrahman Ghanem Almutaiwee, the UAE Ambassador to the UK, on their first ever visit to Northern Ireland.

Mr Ben Sulayem, the most recognisable sporting figure in the Middle East on account of his global reputation as a former star driver, said: “I want to thank all the drivers for competing in this programme, it is great to see a selection of outstanding drivers with so much potential. The two successful drivers have excelled during the testing and they have great potential in their careers as professional drivers. This programme has shown the motorsport talent the UAE has and also the team spirit shared among the drivers. We look forward to working with them in this exciting new stage in their life. I feel UAE motorsport is the true winner because this programme has proven that we have a depth of talent across all the disciplines of kart, rally and racing and we look forward to growing this initiative with the University of Ulster in the years to come.”

During the Motorsport Star Programme the drivers were subjected to intense physical and mental fitness, media handling skills and also interviews with a panel of experts. On day one the drivers undertook a diverse array of media tests, including one to one interviews in Dubai TV Studio and also a comprehensive physiological analysis at the Higher College of Technology, Dubai supervised by Dr Gareth Davison, Senior Lecturer from Ulster’s Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute.

On day two, the drivers undertook psychological testing conducted by Dr Tadhg MacIntyre, also from the University’s panel of sport science experts. The conclusion to the programme saw the candidates interviewed by a panel of experts, chaired by Mr Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the ATCUAE and Vice-President of the FIA. Alongside Mr Ben Sulayem were Dr David Hassan, from the University of Ulster, Mahir Badri, Chief Executive of the ATCUAE, and Khalid Al-Hussein, Director of Sport Administration at the General Authority of Youth Welfare and Sports at the Dubai Sports Council.