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Drifting alone

Refaat al Yahyai, who secured the Oman King of Drift title for the third time in a row this year, has now set his eyes on the regional series finals to be held in Turkey on September 1. However, with private sponsors turning a Nelson’s eye towards him, Oman’s star drifter is left to stand all by himself in a contest which sees scores of sponsors backing contestants from every participating country in the region.

Refaat had won the regional series finals in Kuwait in 2017, while in 2018, he lost the title to Lebanese competitor Oliver el Kik, at the series finals held in Lebanon. This year, he is confident of bagging the King of Drift series title once again and is keeping his fingers crossed for securing sponsors to back his participation.

Refaat will compete against drifters from 11 other countries. The series comprises qualifiers from Kuwait, Egypt, Oman, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Algeria, Mauritius, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Georgia and Jordan.

In Oman, no one supports this kind of sport. Drifting is a costly sport and we do need private sponsors to help us pursue our goals. Refaat al Yahyai

Every drifter from each participating country is entitled to be accompanied by two mechanics for the finals.

“In Oman, no one supports this kind of sport. Drifting is a costly sport and we need private sponsors to help us pursue our goals. I won the Middle East King of Drift title in 2017, but could not retain it in 2018 because I did not receive the car I needed on time and had to hire another car which I was not used to handling,” Refaat told TheWeek, adding, “This year, I will do my very best to bring the title back to Oman.”

Refaat also disclosed that in the absence of sponsorship, he has no elaborate plans to prepare for the finals. “I just have my own garage where, during my free time, I experiment and try out something new. I have spent about RO65,000 from my own savings to get my car ready for this contest. I have no sponsors to support me.”

He further pointed out that even without sponsors, his car has been prepared on par with the some of the best on the tracks. The only difference between him and other drifters, he said, was that they enjoy support and he doesn’t.

“I learnt to fix cars from my father; he taught me the basics of repairs and modifications. After that, I started doing mechanical work all by myself and fixing racing cars of different types till I managed to build my own car. I call it my Wing Machine.”

At the 2019 Oman finals of the Red Bull Car Park Drift, held at the Oman Automobile Association (OAA) grounds on April 5, Refaat was followed by Arif al Balooshi in second place and Sami al Shaibani in third place.

OAA proves to be one of the finest drifting tracks facility in the Middle East, designed by Abdo Feghali, previous Guinness Book of World Records holder for the longest drift. The results were impressive looking at the track’s difficulty and layout, which kept the competition intense until the last run, organisers said.

Drifters began the first heat consisting of 15 competitors on the challenging track. Haitham al Hadidi, who had won the regional title in 2016, was, however, not part of the qualifiers this year as he is pursuing studies abroad.

This year, the drifters’ performance was determined based on car look and design (40 points), drifting skills (120 points), boxes (50 points), spiral (20 points), gate (20 points), flipper (60 points), pendulum (50 points), car sound (20 points), and tyre smoke (20 points).

Refaat edged past the competition and clinched the title with a jaw-dropping performance collecting an impressive 270 points. He is confident of bagging top scores in the contest in Turkey to leave all his competitors from the region trailing behind, quite literally, Refaat said, adding that he idolises Abdo Feghali who has helped him a lot with expert advice for his racing career.