Focused Shihab looks to up the ante

In the high-octane world of motorsports, focus is the byword and determination its closest cousin. The 15-year-old Omani sensation Shihab Ahmed al Habsi epitomises these attributes in its entirety as he opens up about his career in a candid, exclusive chat with Oman Daily Observer. Racing since the age of seven, Shihab has come a fair distance since those early days of struggle and is constantly pushing the bar. The year 2019 began with a bang for Shihab as he clinched the first place in the first round of the UAE F4 Championship at the Dubai Autodrome. The victory ensured that he carved his name in Oman motorsports history becoming the first Omani to race and win in the UAE F4 Championship.
In the second round, Shihab had to be content with the second place as he was undone with an engine problem to his Abartha-powered Tatuus car.
As he conquers new peaks in his journey, Shihab is well aware of the challenges and obstacles that he faces. Competing with limited budgets naturally brings about certain constraints and Shihab has been facing all of that with an ever-present smile. Shihab revealed the difficulties and learnings that he has had over the years and recently while competing in the UAE F4 Championship. “I have learnt that racing is a lot tougher than I ever thought. I’m working hard on improving my skills and constantly thinking about ways of developing,’’ he said.
“Patience is very important and that is something I have learnt in racing. You have to be very patient and using your presence of mind while driving at 260 km/hr is not easy. That is crucial,’’ Shihab stated. Shihab explained that his understanding of the car is a lot better now and that has helped him race better.  “There are so many things that I have to be mindful about when I’m racing. I have to think about the tyre pressure, temperatures and the angles and corners. I have to know how the car needs to be driven at its best. That sense of understanding is important,’’ he added.
Shihab attends the Ahmed bin Majeed Private School in Al Hail and juggles his studies with his racing career. No means an easy task, but the young lad does a fine job putting in two hours a day after wrapping up school, six days in a week at the gym for physical strengthening.
With an excellent start to the year, Shihab is looking at maximising the returns from the remaining three rounds in the UAE F4 Championship.
Currently, Shihab stands at the third position overall after the completion of the two rounds.
Italy’s Matteo Nannini and Paraguay’s Joshua Durksen occupy the top two slots giving him stiff competition.
Talking about his fellow racers on the UAE F4 circuit, Shihab is all praise for their professionalism.
“They have a very good background and support system. It is hard and tough to compete against them,’’ he revealed.
The Omani racer also felt they were also generously helped by the fact that they had sufficient budget at their disposal, which was not the case with him.  “Having a good budget ensures they get enough practice time in the car, engineers, coach etc,’’ Shihab added. Shihab’s father Ahmed, who has been his backbone throughout his career, revealed that his son would need 260,000 Omani rials as budget for all aspects of his expenses.
With his career trajectory on the rise, Shihab would need all the help he could get from various quarters. With impressive performances in the UAE F4 circuit, Shihab is focused on moving up the ladder soon and hopefully compete in the F3 circuit. It has been a tough learning curve for the affable and sharp Shihab, but the young lad is certainly richer on experience after seven years. “It has been tough and I have learnt a lot in my life. It has made me a different person. I have learnt some life lessons and patience is something very important I feel,’’ he added. “My focus has also changed and I am very clear about what I want,’’ young Shihab signed off.