Two-time champion James Deane of Ireland edged out Sebastian Fontijn of the Netherlands in the final to grab the first round title of Oman International Drift 2020 at the Muscat Drift Arena on Friday night.
Oman’s Tariq al Shaihani earned a creditable third in the Oman Automobile Association (OAA) organised high-voltage twin-drift battles in front of a capacity crowd.
Deane, nick-named as ‘The Machine’ due to clinical performances in the drift arenas, was in his familiar form but was given a ‘run for money’ by Fontijn, who was attending his first twin drift championship in the Middle East.
“It was a testing round for me tonight. Sebastian gave a close fight in the final. I’m happy to overcome the challenges,” Deane told the Observer.
The judges had a tough time in deciding the winner as there were only minutest margins of errors from both the lanky drivers in the title-clash.
He also appreciated the performances of Omani drifters, especially Tariq and Sami al Shaibani. Sami finished fourth.
“Credit to the Oman Automobile Association for hosting such hugely talented drivers,” he said.
Sebastian, who beat Alan Hynes of Ireland in the semifinal after Alan retired due to a gear box issue, said he was satisfied with his performance in the debut Middle East drift challenge.
“I gave my full efforts and it is satisfying to take the second position in the highly-competitive event. Credit to all the drivers who made this a high-standard championship,” the Dutchman said.
OMANI DRIVERS EXCEL
The round also witnessed stunning performances from Omani drivers as two of the local drivers qualified to the semifinals from the total of 48 drivers.
Omani drivers swept the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) category as Tariq emerged on top with Sami and Haitham al Hadidi to follow. It was a repeat of the national category podium too.
“Tonight, I have won three trophies. I pushed hard in the semifinal against Sebastian but missed out closely,” Tariq, who won first in the national and Mena categories and third in international category, said.
The Omani drifter hoped he would be able to maintain the same form in the second and third rounds.
Another Omani on the podium, Sami said it was enriching experience.
“The competition was really challenging. It helped to bring out your best and I look forward to more challenging performances in the coming rounds,” Al Shaibani said.
On Thursday, the first day, two official free practice sessions and qualifying session were held. Out of total 48, the last 32 was finalised.
On Friday, top 32 twin-drift battles were held in the evening and later the last 16 was staged.
Then the quarterfinals were held with James Deane taking on Ahmed Daham of Jordan, Oman’s Haitham al Hadidi racing with compatriot Sami al Shaibani, Oman’s Tariq al Shaihani dueling with Deigo Saito of Japan and Sebastian Fontijn clashing with Alan Hynes.
The semifinals clubbed Dean with Sami and Tariq with Sebastian.
Tariq outsmarted Sami in the third place play-off.
The second round of the Oman International Drift will be held on February 13-14 and third round on February 20-21.