Haitham crowned king of drift

MUSCAT, FEB 29 – It was the moment Haitham al Hadidi waited for four years. After winning the 2016 Regional Finals in Oman, Al Hadidi could not make it to the top podium with several near misses. The drifting youth icon of the Sultanate was in dream form at the Red Bull Car Park Drift 2020 Oman and deservedly edged out top-class performer Tariq al Shaihani to clinch the lone spot for Oman in the World Series Final in Cairo on November 6. Sami al Shaibani, who impressed at the Oman International Drift 2020, continued the fine outing at the Car Park Drift at the Oman Automobile Association’s (OAA) Drift Arena on Friday night and finished third ahead of 2017 Series winner Rafaat al Yahyai.

“This was a long-awaited triumph for me. After my win in 2016, I couldn’t really make any significant achievement. It was a tale of near misses,” Haitham, who was crowned King of Drift Oman 2020, told Observer. “Finally, I am able to corner the glory in Oman after overcoming some of finest drifters like Tariq, Sami and Rafaat. Now, my full focus is to bring the World Series trophy back to the Sultanate,” the youngster added. Among the 22 drivers who registered for the event, 18 turned up on the day. After the opening round, the top eight qualified to the quarterfinals. After the last eight round, Haitham (393 points), Tariq (392), Rafaat (360) and Sami (339) made it to the semifinals.

Celebrated drift course designer Abdo Feghali was present at the event and praised the OAA for inspiring young Omani drifters to excel in the sport. “I appreciate the Oman Automobile Association for providing a nice facility for the drifters in Oman to safely practice and enhance their skills in drifting. There is a good support from the local crowd too,” the Lebanese former drift champion said. On another query, he said the drift as a sport is expanding across the world by making forays into Europe and Asia this year. “The Red Bull Car Park Drift has this year happening in 18 countries that include Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. We will continue our efforts to reach drifting to more countries in the future also,” he added.

Sami al Shaibani said he worked hard to make a transition from twin drift battles to car park drift. “We are just coming after three intense rounds of Oman International Drift twin drift challenges. All of us were in the competition and it was big change to make in your technique for the car park drift. Fortunately, we could make the necessary adjustments and put up a good performance here,” the Oman Air pilot said. Second-placed Tariq al Shaihani, who topped the top 8 qualification, said he gave his best at the Red Bull event. “I gave my best efforts tonight.

I believe it was a close call between me and Haitham. Anyway I am happy with my performance. I wish all the success for Haitham in the World Series Finals in Cairo,” Al Shaihani said. The crowd, which included many foreign guests, expressed delight in watching the thrilling drift show. Paivi Kivikangas from Finland said it was her first experience. “It was a thrilling performance by the drifting drivers. I have become a fan of drifting after watching the event,” she said.