HAITHAM EMERGES DRIFT KING

MUSCAT, Dec 21 – Young Haitham al Hadidi overcame technical issues to clinch the overall title in the National Drift Championship 2019 organised by the Oman Automobile Association (OAA) on Friday night. The third and concluding round at the OAA Speed Arena was won by Oman Air pilot Sami al Shaibani, who made his first appearance in this year’s competition. Tariq al Shaihani claimed the overall second with 246 points and Ahmed al Amri finished third with 225 points. In the third round, Arif al Balushi came second to finish fourth overall with 194 points. Riyadh al Mabsali, who ended fourth on Friday, was overall fifth with 174 points.
Haitham finished third to emerge on top after the three rounds with a total of 278 points.
“I wanted to win the first place. Technical issues to my car troubled me in the semifinal round. But still I could stay on and claim the third spot,” Haitham said.
“This title has set up me nicely for the International Drift Championship in January,” he added.
The International Drift Championship Round 1 will be held at the OAA on January 16 and 17.
Al Hadidi won the first round and finished second in the second round, won by Tariq al Shaihani.
Tariq, who suffered a breakdown to his car in the last-eight round, saw his overall championship hopes also suffer. Ahmed al Amri, another contender for the overall title, also missed out in the last-eight round.

STUNNING RETURN
Meanwhile, Sami al Shaibani produced a near-perfect drift show to win the third round title.
“My car was undergoing maintenance in Europe. So, I could not take part in the earlier rounds. It is ready now and I am satisfied with my performance,” Al Shaibani said.
“I am also looking forward to great show in the International Drift Championship also,” a pumped-up Sami told Oman Daily Observer.
He also ended sixth in the overall table with 163 points.
Ali al Shaibani was seventh (152 points) and Mazin al Shabani came eighth (102).
Red Bull Drift 2017 regional champion Rafaat al Yahyaei was a disappointing ninth with 96 points and Mohammed al Abri completed the top 10 overall list with 88 points.
OAA Chairman Brigadier (Rtd) Salim bin Ali al Maskari was the chief guest for the third round.
“The Oman Automobile Association is pleased with the successful completion of the drift event. The drivers have given their best performance in the three rounds of the twin-drift competition,” Al Maskari said.
Eighteen drivers, including Said Ahmed Nafar from the UAE, were in action at the OAA Speed Arena on Friday night.
Best eight from these competed in the last-eight round and top four drivers Riyadh al Mabsali, Haitham al Hadidi, Arif al Balushi and Sami al Shaibani then raced in the semifinals.
Sami and Arif entered the final with Sami emerging the winner. Haitham prevailed in the third-place play-off with Riyadh to ensure his championship of the 2019-20 season.
The twin-drift challenge was introduced by the OAA for the first time for the local championship.
“We had introduced the twin-drift challenge for our drivers and hopefully make a positive impact in the upcoming International Drift competitions,” OAA General Manager Suleiman al Rawahi said.
Al Rawahi also expressed satisfaction in OAA decking up the drift atmosphere despite several financial constraints.
“We are managing our best despite several financial constraint and lack of private sponsors. The OAA still hope that the private sponsors will come and support our top-class events that attract the youth of the country,” he added.