Oman: After beating bone cancer Al Yaqdan rises to new road safety challenge on Oman’s roads
Muscat, Oman, 13 March, 2013: After winning the greatest battle of his life, Yaqdhan Al Rashdi has to pinch himself these days to believe he has a role as one of Oman’s new generation of rally drivers and road safety ambassadors.
“I have loved motor sport since I was a kid, but I never thought I would get this chance,” said the 23-year old, who is among the 32 young Omanis brought together by the recently launched Oman Youth Rally Cup.
No-one had to work harder than Al Rashdi to get through the intense selection programme, which included technical examinations and tough fitness tests, to earn a place in the programme.
It was a fight he was determined to win, however, using more of the courage and determination he summoned after being diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of eight.
Fifteen years on from when doctors told him he would lose a leg, he went into action in the opening round of the inaugural Oman Youth Rally Cup last Thursday.
The young Omani who dreamt of being a professional racing driver, like his hero, Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna finished third alongside co-driver Ahmed Saud Al Sibani. It was a good start, but the result was almost insignificant.
“I just never thought I would be doing this,” he said. “When I heard about the Oman Youth Rally Cup I had to try to get in. Each day of the selection process there were tests to pass. “But I got through to the final phase and then I was selected. It’s amazing. I’m speechless.”
Now cancer-free after years of treatment, following an operation to remove the infected section of bone in his leg, Al Rashdi says the chance to promote road safety awareness through the Oman Youth Rally Cup is just as important as the opportunity to compete.
He looks forward to taking part in community activities designed to build road safety awareness, and to help take racing off the roads of the Sultanate into a properly controlled motor sport environment.
“There are too many people who speed on the roads, and I used to be one of them,” admitted Al Rashdi. “But road accidents have shattered many families in Oman, and this is something we have to stop. We have to get the message about road safety heard by everyone.”
The Oman Youth Rally Cup is officially supported by Oman Air Cargo, Oman Sail, DR Karts and Sparco. Now looking forward to Round 2 on 11-12 April, Al Rashdi will spend as much time as possible getting to know more about his rally car, one of four locally-built Toyota Yaris models specially designed for the series, and co-driver Al Sibani.
“The first round was a new experience for me, “he said. “I’ve only driven karts before and it was my first rally. I was expecting more from myself, but I’m learning and can get better and better.”
The winners of the inaugural Oman Youth Rally Cup will be decided by a scoring system combining rally results and performance in a year-long series of road safety community events.