Bahrain: Sheikh Hamad and Al Kooheji claim double wins at National Racing Festival

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BIC, Sakhir – Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Hussain Al Kooheji emerged as the stars of the National Racing Festival held this past weekend at Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir.

Both drivers enjoyed a fantastic double in their respective championships amidst a high level of competition along BIC’s 2.55-kilometre Inner Track.

Shaikh Hamad triumphed in both races of round three in the 2014/2015 BIC 2,000cc Challenge, while Al Kooheji made local motor racing history as the first-ever winner of the all-new BMR 600 Championship. The BMR 600 is a one-make series for motorbikes, featuring the Honda Hornet 600cc, that made a rousing debut over the weekend at “The Home of Motorsport in the Middle East”.

The National Racing Festival was organised by BIC in cooperation with the Bahrain Motor Federation and Circuit Racing Club. It followed a week-long celebration off the track at BIC commemorating the Kingdom of Bahrain’s National Day.

In the BIC 2,000cc Challenge, Shaikh Hamad was once again the man to look out for as he maintained his perfect start to the season with another two race wins.

He has stretched his winning streak to six races in a row and now leads the drivers’ championship standings with a healthy gap.

Shaikh Hamad headed into the meeting as the firm favourite and did not disappoint from the get-go. After setting the pace in free practice with a best lap of 1min 19.131secs in his Honda CIVIC, the veteran racer lost out on pole position for the meeting’s first race by a mere 0.219secs.

Hussain Karimi captured pole in his Honda CRX with a best lap time of 1min 18.983secs.

But that would not knock Shaikh Hamad’s focus off its track as he responded with a stellar performance in the opening 15-lap sprint where he narrowly outclassed Karimi by 1.552secs. Shaikh Hamad took the chequered flag in a total race time of 19mins 58.238secs. He also clocked the race’s fastest lap of 1min 18.746secs.

Shaikh Hamad and Karimi were in a class of their own throughout the event, engaged in a heated battle while completing the race nearly a half-minute ahead of their closest rival Tim Birkin. Birkin, driving a Honda Integra, finished third to claim the final podium place for the race 29.699secs adrift.

Abdulrahman Ghuloom (Honda CIVIC, +30.871secs), Alex Longden (BMW 3 Series/F20C, +32.545secs), Mohamed Faqihi (Honda CIVIC, +14 laps) and Stephen Kellogg (Honda CIVIC, +41.980secs) rounded out the classification.

In Race Two, Shaikh Hamad enjoyed a more comfortable victory, completing the distance in 20mins 10.237secs, while registering the fastest lap of 1min 18.883secs.

Karimi followed as the runner-up 10.862secs behind, while Ghuloom clinched the final podium step 28.035secs from first place

Birkin (+37.599secs), Longden (+54.006secs), Raed Himmo (Honda CRX, +1:16.357) and Faqihi (+14 laps) completed the finishing order. Kellogg was not classified with just nine laps completed.

Meanwhile, the BMR 600 had just as much exciting action on the race track with competitors each steering similar Honda Hornet 600cc motorbikes, and it was Al Kooheji who dominated from start to finish.
He led the way in both free practice and qualifying and then powered to a fine win in Race One, where he took the chequered flag in 14mins 05.431secs. Al Kooheji also clocked the fastest lap of 1min 16.249secs.

Saleh Al Kandari was the runner-up in the 11-lap sprint 8.916secs behind, while Hussain Al Aswad finished 14.936s back for third place.

Faisal Ali (+21.914secs), Emad Shehadeh (+30.183secs), Chris Rabie (+52.074secs), Tim Attwood (+1min 02.684secs) and David Wynne (+1min 09.843secs) completed the top eight, while the rest of the field saw Thamer Ibrahim, Harry Johnston, Frank Mobitz and Abdulghaffar Albastaki in ninth through 12th place, respectively.

In Race two, Al Kooheji won in 14mins 07.131secs – just 4.417secs ahead of second-placer Al Aswad, who had the best lap of the race of 1min 16.026secs.

Ali improved to a podium position in third place 8.123secs behind the victor, while Shehadeh (+35.071secs), Rabie (+41.916secs) and Wynne (+55.251secs) were all in the top six.

The rest of the field featured Al Bastaki, Attwood, Johnston and Mobitz, with Al Kandari not being classified.

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