Home hero Mashel gears up for WorldSBK battle at Losail Circuit
29 Oct 2017 - 11:46
By Rizwan Rehmat / The Peninsula
Qatar's top rider Mashel Al Naimi is pumped up for his maiden run in the final round of this year's hotly-contested FIM Superbike World Championship.
The former Moto2 rider with the QMMF Racing Team, Al Naimi has been extended a wildcard entry along with compatriot Saeed Al Sulaiti for the SBK round to be held under lights at Losail International Circuit later this week.
"I am very happy to get a chance to participate in the final round of the Superbike World Championship. I will be riding in the SuperSport category," Al Naimi said in an exclusive chat with The Peninsula.
"I thank the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) and Lusail Circuit Sports Club for their support to back my candidacy. Saeed and I will be riding as Qatari riders at such a high profile event," the 34-year-old rider added.
"I hope that we will be in good shape for what will be a tough ride. I will try my best to have a solid outing and a memorable footprint in the final round of the World Superbike Championship," he said.
"We knew about our wildcard in August and since then I have been in training mode," Al Naimi said.
Qatari rider Mashel Al Naimi poses for a photograph with Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) President Abdulrahman Al Mannai at the Losail Circuit in Doha yesterday.
"Ever since the QMMF told me about my chance to feature in the final round, I have been preparing to get on the starting ramp. I have been preparing for a month at training camp in Spain with a focus on physical fitness.
"I have been cycling a lot to boost my overall physical fitness. I am physically and psychologically ready to go. Ooredoo is my main supporter at all the races I compete in. I am very grateful to them for continuing their support. You know very well that motor sport is an expensive sport and their support is a major help to me," Al Naimi said.
Al Naimi, a hugely popular rider in the region, said his maiden appearance will be another 'big achievement' in his long career.
"This will be the first time that I will feature in a World Superbike Championship round. I have featured in a MotoGP round in 2010 at Losail International Circuit with support from QMMF," Al Naimi said.
"I will be looking to produce my best lap time. I have tasted the flavour of racing in MotoGP, Moto2 and now I am getting ready for a race in the World Superbike Championship," he added.
Al Naimi said he was expecting a good set-up ahead of the race on Saturday night.
"I am not overwhelmed while competing against the world's best rider. My class will be 600cc. Hopefully there won't be any technical issues and that I can have a smooth ride. I urge the Qatari racing fans to come on and enjoy the races and offer their support," Al Naimi said.
Al Naimi said winning the Superstock Endurance World Championship a decade ago was the highlight moment of his career.
"When I first started out, it felt great as we were just riders. Then our goal was to gain experience. If we compete with world champions and have a solid footprint, we knew we could challenge the best. With absolute determination, we won the world championship in endurance racing. Listening to the national anthem at the Le Mans was an unbelievable moment of pride for me and my team," Al Naimi said.
"The support offered to us by (then QMMF President) Nasser bin Khalifa Al Attiyah was paramount in us winning the world title. He kept our morale high and boosted our confidence whenever he could. There was great camaraderie among the riding bunch then. The international and local media were treating us like heroes and telling our stories to the world. It was a such a rich experience," he added.
"I have to say that I was about to retire in 2011 from the sport because of high costs to run a racing campaign. But Ooredoo came up with their help at the right time. They put a smile on my face. The revived my enthusiasm and encouraged me to participate in local and regional competitions," Al Naimi said.
"We ran many promos and managed to get robust feedback from the racing fans. I thank Ooredoo for their supper and encouragement. I consider myself a sports ambassador for Ooredoo," he added.
"I do not want to forget the great support of the Minister of Culture and Sports, H E Salah bin Ghanim Al Ali, who has been following my performances and offering kind words of appreciation. He wants us to give our best. The Ministry's support to sports professionals like myself is so crucial and encouraging at the same time. We will continue to do our best for Qatar," the Qatari star said.