High revs, intense focus, clutch vehicle control and tire smoke enough to resemble a dozen barbeque pits. This is just a glimpse of professional drifter Mubarak Al Rumaidhi's life. I saw down with the circuit racer and we were immediately immersed into motor culture and the current racing scene of the region and his experiences with the sport.
Al-Rumaidhi has won prestigious first-place titles at the Red Bull Car Park Drift and Gulfrun competition series. These experiences have made him more than qualified to host his own team's event, Traction Off, and not to mention he has also been a race director for the recent Red Bull Formula 1 Showrun and co-founded Slide N' Glide Drift Days.
Many more accolades and accomplishments on and off the circuit add to his grand resume, but the man behind the wheel will give off a sense of modesty and humbleness. This interview shed a lot of light on the motorsport scene in the region and how the youth can get involved promoting this growing fan-favorite trade. By simply volunteering, getting hours on the track instead of reckless street-racing and, of course, the limelight of this entry, getting a sneak peek into the life of the Kuwaiti drifting champion, Mubarak Al Rumaidhi.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I was always seeking to do things differently, one day I was an employee at a corporate job and I felt like I had to change that lifestyle because of the passion I had for racing and drifting. I wanted to take it up a notch by moving away from the normal diwaniya lifestyle, and focus on my individual future and life in racing.
Can you describe your passion for racing? What does racing and drifting mean to you?
I started with drifting because it's the easiest way to get into the racing scene. Racing is a very expensive sport to be honest, and in Kuwait we have no motorsport scene at all. Whatever we see is just a glimpse of what could be called one but it is not. We in Kuwait are over 80 years late in motorsports and racing. What I'm trying to do today in drifting is win more and become a better driver to get more seat time and what not. Drifting can be done in small places like parking lots or fix a small circuit, but when it comes to racing we need the proper tools such as experience and actual circuits. We have karting circuits, but they're just entertainment, they're not up to the standard they need to be considered racing circuits per se.
What got you into the sport in the first place? Tell us about your roots.
Ever since I was a kid, three years old to be exact, I used to ride a trike, a three wheeler with an engine on it. And that was when I started getting into this stuff and loved it. Then at 7 years old I started learning manual gear driving, off-road in the desert or chalet. I always wanted to be a racing driver ever since instead of an academic student, but my dad never appreciated that. He would ask me to focus on my studies and give attention to my student career. At the age of 19, I bought my first sports car; it was a Nissan 350Z, and since then I got more involved in racing. Later that year the Bahrain circuit opened, and I started going there to practice. Then got into Go-Karting and volunteering in the Gulfrun events.
Do you have any influences? Such as other racers or idols.
Well, I don't agree with idols but I do agree with a person's passion. There is a passionate driver that changed the way of Formula One and racing. He is a very famous legend that passed away 20 years ago, Ayrton Senna. Senna is more than just a driver, he is a smart guy with philosophies of dedication and commitment. He was more of a mentor to his teammates and colleagues around him. Senna proved that he could go a gap of half a second faster than his rivals even if he was in bad cars. Senna is definitely a guy I look up to.
What do you do outside of racing?
When I was leading a corporate life and working in a bank, it was obvious where my career was going so I started Slide N' Glide on the side. Then I wanted to do more, so I started a team while I was an employee, the Traction Off event. Then I wanted to get involved more and contribute to motorsport, so I took the opportunity of creating an ad for NBK's McLaren campaign. So we put all these young guys together for the ad, and it helped me gain a lot of exposure as a motor enthusiast. Eventually, I left my job and started focusing more on the automotive industry in Kuwait fulltime, and now I do consultancy and marketing, which is a learning ground for me.
Tell us about your team's last event, Traction Off.
We wanted to share this event with individuals that have nothing to do with cars, so I started with social media and bloggers just to get different people involved. We offered them an experience of what it's like to be a passenger in a performance car, changing tires and the whole thrill. We got good feedback from our invitees, and we hope to be even more involved with the spectators next time. But overall the latest event went really well, and I look forward to another successful Traction Off event.
What’s in stock for Mubarak in the future?
I'll be focusing more on myself, achieving more awards and winning more competitions. And at the same time I want to share that experience with everyone else. I'm trying to have a crew with me going around in these races and competitions to experiences this culture of racing, which would be easier for me to focus on the competition alone, be it racing or drifting. And of course I want to continue developing Traction Off and present more opportunities to local talents here.
What would you say to aspiring young racers here in Kuwait and the region?
Well, I always say this, and I'll continue saying it; sadly I started off in the wrong place. I started off in the streets, unfortunately, and I thank God I didn't lose a hand, leg or break a bone. Instead of spending your money on suiting up your car, use that money where you can go to Dubai Autodrome and get a car for a weekend, and you can drive it or smash it do whatever you want for 200 KD instead of spending 200 KD on an exhaust system on your car. Something to experience and build skill on, instead of wasting it on the streets and at the end of the day what are we gaining out of it? A ticket, losing a friend or damaging your car, etc. So I always say build your skills on the track and step foot in the circuit instead of risking your life in the streets.
For more information on Traction Off, visit www.tractionoff.com
– Bader A. Shehab