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Bahraini racing sensation Raed Raffii returned from 'Down Under' with new targets to achieve and an experience he will never forget.

The 21-year-old, from Sanad, won the opportunity of a three-day test in Australia with V8 squad Paul Morris Motorsport thanks to 2009-2010 Chevrolet Supercars Middle East (CSME) champion Fahad Al Musalam.

Al Musalam was originally awarded this prize for clinching the CSME crown in the final round of the series in Riyadh back in March.

Although Raffii finished fourth in the standings, Al Musalam felt that he was the perfect candidate for this accolade.

Al Musalam, who won the title for the second consecutive year, had already experienced driving a V8 Supercar with Gray Rogers Racing Team in Australia. He said: "It is important for other local drivers to have a break such as this."

Raffii said: "I am thankful to Al Musalam for giving me this opportunity and I have gained a lot from the advice he has given me so far.

"I talked to Al Musalam a lot about his experiences. I also read a lot on the subject and watched videos on the internet to help me get ready.

"I expected it to be different. For example, I was driving on the right side and shifting gears with my left hand so that was something completely new for me.

"The most important advice Al Musalam gave me was to be gentle on the throttle. He told me not to slam it like what we do with Chevrolet Supercars."

Raffii travelled with senior manager, sporting and championships of Chevrolet Supercars, Sherif Al Mahdy for his test session. It took place at the Queensland Raceway Circuit and it was fully paid for by the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).

Al Mahdy said: "What Al Musalam did was really special as most people would use this chance for themselves. He gave the opportunity to Raffii because he saw a future for this young driver and wanted to help him build his career.

"It really was a great experience for Raffii and the V8 team, including myself, were thrilled for him. He is now the youngest Arab racer to drive a V8 supercar."

The test was orchestrated by Paul Morris and new V8 Supercars chief executive officer Martin Whitaker - the former CEO of the BIC. Whitaker said that the idea behind the test was to continue building interest in V8 Supercars in the Middle East - and it could lead to an Arab driver being a regular in one of the V8 championships.

He said: "V8 Supercars and the Middle East already have such an incredible relationship with the region being home to the opening two events of the championship.

"I think it was absolutely fantastic to get Raffii out to Australia and into a V8 Supercar. He's young and has shown immense talent.

"This is another step towards getting a Middle Eastern driver into V8 Supercars fulltime which will further endorse the existing racing, tourism and business benefits that exist between the Gulf and Australia.

"Hopefully, Raffii can secure enough backing to contest the 2011 Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series, the development feeder category to V8 Supercars."

On the first day Raffii met the entire Paul Morris team and then headed for his test session at Norwell. This included 30 laps in a level two Superschool car which allowed Raffii the opportunity to adapt to the right hand drive.

The second day featured a guest driver spot at an official test day with one of Australia's greatest racers, Russel Ingall. Greg Murphy, a Paul Morris Motorsport driver, was also present for Raffii's track sessions.

Ingall, the V8 Supercar veteran, was impressed with Raffii's form at the Holden Performance Driving Centre.

He said: "He's quite good. He's got all the right techniques but needs to learn a couple of little things."

Along with Ingall, team owner Morris, also gave the young Bahraini plenty of tips to help him on his way.

Raffii said: "Paul took me out to show me how to drive a V8 Supercar properly and he was impressive. His and Ingall's advice were extremely helpful."

Morris described Raffii's first V8 Supercar test as a success. He said: "V8 Supercars are unique cars to drive, but Raffii has impressed us with his approach to the test. He has a genuine ability and is fast. Experience counts for a lot in this category but I'm confident that with more testing he would quickly fit in and be competitive."

Al Mahdy has high hopes for Raffii stating that this could be the beginning of something new. He said: "It was an amazing experience for all and both Martin Whitaker and Paul Morris Motorsport did a great job with organising this event. I also think Whitaker played a major role in keeping the environment positive and comfortable for Raffii."

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Jul 21, 2010
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