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Qatari Drag Race Team Stalled

April 18th, 2015 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Motor racing, The National, UAE

For the past few years, The National newspaper, in the United Arab Emirates, has been paying fairly close attention to the National Hot Rod Association, back in the United States.

It wasn’t just because we like to watch people driving 300 miles per hour. (We can see that on the UAE’s freeways. Just kidding. Not.)

It was because an Emirati, a native of Dubai, was one of the two Top Fuel class drivers for the Qatari-backed Al Anabi Race Team.

And you know how you sometimes don’t immediately notice the absence of something?

Well, last week it struck me: “Hey, we haven’t heard a word from Khalid Al Balooshi and the Al Anabi team.” And we had been paying particular attention to our “hometown” guy, including this profile by Gregg Patton, from late in the 2012 season.

For good reason.

A month ahead of the February start of the 2015 NHRA season, the Qatari sheikh who had been sponsoring Al Anabi Racing … decided to shut down the team.

It was a blow to Alan Johnson, the American who oversaw the two high-profile Top Fuel teams Al Anabi had fielded for four seasons. And to the drivers, Al Balooshi and Shawn Langdon, who won the 2013 season Top Fuel championship. And to the 25-30 employees of the Indiana-based race team.

No explanation was forthcoming from Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad, the 22-year-old Qatari royal who was backing the team, but journalists covering the NHRA wondered whether the decline in Gulf oil revenues, a function of the sharp decline in the price of oil, was a factor.

The number being tossed about was that the Al Anabi operation cost about $10 million a year. And with oil selling at about half its highs of 2014 … not as much cash is flowing into the Gulf.

In this Los Angeles Times story, prominent people inside drag racing talk about how it is unfortunate to lose the Al Anabi team — or any team at the highest level.

In a way, though, the Al Anabi team  filled a key role. It came on the scene in 2008, when the global recession was picking up speed and hammering motor racing, and spent freely through 2014, as oil prices stayed high.

Now, the U.S. economy has recovered, and oil prices have plummeted, and presumably Al Anabi’s placed on the podium will be taken by teams backed by firms a lot closer to U.S. tracks than is Qatar.

Now we need to figure out what happened to the jovial Emirati racer Khalid Al Balooshi, who won three times in Top Fuel, including the 2014 Winternationals, the first race of the season.

We are pretty sure the driver, and the team, are missed.





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