News: Military, civilians take in drag racing season opener
Story by Jason Chudy
DOHA, Qatar -- More than 100 military members and civilians from Camp As Sayliyah attended the first round of the Qatar Racing Club Arabian Drag Racing League season Dec. 3 and 4 as guests of the club’s management.
Visitors watched the races, which included cars in eight different categories and motorcycles in three different categories from the grandstand, just a few dozen feet from the track.
Soldiers 1st Lt. Jeff Freeman of the 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and 1st Lt. Vanessa Freeman of U.S. Forces Iraq staff enjoyed both the races and each other’s company.
The married couple was able to come together from their separate bases in Iraq to the camp in Qatar as part of the military’s Rest and Recuperation Pass Program from their separate bases in Iraq.
Jeff Freeman said that he’d been to drag races in his hometown of Pensacola, Fla., and was impressed with the Qatar club’s track. “The stadium quality is better than some of the areas I’ve been to,” he said, pausing only as cars or motorcycles sped down the track.
Both husband and wife agreed that Qatar, and the races, was a good place to decompress. “It’s interesting, a nice change,” Vanessa Freeman said from her seat halfway up the bleachers. “It’s really a good place to decompress and forget about work.”
While the Freemans watched the races, a joint American and Canadian team of six worked to ready their two pro extreme class bikes in the pit areas at the end of the track.
They chatted with military passers-by, who could easily recognize the team’s nationalities – the entire side of one of their bikes was a U.S. flag, the other side was a Canadian flag.
“We just got here this week,” said team member Tim Haley. “The track’s great. The facility is top notch.”
“They’re trying very hard to promote it,” Haley said about drag racing in Qatar, “make it big and respectable here.”
Haley explained the team was invited to spend three months here by Sheikh Khalid al-Thani, Qatari Race Club president and owner of the al-Anabi racing team. Al-Thani is also son of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
Haley also spoke highly of racing in the Middle East. “It’s a smaller field,” he said. “But … It’s not like we were going to ship our American bike over here and kick everyone’s [butts]."
The league’s 2010-2011 season will run two more weekends in December, with camp personnel already receiving an invitation to the club’s second round of racing Dec. 9 and 10; the first two weekends in January, and round out its season for the first three weekends in February.
The Arabian Drag Racing League, a partner of the American Drag Racing League, and uses the same rules as its American counterpart.