Saad Ali now a professional race car driver learnt to drive at the age of 17 and got his racing license at 19. Saad participated in the Formula BMW race series in 2006-7 and in the Formula Gulf 1000 championship in 2014 in which he stood third. He also took part in F3 Testing and has won local carting competitions.
His father is a retired Air Force officer and wanted him to take up flying like his brother but 28 year old Saad believes open wheel racing is just as exhilarating as flying a fighter plane.
Dawn interviewed him about the challenges faced by professional race car drivers and how driving on public roads can be improved.
Q: What inspired you to become a race car driver and what are the challenges in this profession?
Answer: The feeling of sitting in a race car and adrenaline rush are unbelievable feelings. We are given one life which we should spent doing what we always dreamt of doing.
The biggest challenge a race car driver faces is funding. A driver needs at least US $300000 a year to participate in a race. It is very difficult to find a sponsor in a country like Pakistan because people don’t know what open wheel racing is about. My father paid for my expenses so I could participate in races. Other than cricketers, sportsmen and athletes do not have much support, which is one of the reasons A1 racing failed to gain popularity in Pakistan.
Q: How do you drive on public roads?
Answer: I feel safer in a racing car. I check my seat belt a few times to make sure it is fastened on before I get onto a public road. I do have an urge to just floor the accelerator, but road safety comes first.
We need to have more racing tracks where young people, can race and this will also make public roads a lot safer.
Q: How can the driving experience on our roads be improved?
Answer: I think the whole system needs to be over hauled. All licenses should be cancelled and everyone should be asked to take a fresh driving test. They should be issued another license only after they clear the test.
Since this is a bit harder to accomplish, I guess the police should be more vigilant and clear road markings and signs should be put up.