Saeed al-Sulaiti displayed a childlike enthusiasm as he took to the track after a three-month break from training. The three-time QSTK 600 champion, along with other leading Qatar riders like Abdullah al-Qubaisi and Mishaal al-Naimi, were able to put on their riding suits at a training camp organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation at the go-karting track of the Losail Circuit and Sports Club (LCSC).
The camp has come at the right time, particularly for al-Sulaiti. The 35-year-old, who finished runner-up to his protégé al-Qubaisi last season, is in the twilight of his career and was considering the option of giving up competing and going into full-time coaching.
But the coronavirus pandemic – which put a halt to track activities – gave some time for al-Sulaiti to ponder over his future. “Before the coronavirus I was thinking of maybe it’s time to rest and just coach the young riders. But after this break I realised that I can’t stay without the bike. It has given me the motivation to keep going for some more time. I know it’s a difficult time for everybody. But for me, it has given me an opportunity to clear up a lot of things in my head and I see myself racing in the future,” said al-Sulaiti, even as sweat dripped down his face after a long training session.
Now that he has continued to carry on racing, al-Sulaiti is excited to be back on bike, even though the hot weather has made it slightly unpleasant for all the riders. “It’s amazing to be back. I don’t remember ever training at this time of the year. It’s extremely hot. We have been wanting to ride for a long time. For us riders it’s just a mental thing, we just wanted to put our suits on and start riding. It’s good to be back and we are looking forward to more. I hope the weather gets better, which I doubt, but we’ll keep riding,” he said.
Al-Sulaiti said he kept himself busy during the hiatus by following a fitness regime. “I have been working out at home to stay fit. Let me tell you this, whoever wants to be fit, he can do it in the gym or without the gym. It’s all about the mental thing. If you want to do it, you will do it. I have been working out whenever I get a chance,” he said.
In the past, QMMF sent its top riders to Spain for training but with the threat of Covid-19 still existing, any future exposure trip from the federation is uncertain. However, al-Sulaiti was keen to train for a month in Spain in his personal capacity, if travel opens up.
“Personally, I already have a bike in Spain. I am just waiting for them to open the port there and just do a month of training there. I am really looking forward to going there and getting ready for the championship here,” he revealed.
“There is no plan to race in Spain. It’s obviously very difficult. But there is a plan to go and train there. The weather is great there now. To go and just try the bike on a different circuit is even better than racing here on one circuit. So, it’s very important to go and train there and I will try my best to do it. Maybe by October or November. That’s a personal plan. I don’t know anything about QMMF’s plan to train abroad for the riders. But for me personally a few months ago I decided that I will go to Spain whenever everything opens up there, refresh my mind and just train,” he added.
Last year, al-Sulaiti was asked by the QMMF to groom a bunch of young riders for the future with particular focus on al-Qubaisi and Hamad al-Sahouti. And al-Sulaiti was happy to pitch in.
“Last year as a coach, I was delighted to see Abdullah (al-Qubaisi) winning QSTK600 and also Hamad winning 300cc. As a coach, I won both the championships. There are some upcoming new riders in the academy, but lately I have been away from the academy. They have Spanish coaches to take care of them. I always keep supporting the young guys. Right now, I am only focusing on Abdullah and Hamad,” he said.
Al-Sulaiti was also on fire during the online championship organised by the QMMF during the lockdown, as he left the young riders in his wake with some impressive PlayStation skills. “For me personally I loved it. I have been training in simulation for the last five years. So, when QMMF conducted the online championship, I thought the young guys would be very good at the PlayStation. Obviously they have been practising more than me.
“But like I said before, when I was in the world championship in 2016, it was a big help to learn the tracks from the simulators. It was very easy to catch up for me with the fastest riders in the world,” he said.
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