Khalifa Al Qubaisi is one of five young stars to have progressed from the esports academy scheme

The five youngsters will continue to be nurtured, eventually going on to compete for YAS HEAT ESPORTS in top-level competition

Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, February 10, 2021: YAS HEAT ESPORTS has announced the five drivers who have been selected from the Open Trials programme, with the youngsters now set to go on and perform for the team on the global stage in 2021.

The line up includes an Emirati, Khalifa Alqubaisi, who turned his attention to sim racing in 2017 having enjoyed significant success in karting, including winning the Emirati School Karting Championship on two separate occasions and becoming YAS Kartzone Sprint Race Champion. Since making the switch to esports, the 16-year-old has continued to flourish, finishing as runner up in both the GCC Category 6HR Endurance Race and the 2020 EMSO GT Championship on Playstation 4.

Joining Alqubaisi in progressing from the Open Trials programme are Gran Turismo drivers Karl Etyemezian and Hazem Zaki, from Lebanon and Egypt respectively, Assetto Corsa Competizione racer Mohammed Akram, another Egyptian, and iRacing specialist Yashish Manohar, who hails from India.

The YAS HEAT ESPORTS Open Trials programme was created in order to provide aspiring esports racing stars from across the MENA region with the opportunity to learn, grow and develop, with the overall target of competing as part of YAS HEAT ESPORTS in high-level competition.

There were over 1,000 applications for the programme, with 32 shortlisted to go through to the trials process, where they took part in a weekly time trial challenge. The group was whittled down to six finalists, which eventually became five, with the selected participants taking part in light-hearted and fun interviews with YAS HEAT ESPORTS ambassador and Assetto Corsa driver ‘Jardier’ in order to showcase their respective personalities to the judging panel.

Saif Al Noaimi, Acting CEO Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management and Principal, YAS HEAT ESPORTS, said: “It’s been great to watch the progression of the academy drivers over the past few weeks. We were thrilled with the initial applications of over 1,000 keen virtual racers, but then to find five future superstars means the project continues towards its vision of becoming a home for esports racing talent.

“Now we can’t wait to move on to the next step of the process, honing and developing their skillset and bringing them on-board as part of the elite YAS HEAT ESPORTS team. We’re all really excited to see how they get on as they’ll be competing across a broad range of virtual racing platforms and titles. YAS HEAT ESPORTS is heading into 2021 with high hopes and a lot of confidence.”

Having launched in August 2020, YAS HEAT ESPORTS competed in the inaugural season of the V10 R League against some of the biggest names in motorsport, including Red Bull Racing, BMW, Williams and Porsche24 Redline.

The first season of the competition was a huge success, with broadcast rights picked up globally by StarzPlay Arabia, ESPN and BT Sport. The V10 R League is one of the most widely syndicated esports competitions, with coverage reaching up to 75 countries worldwide. During its maiden campaign, over 40 hours of race action was made available to viewers across television, digital and social platforms, with total views reaching an impressive 35 million.

In December, Microsoft became the latest global brand to partner with YAS HEAT ESPORTS in a bid to focus on accelerating the digitization of virtual racing in the MENA region, and joining the likes of Etihad and Richard Mille in throwing their support behind the project.

Since forming, YAS HEAT ESPORTS, which features some of the most talented e-racing stars from across the globe, have taken part in a total of 421 races, recording 175 victories and securing 283 podium finishes. Seven driver championships have been won in that period.

The attention of YAS HEAT ESPORTS now lies firmly on Season 2 of the V 10 R League, which is due to begin in March, and could potentially feature the five talented drivers who have progressed from the Open Trials programme.