He radiates pure energy; has an aura about him that’s usually allied with top of the line fighter pilots and he knows he’s going to go ‘there’ and do ‘that’ in a few months time. He—as well as anyone else who’s had a chance to talk to him—can hardly contain themselves of the thrill of him making it to the international circuit and what’s even more electrifying is his humble declaration that he’s “here to kick some ass!”
The guy’s nothing short of being Pakistan’s very own god of speed! Not only has he won the Southwest Formula Mazda Regional Series Championship twice in a row among the many other races he’s taken part in across Europe and U.S.A., he also holds the privilege of being the first announced driver for A1 Team Pakistan in the introductory A1 Grand Prix World Cup of Motorsport! What more could a guy who’s childhood dream was to speed on the international circuit ask for?
Resolutely met and praised by the President—who according to him and to most of our concurrence is “an incredibly cool guy”—a couple of times, Nur Barkat Ali is living the Pakistani Dream!
Born on October 12, 1974 in good ol’ Karachi, Nur lived and grew up in Germany where his dad ran a successful clothing business making regular attendances at the famed fashion weeks in Paris and Milan, finally moving the U.S., where Nur attended the American University in Washington D.C., interned under U.S. Congressman Joe Barton, handed over the respectable International Relations degree to the folks who’d made it clear earlier on that good education was the key priority, and set out to make his mark in the Motorsport world.
Nur vividly remembers racing his school buddies on a bicycle while growing up and he knew by the time he was 4 that he and hot wheels irrefutably had a future together to which effect he got himself a racing license from Skip Barber Racing School, Ohio in 1998. The same year, he jumped into his first Formula Mazda Regional Series followed by a few other local circuits and hasn’t looked back since.
“Competition is inside me! I love competing!” he declared after justifying his passion for fast cars, “my dad was always a fast driver! I was bound to take influence!”
And it was his father who was generous enough to have invested in his promising son initially as well. Coming from Pakistan, being a professional driver wasn’t really a prospective career alternative and Nur’s decision to stand up and be ‘different’ raised many a eyebrow. Naturally, Nur’s inexperience repelled potential sponsors but that all didn’t really matter though, because the cool dad was ever supportive and decided to privately fund his feisty son who looked up to and dreamed of out powering the very best in his chosen profession!
After 7 years of living out his literally feral dream and winning the successive championships, the guarantors finally started to take notice of the fresh blood and in 2004, Nur was approached by Arif Husain; the A1 Team Pakistan Chairman and Chaudry Salik Hussain; the Managing Director/CEO propositioning the idea of Nur representing Pakistan in the inaugural season of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum of Dubai’s A1 Grand Prix.
“I didn’t think twice!” He says. “Never in my wildest dreams had I thought about something this big so soon!”
“And 6 Months later, here I was in Pakistan!” The A1 Team Pakistan was launched in Lahore on February 27 and Nur announced the Pakistani Motorsport history maker! The occasion was attended by the fun-loving President himself who was very optimistic and initiated him to maintain an upbeat stance towards the race.
“This was one hell of a trip! The people have been very supportive, the government has been extremely encouraging and I’m taking it as it goes, and planning on staying the same Nur Ali always.”
Particularly keen about playing the first Motorsport ambassador for his country against the Indian driver among the 24 others who will beyond doubt be some of the finest drivers in the world, Nur wants “this to be a fun occasion for all the countries involved. Especially India and Pakistan! I’m hoping the people from the two countries can be brought together on the basis of sports!” What with healthy competition being the call of the moment after all. “I’m looking forward to racing him; whoever it may be!”
Sheikh Maktoum’s vision is not only giving the whole of Pakistan a taste of something very new, it’s also allowed the enthusiastic public to interact with an even more enthusiastic Nur. “We’re bringing a new sport to Pakistan and I’m not just doing this for myself! I’m doing this for each and every Pakistani out there!”
And the hype is indeed in the making aswell. It’s noticeable how the people have been doing a follow up on his progress instead of the defunct Pakistani cricket team criticism ever so enjoyable. And this is a change much needed!
We’ve seen the infamous F1’s and A1’s from a distance all our lives, but the A1 Grand Prix world cup will actually gives us all a chance to feel the cool breeze caused by a speeding sports car driven by none other than our very own Nur!
Shaikh Maktoum’s A1 Grand Prix hopes to bring life to Motorsports where driver skills and technique supersede the machine he is driving—all the cars are identical single-seater A1 racing cars built by Lola and powered by a 520bhp A1 Grand Prix V8 3.4 Engine built by U.K’s Zytek. The world cup hopes to ignite the fire of nationalism which has been missing from the sport for some time as the only things that matter other than driver talent are the sponsors and the supporters unlike the F1 which is more of a brand versus brand affair.
For the A1 Grand Prix, however, every country will get to paw two cars each of which will cost over a Million dollars!
Pakistan along with United Kingdom, South Africa, China, Portugal, India and Lebanon are the first countries to have secured their seats for the unique championship. The racing season will commence in September this year from London. There will be a total of 14 races that will take place in different cities around the world.
“It’s not about winning each and every race. But with consistency in all the 14 races, I’m sure I can make it to the top 5 in most of them and even win a few!”
And that’s what’ll matter by the end of the season. The driver who’s been consistent throughout has the greatest chance of shining because winning every race is almost impossible, but with the fan support, valuable sponsorship like PSO, V.Telecom and Adamjee among several others, and with Nur’s personal faith, conviction, resolve and “Allah’s blessings, we can pound everybody by the end of April!” And if not, “At least I can say I tried!” After all, how many people get a chance to be where he is today?
Nur will be flying to U.K., Italy or South Africa to start training for the “Big Monster” in a month’s time. The preparation requires him to work out under a personal trainer at least 4- 5 times a week and follow a very strict diet which he says is “quite hard, considering the amount of traveling I’ve been doing lately!”
And I’m sure his wife Farah, who’s a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and graduate from The University of Texas, isn’t quite happy about the traveling and lethal lifestyle which has allowed him quite a few minor accidents in his 7 year career as a pro driver as well. “She misses me! But then, work is work. And Farah’s been very supportive throughout.”
Nur Ali is definitely going places. With his vitality and devotion to serving Pakistan and winning us a trophy in the first go, what we can do is wish him the best of luck, safety and tremendous fan support on the hot circuit by gluing ourselves to the TV sets or buying the tickets in advance if based in a host country and help him kick his share of ass all through September to April and then watch him conquer the F1 maybe?
We haven’t had a chance to hero worship anyone since Imran Khan and I’m quite positive Nur Barkat Ali will give us the opportunity to look up to the solo extraordinaire once again. It’s a you scratch our backs and we’ll scratch yours scenario, really. And since Nur’s all set to scratch ours, we’re ready to back him all the way as well! After all, we have to oblige when he says “I’m ready! Just bring it on!” with a triumphant smile.