BEIRUT: This year, race car enthusiast Tani Hanna became the first Lebanese to win the Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific Championship, capping off a grueling season that took him across three continents over a period of nine months.
The Championship, which was first inaugurated in 1993, held races in Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and Singapore before the final contest took place in Italy, the birthplace of Ferrari.
What started off as a path for owners of the 348 Berlinetta who wanted to become involved in expert racing, the Ferrari Challenge has now evolved to encompass three official championships in the United States, Asia-Pacific, and Europe.
Hanna, an avid Ferrari owner and amateur racer, began his career in 2013 hoping to accomplish the feat of becoming the first Lebanese to enter Ferrari's record books. Five years later, 100 races, 18 wins, 32 podiums, 12 pole positions, and 13 fastest laps, Hanna succeeded in "elevating Lebanon's standing in distant places."
Tani Hanna (center), MTV motorsports host Najib Kaii (left), and Ferrari representative Louis Caulmache pictured at the Le Royal Hotel in Beirut on Tuesday, December 5, 2018. (HO)
In 2014, Hanna managed to secure third place in the championship but decided to take the following three years to focus on training and enhancing his driving skills further.
After enlisting the help of trainer Marco Ciaccio, Hanna refined his technique by practicing on renowned tracks meant for Formula 1 championships and NASCAR racing, including Daytona in Florida and Imola and Mugello in Italy.
"2018 generated a lot of excitement," he told his friends, family, and members of the press gathered at the Le Royal Hotel Tuesday to celebrate this accomplishment, after three new tracks entered the fold having been previously reserved for the F1 championship.
Tani Hanna (center) during the press conference held at the Le Royal Hotel. (HO)
"Melbourne, Singapore, and Oakland provided each driver with the ability to stand out from the rest. When no one's had much experience on a track, that's when skill becomes evident," he said.
In Hampton Downs, Oakland, Hanna managed to secure first and second place across two races, which paved the way for continued success across the remainder of the competition.
"This is when I began winning and my confidence grew," he said, finally getting accustomed to the more powerful and aggressive 488 Ferrari carrying a massive load of 670 horsepower.
Next up was Shanghai, where Hanna managed to secure back to back first places finishes, further emboldening him in his quest for an all-out win.
He credits the contest in Fuji, however, as the pivotal moment that shaped the course of the championship, given the heightened difficulty of both the track and the opposition.
"Japanese drivers had their sights on Fuji and Suzuka having trained all year long, but I managed to capture first place wins in both races," he said.
After capturing 234 points, Hanna managed to secure the title after 14 races, marking the peak of his fairly young racing career.
The youthful-looking 54-year-old's task was made all the more difficult while attempting to juggle a hectic business enterprise and his own family, but what pushes his effort and ambition is his love for his homeland.
A homeland that he departed at a young age to establish a wide encompassing business career in Africa, which later spanned the Gulf.
Despite being mainly driven by personal motivation and passion to reach these unprecedented heights, Hanna credits his sense of patriotism and affection for Lebanon as well.
"It's an immense pride for me to represent Lebanon on this stage and to be able to raise the Lebanese flag wherever I go," he said.
From left to right, MP Hagop Terezian, Ministry of Youth and Sports representative Mohammad Ouaidat, MP Assaad Dergham, MP Alexi Matossian, Tani Hanna, MP Hadi Hobieche. (HO)
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.