Hassan Sadadi Interview
Many of you may have heard of this Rally driving Legend, but how much do you know about the work he does or the projects he is working on?
I had a chance to catch up with my longtime friend and fellow driver, Hassan Sadadi. Back in the rally days, this legend used to drive Subaru’s, (he even owns one of Colin McRae’s old cars), now he is involved with the Desert Challenges, with his most recent drive in Hail Rally in Saudi Arabia. In his workshop and garage in Hamad Town, Hassan is building vehicles and buggies for these Desert Challenges, completely from SCRATCH! And I mean from scratch. He starts with a shell constructed by a roll cage and then fits metal panels, which will then be used as templates for fiber glass bodies. Engines are selected by each customer and the car is fitted out on their specifications. This is the type of work that big manufacturing companies are doing, no one would have dreamt that this is happening in Bahrain. Not only that, but Hassan is approved by BMMF to fit rolls cages. Many years ago he even stripped and fitted the roll cage I have in the Evo 5. (Most, if not all of his customers are from outside Bahrain). As you can imagine we could have talked for hours, but here is some of the conversation that went on…
ARG: So Bu Ali, how did you start in Rallies?
HS: I was in the UAE doing Military training, we had to take a course in the desert, and we had to drive Land Rover’s and military vehicles. From there I felt very close to the desert. In 1987, I moved back to Bahrain. At that time there was a Rally here being run by Marlborough, it was a Desert Challenge Championship. I am friends with Ahmed Fardan and Jassim and they were involved, the more time I spent with them, the more excited I got, and the more I wanted to try. I said to them I want to drive in the rally, and at that time honestly I didn’t know what rallies were. I was just excited and wanted to do it.
So, three of us, Shaikh Ebrahim bin Abdulaziz and Ahmed Fardan, we built three cars. At that time there was a man called Ayouban, next to Sadadi, he designed and built the roll cages for us. In that rally I came 1s Bahraini Driver and 6th overall, and from there it started. We then went on to drive in Oman, Jordan and Qatar, this is all in 1987. But in 1992/1993 I did the Qatar Baja, which was the first time for them to hold this kind of event.
ARG: How many Kilometers was it?
HS: 280km in Sealine, it was one stage that we repeated. Then after that I built a Land Rover, and participated in the Middle East Championship in the Group S. But in 1995 I had a big crash with that car. Actually every 10 years I have a big crash, 1995 with the Land Rover and in 2005 with the Subaru.
ARG: That was the yellow Land Rover, it is a famous crash, and you can still find it on YouTube. So, Hassan, not so long ago you participated in the UAE in one of the rallies with your new car. Tell us more about what this car is called and what group you are in.
HS: Actually there is a championship in the UAE and we were invited to go there. So we decided to go and see, because actually I stopped rallying from 2006 to 2016, and I am back to rallying because of this championship. So I decided to use a buggy, it is a Predator (in the T1 Category), which are built in the States, and I got one as a gift from an Omani Rally Driver Nezar Al Shanfari. We did three rounds there, I had some problems with the buggy in the first race, but managed to finished 7th overall, second rally I came 3rd and the same in the 3rd rally.
ARG: Recently you went to Hail in Saudi Arabia, where I was Scrutineering. I know you took friends and family with you as your service team. It felt like a big family effort. What happened there? You were the first Bahraini driver to ever participate in this event.
HS: Actually all my rallies have been done with family, we all go to a race as a big family, even when I have been with you, like in Syria Rally and other rallies in the Middle East Championship. All us Bahraini drivers go as a big team and family together. We don’t have support or big sponsors, so we can’t hire big professional service crew. In Hail I faced some mechanical problems, it actually happened at the start of the Super Special stage, we finished the stage, but we had problems with the Buggy. Unfortunately in Hail it was very difficult place to find parts. So the next day before the start of stage one, we decided to pull out. Hail was a good rally, but for a Bahraini it had challenges because we have no area to practice on the same kind of environment, so it was a good chance for a Bahraini to prove their talents.
ARG: So what’s your plan for next race? What are you aiming for next?
HS: Jeddah Baja is coming up. I would also love to drive in the World Championship again, because no Bahraini’s have done it before, and that is a shame. Before Hail, in 1996 and 1997 I did the World Rally Championship, which was the first time for a Bahraini to participate. One of the races I finished 7th and the other, I blew the engine on one of the stages.
ARG: Especially in Jeddah, I think the stages are shorter than Hail, it would be a good place for a Bahraini to start.
HS: Yes, that’s what I heard. Hail was long stages, and almost was an International Rally. Which is good, lots of competitors, lots of Saudi Drivers, because before this Hail Rally we only saw a few Saudi drivers, like Mohammed Khayat and Ahmed Sabban. Now since Hail, we have seen lots of drivers, and it will grow in time. Jeddah is easy to get to from here. I think any Bahraini can join motorsport, because a lot them are mechanics or fabricators, they do a lot of the work themselves, so this is a big chance for them to learn and prove themselves. There is a lot Bahraini’s better than me, and I am not the first and I am sure I will not be the last. Experience counts, you have to start from somewhere, and I am happy to advice anyone wanting to participate, especially in rallies. Of course, our doors are always open. That is the way we started. We are all one big family, especially in Bahrain, helping and supporting each other, but in the stages we forget each other.
ARG: Hassan, I know we can keep talking until tomorrow about rallies and the adventures. I want to know, what do you advise for younger people, drivers and people on the roads, as an experienced Rally Driver? I know you have been through a lot of accidents and experiences in rallies.
HS: My advice is to all these young guys that speed on the roads, I want to invite you to the hospitals, and see the injured people. Some people were unlucky and have died, some are paralyzed. Remember your families need you, your friends need you, they need to enjoy their lives but in a safe way. They can join and participate in motorsports, which has proven safety, both of us have had some very bad crashes, and because of the safety and roll cages we are here. I am 52, and I think you must be almost 28, but still we feel that we are safe.
ARG: Anyway thank you Hassan, hopefully we will catch up with you later on before your next event.