Beschir, Khalil (1982–)
Khalil Beschir (Bashir) is a Lebanese driver on the international A1 auto racing circuit, one of the first Arabs and certainly the most successful in this sport.
Beschir was born 18 June 1982 in Khersaf, Lebanon. His father and mother currently have a sports shop in the mountain town of Bikfaya. Beschir does not come from a wealthy background, and has often not been able to race because of lack of sponsorship. He has said that despite emotional support and encouragement, his family did not encourage him to enter the very expensive world of international auto racing.
As a young man, Khalil became enthralled with racing, and in particular Michael Schumacher, the German Formula 1 series driver, who is considered one of the best drivers in the world. He became Beschir's inspiration, although, at the urging of his parents, he originally pursued a more realistic career goal. He received a degree in marketing and business management, as well as elementary math, at the Collège des Soeurs Antounine Roumieh in Beirut. With his dream of racing still alive, he published a racing magazine, putting out eleven issues before having to halt its production when he began to compete professionally, leaving no time to devote to the magazine. He then opened a business involved in racing clothing and equipment, but this too failed. Despite these setbacks, and the unstable economic conditions in Lebanon, Beschir maintained his interest in motor sports.
INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
In 1998 Khalil first began to realize his dream. He began kart racing—by far the least expensive form of auto racing—and in his first race came in an impressive fourth. He raced on the kart circuit for one season, gaining knowledge and experience. After the season was over, he enrolled in a Formula 3 race-car driving school in Magny Cours, France, and graduated at the top of his class. This brought him to the attention of the Belgian F3000 team Astromega, which offered him a job. (The F3000 circuit was a training ground, from 1985 to 2004, for young drivers needing to gain the experience to make the jump to the Formula 1 racing circuit.) Astromega was famous for training young hopefuls who went on to be successful Formula 1 drivers. Unfortunately, Beschir was unable to obtain sponsorship or funding and was unable to take the position. Luckily a successful Lebanese businessman saw potential in the young man from his home country and decided to sponsor him. He competed in the Hockenheim Formula Renault 2 circuit. He made a good impression and was then picked up by Astromega's Formula Renault 1600 team. This move finally catapulted him into international racing.
Beschir finished sixth in France, and eleventh and thirteenth in two separate Italian Formula 3 races. He was then asked to join the fledgling Lebanese team on the A1 circuit, in which the competitors are national teams rather than commercial teams or individual drivers.
Name: Khalil Beschir (Bashir)
Birth: 1982, Khersaf, Lebanon
Education: Collège des Soeurs Antounine Roumieh, Beirut.
- 1990s: Publishes racing magazine; owns racing clothing and equipment business
- 1998: Enrolls in Formula 3 race-car driving school in Magny Cours, France
- 2004: Lebanese national A1 Grand Prix team created
- 2005: Team Lebanon competes in its first international race at Brands Hatch in England
The A1 Grand Prix, in which Team Lebanon competes, was created in 2004 by Shaykh Maktum Hashir Maktum Al Maktum, a member of the ruling family of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. It was sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and held its first race at Brands Hatch in England in September 2005. (In this race, Beschir rolled and crashed his car in an impressive but decidedly painful display.) It is an international series with twenty-five national teams competing for seven months a year from September through March. The A1 Grand Prix is important for Middle East racing fans, and is made more so by the participation of the only Arab entry, Team Lebanon.
THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE
Beschir is perceived in the Middle East both as a national symbol of success and unity and a pioneer in auto racing, which has no tradition in Lebanon. Middle East Online (an English-language Web site based in London), has commented that "A1 Team Lebanon has the passionate support of its nation, the Arab world, and the Lebanese all around the globe." It is a source of national and international pride, which extends through the entire Arab world. It is important to note that the team's drivers are diverse religiously, as is their country: Beschir is a Christian, and the other three drivers are Muslims.
Although it might be premature to assess Beschir's racing career, he will certainly go down in history as the first Arab athlete to bring auto racing to the hearts and minds of the Arab world.
"That Petrol Emotion: Team Lebanon Gears Up for the New A1 GP Season." Nox Magazine for Men. Available from http://www.nox-mag.com.
Khodr M. Zaarour