For Tarek Elgammal, his car is not his obsession. While it is a sporty Porsche Cayman S, and makes him possibly the envy of many a fellow motorist, Elgammal says, "I don't tend to get excited too much by road cars - they all get you from point A to point B." But this may come as no surprise, considering the 36-year-old, Dubai-based Australian spends plenty of time behind the wheel of some pretty special cars in his second job and spare time.
During the week, Elgammal is the market development manager for BlackBerry but, on weekends, he is a racing and driving instructor at Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit. During the UAE motorsport season, he races in the Supercars Middle East Championship and the UAE GT Championship. Elgammal bought his Porsche from a friend who had taken good care of the car. "I was tired of getting ripped off by a particular car rental company in Dubai," he says. "I have always loved Porsches but could never afford one. But back in 2008, times were good and I thought, why not.
"For those who love sports cars, I would thoroughly recommend a Porsche." He has never had a problem with the Porsche, but admits there is one small issue with it. "It is a wonderful car; however, it is not practical if you need to carry anything bigger than a cabin bag." Elgammal learnt to drive in Sydney, Australia when he was 16 and his first car was a far cry from the Porsche - it was a 1968 Toyota Corona.
"It was a four-speed, column shift manual with a bench seat up the front," he recalls. "It was a really cool car that I bought for AUD$200 from a friend." He says that, in the ensuing 20 years, the one lesson he has learnt about driving "particularly in this part of the world, is to expect the unexpected." Elgammal says that every day driving in the UAE is "an adventure" but not necessarily an enjoyable one.
He prefers to put the cruise control on when he is on the road and to avoid driving whenever possible, given the crazy antics he has witnessed in the four-and-a-half years that he has lived in Dubai. "I find it quite stressful here, as opposed to Sydney, where going for a drive can be quite relaxing," says Elgammal. One of the main culprits for unsafe driving conditions on the UAE's roads is a lack of thought among drivers, according to Elgammal.
"I think the driving here is just terrible - there is a general lack of common sense and people just don't think ahead." As a driving instructor at the UAE's two largest tracks, Elgammal has seen the bad habits that drivers here have acquired but says that extra training will help improve everyone's road skills. "I would say most accidents are caused by incompetence and a lack of proper training," he says, adding that he has even seen driving instructors perform illegal moves, such as changing lanes without indicating and driving in the overtaking lane below the speed limit.
"I can only assume that they are training their students with all their bad habits." In between doing his bit to bring the concepts of road discipline and defensive driving to the motorists of the UAE, Elgammal has bigger car dreams that go beyond the Porsche he uses to take on the traffic. "I have no plans on new cars or anything of the sort - my priority is on helping my father pay his mortgage and achieving my racing goals," he says.
"My dream car is not a road car, it is a V8 Supercar," says Elgammal. "I have had a lifelong ambition of getting into V8 Supercars and am currently looking for sponsors to help me represent the Middle East region in this huge championship." * Georgia Lewis