ABU DHABI // Car enthusiasts wandered past Hummers adorned with diamantes and souped-up four-wheel drives, and skateboarders showed off their stunts nearby as two festivals opened side by side in the capital yesterday. Adrenaline Sports Live, an extreme sports event, and Barbican Turbo, a custom car meet, will continue through the weekend at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
There were fewer visitors than expected yesterday, but organisers were optimistic that attendance would pick up today and tomorrow. For Hisham Ibrahim, a Jordanian, the draw was the cars. He entered his four-wheel drive Nissan Patrol, boosted from 270 to 1,010 horsepower - more powerful than a Formula One car - in the custom cars competition. Adding the "wow factor" is more than a hobby for Mr Ibrahim, who has a workshop in Musaffah. A lot of people want extra power for their four wheel drives, he said. "Everybody likes his horse to be strong. Fast cars make you feel free."
Mr Ibrahim brought his own car and seven others from his workshop to display at the festival. He described one as "the fastest truck in the world". "We've not heard about another truck with this power. I'm sure it's the fastest." With 2,600 horsepower, he said, the pickup can accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in less than two seconds. Ten customised Ford Mustangs, a Volkswagen Beetle and a bright orange Cadillac Escalade with remote-controlled suspension and neon wheels that cost Dh14,000 (US$3,815) each were among the cars in the main hall.
"It's about the people who have a real passion for modifying," said Daniel Anslow, who works for CMPi, the show's organiser. "When other people are down at the beach, these guys would be at home fitting new wheels and buffing up their cars to make them perfect." Outside the exhibition centre, Team Orange, one of world's top drifting teams, cut dark rubber swirls into the pavement. Drifting is a technique in which drivers intentionally skid their rear tyres through turns at high speeds and keep their cars under control.
Sergey Nushtayev, 21, a Russian who lives in Abu Dhabi, came especially for the drifting. "I really love cars. The showy cars are cool but the drifting cars and the drag-racing cars are what I really like," he said. At the extreme sports festival, skateboarding, wakeboarding and dragon-boat competitions will be held today and tomorrow. Barbora Furskog, from the Czech Republic, has been wakeboarding for six and a half years and plans to enter the competition. She says it is a rare chance in the region.
"The UAE is the perfect place to wakeboard, but unfortunately there's not much opportunity to compete," she said after practising her tricks. The festival also gives novices the chance to try out something new. Rabih Zein, 24, a Lebanese financial analyst, has tried bungee jumping and skydiving but wants to improve his watersport skills. "We've been waiting for an event like this for such a long time here in Abu Dhabi. Even in Lebanon they still don't have such an event," he said.
Visitors can try out 15 action sports. Today, the festival will bring the ancient Chinese tradition of dragon-boat racing to the Emirates for the first time. More than 40 teams will compete in the National Dragon Boating Cup, which will conclude tomorrow. firstname.lastname@example.org