ABU DHABI // An expanded programme of drag racing is the highlight of the latest drive by Yas Marina Circuit to generate more local interest in motorsport. Richard Cregan, the track's chief executive, reasserted his desire for the facility to be attractive to as much of the local population as possible.
"Abu Dhabi has a tremendous asset in Yas Marina Circuit and we want to maximise its use during the year," he said yesterday at the launch of the winter programme of races and events. "Last year, our focus was on delivering a successful Grand Prix. This year, we have been working very hard to develop a full range of on-track activities and events, and our calendar reflects the result." The Drag Racing Festival in March was arguably the most popular event after the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with both nights selling out.
Next year's festival, on March 4-5, will be headlined by Rod Fuller, the track's resident drag racer, taking on a yet to be announced opponent in top fuellers. There will be two street racing competitions open to the public on December 9-11 and December 16-18. Street cars will also be allowed to try out the drag strip on other open days, starting next week. "The incentive is to get people off the streets and in a controlled racing environment that is safe," said Rashed al Qubaisi, the head of the Yas Drag Racing Centre.
There will be four Pro Racing series, run over weekends between January and April, that will include every professional class of dragster other than the top fuellers. Next month's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be followed by more Formula One action. There is a test session for young drivers on November 16-18, followed by a tyre test where the teams will test the Pirelli compounds that they will be using for 2011 when the sport switches from Bridgestone to the Italian supplier.
The Australian V8 Supercars and the GP2 Asia series, both featured in this year's itinerary, are on next year's calendar as a combined event on February 11-12. The FIA GT1 World Championship, a sportscar series that made its debut on the international stage in April, will take place on March 26-27. A new event for the track next year is Formula Drift, which is being held on February 25. The series sees drivers race while trying to drift and slide their vehicles around a course. "There is drifting in the UAE and we support it already but this is at a very professional level," Cregan said.
There are also two UAE National Racing weekends on December 16-17 and March 17-18, which will comprise a number of local race series. There is a new Speed Weekend on April 8-9, which will see Chevrolet Supercars and Porsche GT3s in action. Cregan said he is pleased with the calendar, which will be supported by open track days when the public can cycle and run on the track. Also, the karting track at the facility is due to open before the Grand Prix.
"I believe there is something for everyone in this schedule," he said, "from cycling and karting at one end of the spectrum to F1, Aussie V8s and GT1 at the other, with a complete range of racing and public track use in between."