Meet Ralph Debbas, the man behind Vin Diesel’s Furious 7 Lykan Hypersport
We talk to the head of W Motors in Dubai, which produced the Lykan Hypersport – the car that Vin Diesel’s Dom drives off Etihad Towers in Furious 7.
When Furious 7 opens in UAE cinemas on Wednesday, April 2, fans will see Vin Diesel’s character Dom Toretto switch vehicles.
Parking his beloved black Dodge Charger, Toretto takes the wheel of a rare and impressive Lykan Hypersport, the first Middle Eastern supercar and one of the world’s fastest.
It goes from 0 to 60 in less than three seconds and has a top speed of 395kph. With a US$3.4 million (Dh12.5m) price tag, it is the most expensive car to feature in the Fast and Furious franchise.
W Motors, a company based in Dubai, produces the car in Torino, Italy by Magna Steyr. The company’s chief executive, Ralph Debbas, 29 and from Lebanon, spoke to The National from Beijing just after he had shared the stage with the film’s stars Diesel, Jason Statham and Michelle Rodriguez at the film’s Chinese press event.
He will showcase the car today at the Dubai International Marine Club during an appearance at the Step conference, a tech, design and gaming event.
In the film, Diesel’s Toretto manages to drive the Lykan Hypersport through the windows of one of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Towers skyscrapers through the air to another, before plummeting 45 floors to the ground.
It’s an electrifying scene, which is, as an investigation by The National found, theoretically possible – although the car would not likely hit the ground unscathed.
Debbas agrees that the stunt could work in real life. He should know, because he was there watching his beloved car in action in Atlanta, Georgia, where the filmmakers managed to pull it off.
“Of course, the car didn’t crash through a building,” he says. “But they actually threw the car out of a window and rammed it on the ground upside – it was absolutely amazing seeing it touch down.
“It is not the sort of scenario you would see in real life. The whole Etihad Towers scene is just incredible.”
While all 10 stunt cars used in Furious 7 were shipped to Atlanta by plane for the filming of the movie on set, the Lykan Hypersport was sent back to Dubai and is being kept in storage at W Motors.
The eye-catching car regularly attracts curious onlookers when Debbas takes it out for a spin – and once the film is released, it will have full film-star kudos, too.
“It is a satisfaction and pride to drive it around Dubai and see all heads turn in its direction when it hits the highway,” says Debbas. “People are starting to notice it more and more on the roads. They step aside to admire it and to take pictures.”
As if the mechanical specs were not enough, the Lykan Hypersport used in the film truly dazzles: with 420 diamonds placed in its headlights.
“At first, the diamonds enabled us to create a lot of buzz about the car and were part of our marketing strategy,” says Debbas, who explains that sapphires and emeralds are also an option. “Then these precious stones played a very important role in making the car look even more beautiful.”
Furious 7 marks the first time in the multibillion-dollar franchise that Toretto has driven a hypercar, and is the first time since FF3 that he’s not been in his black Dodge Charger.
“The producers and stunt coordinators needed a car that was really different from the ones used in all the previous Fast and Furious movies, something that they don’t see everyday,” says Debbas.
The car was certainly given special treatment during filming. A special set resembling an Arabic-style penthouse suite was built to feature the car. Celebrities aside, Debbas believes the vehicle is “the star of Fast and Furious 7”.
“There are seven of these in the world and this guy keeps his locked up in a vault,” says Brian O’Conner, the character played by the late Paul Walker in the film.
“There’s nothing sadder than locking a beast in a cage,” Diesel’s Dom replies, before taking it out for a little spin.
Debbas says that although Diesel only got the chance to drive his “beast” during working hours, “he is looking forward to driving it off set” – a hint perhaps that the Hollywood action man has bought one of his own.
Debbas has high hopes for the film, which he says has created “a huge wave of excitement” about his car even before its release in the UAE on Wednesday night.
“In my opinion, this film is going to be the biggest movie at the box office in history – next to Avatar and Titanic,” he says. “We are very lucky to be part of Fast and Furious 7. This whole adventure is fantastic.”
• Ralph Debbas and the Lykan Hypersport will appear at the one-day Step conference, March 31, at the Dubai International Marine Club, at 11.50am. Last-minute tickets are available for Dh1,282 For more information, visit stepconference.com
This article was amended on March 31, 2015. It had previously stated that the Lykan Hypersport was produced in Dubai. Although W Motors is based in Dubai, the car is produced in Torino, Italy by Magna Steyr.