x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Training fast-tracked at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit

The Life:Faisal al Sahlawi talks about how his job has him surrounded by elite race cars that nearly anyone can step into and take for a spin at Yas Marina Circuit - with video.

Faisal al Sahlawi, the racing school manager for Yas Marina Circuit.
Faisal al Sahlawi, the racing school manager for Yas Marina Circuit.

Getting behind the wheel of an elite racing car is easier than you'd think. Faisal al Sahlawi, the racing school manager for Yas Marina Circuit, explains how he helps aspiring speedsters.

About 8.30am

Official hours start at 8.30, but that depends on how late we stayed the night before because we usually have racing experiences that run until 10 or 11pm. Once in, I speak to our head engineer because he always has an update for me in the morning. We do a detailed check on all the cars. We make sure everything is safe. Wear and tear on race cars is high.

Mid-morning

Once a week, there's a meeting with ticketing and sales, and we decide what cars are available. Everyone hears "Aston Martin" and that's the one they want. But once they get here and they see the SuperSport or Formula Yas 3000 they go and book another experience with one of those as well. The Aston is noisy, big and heavy. My favourite is the SuperSport, because it's the lightest one.

Before lunch

Usually we're going through reports from previous experiences, planning for future products. We'll have programmes launched soon that will basically turn a regular driver into a race driver in a very short period. Training includes driving, health and fitness, diet, how to deal with media.

Lunch

We're lucky to have seven hotels around us, the [Yas Links] golf club and Ferrari World. Otherwise, I eat at the canteen in our headquarters.

Afternoon

I'm overseeing the delivery of the experience: the way the instructors talk to the clients, the way we line up the cars in the pit lane when the clients get them, the way we put the helmets out for them, the evaluation they get after they do the experience.

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5.30pm

The "experience", or racing, starts. People come and we have the briefing. We also introduce them to their instructors.

About 6pm

They get suited up then get into the cars. They drive around the track, slowly for the first lap, and then they can push as much as they want as long as they are following the instructions. We've had students at 250kph on some straights. We also lift the cars just like they do in a pit stop. They think that's just for looks but that helps us cool the brakes.

About 6.30pm

By the time the first group leaves the car, the next group will be briefed and suited up.

After 10.30pm

Of course, I never miss a chance to do a lap myself, but I don't get a lot of chances. There are safety marshals that have to be on the track; they leave. I leave. I don't go home. I have to meet someone, either friends or family, before I go to sleep. Otherwise I'll feel like the whole day went to waste.