x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Martin Fullard, back on track

Despite dashed F1 dreams, it's not all doom and gloom for this Al Ain-based racing fanatic.

Martin Fullard has traded his nifty Ford Focus for a more robust Toyota Tundra, which he says is a perfect vehicle for the UAE's motorways.
Martin Fullard has traded his nifty Ford Focus for a more robust Toyota Tundra, which he says is a perfect vehicle for the UAE's motorways.

UAE race aficionados are gearing up for next month's Bahrain Grand Prix, and it's no surprise that Al Ain resident Martin Fullard is hoping for a piece of the action. Having spent his formative years whizzing around go-kart tracks, Martin once had aspirations of joining the big Formula One names in their asphalt-screeching escapades.

"I was racing on go-karts from the age of 10 and always dreamt of being the next Michael Schumacher," he says. Unfortunately, an injury in his teenage years put paid to Martin's hopes of one day winning the F1 world title. "I had a bad accident when I was about 14 and dislocated my shoulder. That coupled with the lack of a few million dirhams - F1 is a very pricey sport to get into - meant I never got a chance to try my hand at the big time."

It's not all doom and gloom though, because Martin still gets his fair share of kicks at the Al Ain Raceway, where he works as the manager. "It's an all encompassing role which involves everything from running the circuit to making sure the cars are safe," explains Martin. "It's a pretty big job, but I still try to find time to play on the track now and again." However, these days, it seems Martin is less concerned with speed and more into size, having traded in his nifty Ford Focus for the more robust 2004 model Toyota Tundra. A full-sized pickup truck, complete with a whopping 5.7-litre engine and 17-inch alloy wheels, it's not exactly the kind of vehicle you'd expect to see a speed freak such as Martin driving. "People who know me would probably say the Tundra doesn't really suit me," Martin says. "You often associate big cars with big attitude and that's not really me. That said, it is a lot faster than you'd expect. For a big car, it can really shift - I like that."

And while Martin confesses it was not exactly love at first sight, the Tundra is definitely growing on him. "I knew I was going to need a big vehicle, because I have to be able to transport go-karts, but I was still a little shocked when I first saw it. I just kept thinking, 'How am I going to park that thing?' I also wasn't sure if my spatial awareness skills were up to driving such a beast of a vehicle."

Fortunately, a bit of on-road precision, acquired during his years as a kart racer, has served him well, and when all else fails "the parking spaces here are bigger than you think," a relieved Martin says. A perfect vehicle for the motorway, Martin admits he feels safer in the Tundra than any other car. "When you come from the UK, the roads here can seem to be a bit scary. For that reason, it's quite a luxury driving a big car, because you can start bullying people if you need to."

And is there anything he'd change about his giant wagon? "It's white, which is never a good colour in this country," Martin explains. "I get it washed once a week and it still looks like it's been dipped in sand. It's also automatic, which doesn't sit well with a boy racer like me. I like to be completely in control of the car I drive and I think you lose a bit of control when you drive an automatic."

That said, Martin is clearly growing attached to his beast, so much so that he's even planning a few off-road excursions. "I haven't had the chance to take it off-road yet, but I'd like to go to Liwa to do a camping trip. I'm looking forward to zooming over some massive dunes." While it might not corner like it's on rails or tear up the tarmac, à la Schumacher, Martin's still got a soft spot for his Tundra.

"Like any young lad, I'm more into my Lamborghinis and Ferraris, but I do enjoy driving the Tundra. It has a great muscle car growl and you can really hear it coming. Plus, when the going gets tough, the tough get going - and when people see you coming in this car, they get out of the way." And on UAE roads, you can't say fairer than that. motoring@thenational.ae