Barry Hope on why his racing team is heading for Malaysia this summer
Pole Position: summer UAE heat forces motor racers overseas
Motor racing is a winter sport in this part of the world. Given the climate, it has to be. We have already finished the UAE National Racing season for that very reason.
When the ambient temperature exceeds 40°C, which is typically the case from May to September, engines are at risk with coolant and lubricant temperatures exceeding design limits. In the hot sunshine, tarmac will be around 50°C to 60°C yet slick racing tyres work well at 90°C to 100°C. But if a driver allows the car to slide, the tyres heat up instantly and, when they exceed 100°C, they lose grip. The car will now slide even more at the next corner unless the driver foresees the problem and deals with it. Conversely, slick tyres are useless until the driver manages to get them warmed up to their working temperature, which takes two laps or more.
Formula One car designers have to make a design compromise in order to satisfy the demands of aerodynamics by using very small radiators. This means they have to use high-pressure cooling systems to stop the coolant from boiling. Modern F1 engines run coolant at 125°C.
But what about the circuit and racing personnel working in those temperatures? Clearly, it's not fair on the mechanics and marshals. Cars need to be worked on between races and in a 40°C-plus situation the engine and brakes are red-hot so the chances of injury is high.
So when it's far too hot for racing, what can a motorsport business in the UAE do in summer?
The answer is, not a lot - even our busy race shop that retails professional racing equipment will be very quiet.
So we decided that it's time for the UAE to export its motor-racing expertise and find a circuit in another country where the summer weather is a bit kinder.
Having just finished our first 14-race season of Formula Gulf 1000, we can now offer pre-season training and testing to kart racers and young drivers in Malaysia, which is well served by both Etihad and Emirates airlines. This will offer our current and new racers an exciting new testing experience as well as help recruit more young drivers to race in the UAE, just as 18-year-old Malaysian Natasha Seatter did this year.
Motor racing is well established in southeast Asia, fed by an active kart-racing scene. Some great circuits were built around 30 years ago, such as the Bira Circuit in Thailand, the Shah Alam and Johor circuits in Malaysia and the Sentul International Circuit in Indonesia. Malaysia has been running Formula One since Eddie Irvine won its inaugural grand prix in 1999 at one of Hermann Tilke's best-designed tracks: Sepang International Circuit.
Starting next month we are going to run a series of three-day driver training courses at the Johor circuit. As we did at Yas Marina Circuit last year, many young karters will get their very first experience of driving a real Formula car. With their kart-racing experience, they will know how to race - we just teach them the correct way to drive a single-seater.
Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to find an Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.gulf-sport.com or on Facebook at GulfSportRacing.