x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Porsche 911 GT3 is as impressive at Yas Marina Circuit as on the roads

My Car Khaled Al Qubaisi chose his thoroughbred Porsche for its heritage, especially appreciating the responsive handling.

Khaled Al Qubaisi uses his Porsche 911 GT3 on a daily basis as well as on tracks but he intends to keep it in good shape for when his oldest son is ready to drive. Razan Alzayani / The National
Khaled Al Qubaisi uses his Porsche 911 GT3 on a daily basis as well as on tracks but he intends to keep it in good shape for when his oldest son is ready to drive. Razan Alzayani / The National

Getting to test so many cars is something of a poisoned chalice for The National's Motoring team. After a while there's a danger that they start to blend into one lacklustre experience because, while the majority of new cars on sale are perfectly capable, well designed machines, very few stand out from the crowd as being totally unique. Porsche's 911 GT3 happens to be one of those.

And despite the vast array of Porsches seen on the roads of the UAE, it's not often you get to see a GT3. More hardcore than a regular 911, they're motorsport thoroughbreds, race cars made legal for the street in the name of homologation. And we love them. Adore them, in fact, with a passion that borders on the insane. So when we get to meet an actual owner of a GT3, well, we feel a need to communicate. Say hello to Khaled Al Qubaisi - a man we instantly connected with.

When The National reported on Yas Marina's inaugural Extreme Superlap event a couple of months ago, Al Qubaisi was there, using the Porsche in the way its makers intended. "The true beauty of these cars," he remarks, "is that you can use them as daily drivers during the week, take part at a track day during the weekend and drive home again afterwards."

He's right - the GT3 is one of the truly great all-rounders. Built to withstand the rigours of endurance racing, it will take a track day in its stride without breaking. Which, when you want to drive home, is a pretty big deal. "Having the Yas Marina facilities on our doorstep is a huge benefit for people like me," he admits. "It's one of the main reasons I bought the Porsche. I studied in the USA for six years and, while there, took some lessons in track driving. It's a brilliant way to improve your skills and when I heard that we'd have our own F1 track in Abu Dhabi, I decided I had to have a suitable car."

Having previously owned Japanese performance cars such as Mitsubishi's Evo, he was tempted by Nissan's excellent GTR. "It lost out, though, due to Porsche's heritage," says Al Qubaisi. "The 911 has been built and steadily refined since 1963, it has a classic shape and all the handling problems have been dealt with."

It took eight months from the time he placed his order to taking delivery and he admits that felt like forever but says it was well worth the wait. Having been into cars from an early age and enjoying karting, it was perhaps inevitable that a supercar itch would develop that needed to be scratched. After completing his education in America, this 35-year-old Abu Dhabi native put his talents to good use with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, but the Porsche is more than a weekend toy for blowing away the cobwebs. "Seriously, I use it all the time," he says. Which might explain that, unusually for a GT3, his is fitted with standard, as opposed to racing bucket, seats. "The salesman said I'd find them too uncomfortable seeing as I wanted to use it as a daily driver," he recalls. "But I've since tried them in a friend's car and I should have ignored that advice as the buckets are superb."

Qubaisi and his wife have four children, so seeing as though the Porsche is strictly a two-seater, taking them out in it must be a one-at-a-time affair. "Yes, it is," he smiles. "Although we also have a Jeep Wrangler with a 6.1L engine in the family and a Chevvy Tahoe. And, while my eldest son is still too young to join me at Yas, I'm saving it for him - he'll enjoy it many years from now."

He says his wife seems to think he moves about a lot while driving the GT3. "She's not used to cars with manual gearboxes. All she sees is my hand moving to change gear and my left leg operating the clutch," he laughs. So would he be tempted to buy a newer GT3 with the sequential dual-clutch transmission? "No way, I love the interaction of a manual, I like the feeling that I'm in control of the car. I may upgrade the brakes at some stage but this car is staying the way it is - it's perfect."