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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 July 2018

UAE-built sports car Jannarelly will lead the field at one of the world's oldest motorsport races

The team behind the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb's official safety car tell us about the high-octane project

On Sunday, a UAE-built sports car will lead the field at one of the oldest and most prestigious motorsport events in the United States. A modified Jannarelly Design-1 is the official safety car for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado, marking the latest milestone in an impressive rise to prominence for the Dubai-based carmaker, a story that is barely three years old.

Jannarelly is taking on the task alongside another Dubai company, PureDrive, off the back of the latter’s car stunt work on Salman Khan’s latest box-office smash, Race 3. After being introduced at last year’s Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Jannarelly-PureDrive team soon formulated a plan for Pikes Peak, drawing on PureDrive’s motorsport experience and contacts.

“The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind, particularly the last few days getting the car ready as D-Day is looming,” says a visibly weary Theo Measures, one half of the PureDrive team, alongside British compatriot Matt Croucher, at Jannarelly’s factory in Al Jaddaf. “The way PureDrive works is that we go from very small initial conversations to massive, over-ambitious, stupid plans within a very short space of time. They didn’t quite know what they were getting themselves into when we first mentioned Pikes Peak.”

Competitors will be racing almost 20 kilometres to the summit of the 4,300-metre Pikes Peak mountain, which is so high that the thinness of the air can knock off up to 30 per cent of the power of their engines.

The task of the Design-1, piloted by British racing driver Tom Onslow-Cole, will be to take the first run up the mountain to notify spectators and safety staff that the high-octane action is about to begin, then, as Measures puts it, “clear out” the mountain at the end of racing.

“Being the official safety car is a real privilege – and it’s even more of a privilege for two home-grown entities to be pairing up and taking the first ever UAE car to Pikes Peak,” Measures says.

Competitors will be racing almost 20 kilometres to the summit of the 4,300-metre Pikes Peak mountain, which is so high that the thinness of the air can knock off up to 30 per cent of the power of their engines.

The task of the Design-1, piloted by British racing driver Tom Onslow-Cole, will be to take the first run up the mountain to notify spectators and safety staff that the high-octane action is about to begin, then, as Measures puts it, “clear out” the mountain at the end of racing.

“Being the official safety car is a real privilege – and it’s even more of a privilege for two home-grown entities to be pairing up and taking the first ever UAE car to Pikes Peak,” Measures says.

The end game, however, is to promote the Jannarelly brand in what the company’s French design brain Anthony Jannarelly sees as a “perfect country for this kind of roadster”, given the climate and lifestyle of states such as California and Florida. “It’s a market where there’s a good car culture and they understand what we are trying to achieve.”

It all ties in to Jannarelly’s plans to produce 200 cars per year in five years’ time – so far, it has orders for about 25 Design-1 cars, with “five or six” already in the hands of their owners and an initial aim to make three cars per month, says the model’s designer. With the Design-1 limited to 499 examples, that output will be aided in “about three years” by a second Jannarelly model. “What I want is to have a timeless design for the Design-1 and the other car with a totally different look and concept – much more futuristic. The design is totally in here,” he says, tapping his temple, “but a little bit on paper”.

“What we sell is emotions, more than performance and technology,” says Jannarelly, who has designed the radical lines of several models for other UAE car companies, including W Motors’ Lykan HyperSport and Fenyr SuperSport. “In terms of racing, we want to go where people share their emotions, it’s not only purely about results.”

With its retro-styling and aim to go back to basics in terms of driver thrills, the Design-1 is actually startlingly good value for money, costing from US$65,000 (Dh238,755) in the UAE. Its options list is about to expand significantly, too, with knowledge gained from development work on the Pikes Peak safety car being fed back into the road car – including new suspension systems, an aero kit and choices for either a sequential or automatic gearbox, to supplement the existing manual transmission. The ultimate culmination of this research and development will be an officially endorsed Pikes Peak special edition of the car that Measures says will be available to order soon.

More than that, even, the project seems to have forged lifelong friendships between the Anglo-French collaboration, completed by Jannarelly’s business partner and countryman Frederic Juillot.

The next step in the team’s fledgling ventures in motorsport will be to return to Pikes Peak next year, but this time to compete via a souped-up version of the Design-1. There are also plans to take part in more hill-climb events, perhaps GT4 racing and enter other well-known petrolhead gatherings, including the UK’s annual Goodwood Festival of Speed. The safety car, Measures says, may be sold in the US after Pikes Peak if they find the right buyer; if not, it will go on a tour around the country, most likely winding up at Monterey Car Week in California in August.

Who knows, perhaps at future Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where the team first met, the Yas Marina Circuit might reverberate to the sound of a Jannarelly engine. We certainly wouldn’t put it past them.

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