x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pole Position: UAE car fans should try out being a motorsport fan, too

Why do so many people buy a 300kph supercar when the national speed limit is 120kph? And why isn't there a long queue of these drivers waiting at the gates of our race circuits on public track days?

In November 1948, when there was only one European living in Dubai, the late Edward Henderson set off from the city to Al Ain via Abu Dhabi in a two-wheel-drive Chevrolet pickup truck. There were no roads, not even graded tracks. He would cover the 200km journey in six hours. He had to send fuel ahead by camel in four-gallon tins the previous week.

Nowadays, we enjoy a modern network of roads and the government kindly makes fuel available by the roadside, which we all take for granted.

The UAE has a reputation as being in love with its cars and the camel has largely been replaced by the ubiquitous Toyota Land Cruiser as the preferred mode of desert transport. But spend any Thursday evening by Jumeirah Beach Road and you will see dozens of young men enjoying cruising around in their exotic supercars in a manner befitting of the very best of motoring carnivals.

Fortunately, the majority of roads are manned by hundreds of radar cameras to remind us that speeding is illegal, dangerous and expensive. In the hands of a badly trained driver, a fast car is a loaded gun.

So why do so many people buy a 300kph supercar when the national speed limit is 120kph?

Of course I understand the attraction. But what I don't understand is why there isn't a long queue of these drivers waiting at the gates of our race circuits on public track days.

Why would you not want to have the opportunity to really open the throttle and test your supercar's amazing brakes on a race track that has high-speed corners, no speed limits, one-way traffic, no lorries or taxis and no police cars?

Surely, supercar dealers here would include a complimentary track day with an instructor to show the buyer how to drive their car? Well, they don't. How crazy is that?

I went to a track day recently. We needed to shake down a Ginetta G50, a GT4 race car, which had been refreshed after winning Class C of last season's UAE GT Championship. After our racing driver had satisfied himself it was all working perfectly, I climbed in through the tiny opening of the roll cage and was strapped very tightly into a deep race seat with a six-point safety harness, adjusted the mirrors and armed the electronic fire extinguisher. Ignition switch on, press the starter button, then press the neutral button on the steering wheel and flick the carbon paddle to select first gear and I am off gently down the pit lane - with my "road car" friends watching and wondering what it must be like to drive a racing car. I can tell them - it's unreal. The mechanical cacophony of sound from the transmission and racing gearbox can be quite intimidating, let alone the feeling of acceleration powered by a 300hp six-cylinder engine.

As a passenger with a racing driver at the wheel, the car was at full throttle in sixth gear, travelling at 63 metres per second, yet we were only 100 metres from the corner when he slammed the brake pedal and somehow made the car change direction. At that moment my 75kg body weighed 200kg. We did that seven times per lap. Brilliant.

Pole Position is written by Barry Hope, 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.