x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Chequered flag for Dubai stock cars

A Dubai businessman has snapped up a fleet of stock cars at auction for $1 million and is considering starting his own race.

Cars round a curve during the Speedcar Series Grand Racing 2009 held at the Dubai Autodrome. Paulo Vecina / The National
Cars round a curve during the Speedcar Series Grand Racing 2009 held at the Dubai Autodrome. Paulo Vecina / The National

A Dubai businessman is the proud owner of a fleet of 27 stock cars capable of speeds up to 225kph. Now he is trying to figure out what to do with them.

Saif Jaffar Suhail bin Markhan Al Ketbi, who is described as a 35-year-old UAE national working in global trading, was the winning bidder for the remnants of the Speedcar racing series, a failed attempt to bring stock car racing to Dubai. "He's not in racing," said Gianni Menga, Mr Al Ketbi's technical assistant. "He just loves cars."

Mr Al Ketbi is exploring different possibilities for the cars, spare 620-horsepower engines, tools, telemetry systems and shipping containers that were included in the auction, Mr Menga said. "He thought it was a good deal."

No purchase price was disclosed, although Mr Menga said it was "just about" the US$1 million (Dh3.6m) asking price.

The Speedcar series was launched in 2008 by Union Properties, the developer of Motor City in Dubailand, and attracted such international drivers as Jean Alessi, Johnny Herbert, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jacques Villenueve. But the series collapsed after two years and went into liquidation, listing Dh153m in liabilities, including Dh620,000 owed to Mr Herbert, the Formula One driver who won the series' first championship.

Liquidators had been trying to auction the cars and equipment for the past year, with an asking price of $1.5m. Last month they relaunched the auction, allowing interested parties to bid on individual items.

The auction company, GoIndustry DoveBid, received 34 bids on the whole package and on individual items, from Hong Kong, Singapore, Angola, Australia, the US, UK and Thailand, in addition to the UAE, said the company's head of operations, Will Hancock.

The cars and equipment have been sitting in storage in a warehouse at the Dubai Autodrome since the demise of the series. Mr Al Ketbi did not drive the cars, but they were in "good shape", Mr Menga said.

The cars may be used to launch a racing school, where amateurs can learn how to drive fast cars, Mr Menga said. Or Mr Al Ketbi might attempt to launch a new racing series, although he would not try to revive the Speedcar series.

The purchase was a "chance to create something", Mr Menga said. "He saw the deal in this auction." In the worse case, "he can sell and get back his money".