x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Nascar style racing roars back to the track in Dubai

Speedcars return to the Dubai Autodrome after 3 years and this time you can get behind the wheel - for a price.

Gulf Racing's Fabien Giroix with one of the cars that will be used and kept at Dubai Autodrome.
Gulf Racing's Fabien Giroix with one of the cars that will be used and kept at Dubai Autodrome.

DUBAI // Can you hear the engines roar? The more than 200kph stock cars are back.

After gathering dust for three years since the Speedcar Series was cancelled, the 26 identical V8 620-horsepower monsters - more powerful than a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570 - are being tested today and tomorrow in preparation for races at Dubai Autodrome in November.

The original series began in 2007 but it hit financial problems and the last race was in 2009. The company went into liquidation a year later with debts of Dh153 million and its cars and support equipment were put up for sale.

Gulf Racing Middle East has bought the lot for an undisclosed sum, and now plans to split the series into a club circuit and a championship circuit.

To be part of the exclusive club, drivers must pay US$30,000 (Dh110,190) to buy a share of a car plus Dh25,000 a year for running costs.

Fabien Giroix, of Gulf Racing Middle East, said those who bought into it would be invited to up to three track days a month at which they could test drive their cars, which are similar to those used in Nascar, the US racing series.

"You come down with your racing suit, and your mechanics are provided," Mr Giroix said. "It is like Formula One where you just come down and test the car on the track but there is no race."

Owners can sell their shares at market price, should the need arise. The car stays at the Autodrome.

"It's your car and you can put your own colours on it," Mr Giroix said. "It's a little like owning a racehorse. You own the horse and if you want to ride it you can, but after it races it goes back to the stables where it's looked after."

Speedcar provides everything from mechanics and engineers to fire suits, and each car's technical specifications are identical.

"If you want to change the front brake or the battery needs replacing, there is a set price. There is no surprise," Mr Giroix said.

Owners can also choose to participate in the championship. Otherwise, professional drivers will race their cars using their colours.

There will be three categories for the racing: a championship for professional driving, a gentlemen's category for those with some experience, and a novice category.

Frederic Fatien, 36, a businessman who races at the weekend, bought into it because it was a unique opportunity to drive these cars.

"You can usually only get these cars in the US and here you get to enjoy the opportunity to drive one. It is a very powerful, noisy car. It's basically a typical American muscle car," he said.

The previous series attracted former Formula One drivers in the professional category, and the British driver Johnny Herbert took the first title in 2008.

Mr Giroix said regulations were still being worked out, but he expected them to be finalised by November with the Automobile Touring Club UAE, the national motorsport regulator.

"We need to have a bit of fun in Dubai," Mr Fatien said. "Right now we have one of the best tracks in the world and we don't do anything on it. A lot of people would like to see these cars race and this is the only place we can see this outside the US."

eharnan@thenational.ae