Ever since the TTAC Corporate jet dropped me off in Abu Dhabi, a reoccurring criticism has been “Who cares about Abu Dhabi?” Is Abu Dhabi a center of automotive design? Renowned for its automotive innovation? A world class automotive manufacturer? A breeding ground for world class drivers? Not yet, but it has a race track.
Actually, there are two racetracks in the United Arab Emirates; the Autodrome in Dubai and Yas Island just outside of Abu Dhabi. The Porsche Club of the UAE let me to tag along at their Yas Island track event.
These are serious gearheads and this event was more than I expected. If you were hoping for a snarky piece bashin’ them there ferren’ people, just skip to the comments and call me a sellout.
My contact was Adel Arslan, the club secretary. Originally from Lebanon, he has lived in the UAE for some time and is a very proud ambassador for Porsche Club UAE. He joined the club in 2005 when he first bought a Boxster, moved up to a 996 and now operates a GT3. We met at the front gate as cars lined up. Any idea about an expose’ of hack safety, rich people bashing machinery and wannabes acting out “No Man’s Land” fantasies disappeared. This club operated with stunning efficiency, ruthless inspections and a minimum of Panameras.
The newest Formula 1 circuit, Yas Island is a 21-turn course that adds a chicane along the back straight for club events. The gates open precisely at 6 PM (night rental is cheaper). Adel stands guard; cars process in two rows and beautiful hostesses affix class stickers to each vehicle.
Adel enthusiastically recounts the club history, his progress and he introduces committee members. As he speaks he checks every armband, personally welcomes each participant and warmly greets his friends. A Brembo team handles tech, and a Pirelli team handles tire pressures. 76 cars are classed, inspected and staged in less than 50 minutes.
The largest car club in the Middle East, PC UAE has 12,000+ members since being established in 1998. When the Autodrome in Dubai was completed, they were the first club to rent it. Five members are now club racing.
Alongside Brembo and Pirelli, the Abu Dhabi Porsche dealer brought 14 cars and potential clients. They have special stickers, and each one will have an instructor with them in the car.
Actually, all of the novice groups have an instructor in the car and are following an instructor. The intermediate group is a lead follow format. No group has more than 4 cars. The advanced have been to at least three events, signed off by an instructor and are running a normal track day arrangement. Each session is an hour.
The drivers meeting is upstairs, there is catered food for purchase and the Porsche dealer has a table with a 25 percent discount on polos, pullovers and spill proof coffee mugs.
My friend and driving instructor Judy Faas once told me she gets novices on the track early. They aren’t listening, they are dreaming of the track. Then bring them back and show them how to go faster. The new folks are sent out. The old hands have a nice discussion about braking thresholds. 50 minutes later, the flag is waved, the novices come in and the intermediates are out. I am insanely jealous of the efficiency. US track days tend toward a migrating delay as it wears on. Not here.
Every instructor drives a GT3 except for 1 GT2 and a lone Cayman R. Adel is a blur of activity. He is instructing and jumping out during the advanced group with various passengers. During the final session, I hop in.
The Ambassador becomes The Driver. His front tires are pushing, but he knows how to handle his car. A GT2 passes us; The Driver becomes The Racer. Red mist is international and a grin comes through his helmet.
“Thees guy, he has turbo, but I have Brembos, they are tha sheet.” The upgrade stops like an anchor. We close, out braking at the end of the back straight. Unable to put down all its power, the GT2 is stuck with us along the marina turns. It pulls slightly on exits, but Adel is able to out brake and reel it in. This continues until the main straight when the turbo pulls away.
After a cool down lap, back in the pits, Adel leaps from the car;
“Did jou see? I stuck with heem, all through the back!”
Racers are the same everywhere.