Resident petrolhead James Fryer feels the need for speed as the FIA GT Championship rolls into town.
Bad-boy racers and back seat drivers rejoice as Dubai Autodrome once again plays host to world-class drivers and their legendary two-door sports cars. Created for the road and adapted for the track, the kind of cars that only appear in teenage boys’ dreams and on poster-clad bedroom walls are coming to the UAE from November 16 to 18 as around 50 teams compete to better their odds of winning the FIA GT1 and GT2 world championship titles.
Dubai Autodrome’s spectacular Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) certified 5.39km circuit will see drivers tackling a combination of high-speed straights and technical corners, thrilling spectators from the UAE and across the globe, which is one reason why What’s On is so proud to be sponsoring this event. Attend the live MotorCity GT 500 event and you can expect to catch a glimpse of some of the biggest and best names in the car world, including Aston Martin, Corvette, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Lister, Maserati and Porsche, all run by privately owned, professional teams. Millions of less fortunate fans worldwide will have to make do with switching on their TV sets and tuning in to watch the globally televised event featuring the cream of the Formula One and Formula 3000 crops.
Last year Dubai spectators witnessed Bobbi and Gardel win the race in their Ferrari 550 Maranello, covering 88 laps at an average speed of 158kmph. In close second were Herbert and De Simone in their Maserati MC12 with then another Ferrari 550 Maranello coming in third, driven by Biagi, Calderari and Bryner. A must for any self-confessed petrol-head, the drivers entering this year’s auto activities will be taking to the steering wheels of mean machines packing a whopping 400 to 600 brake horsepower.
For those new to the sport, the 2005 season of the furiously fought championship includes 11 rounds of tarmac-tearing action with the final three rounds occurring in Zuhai (China) and Dubai, before the season finale at the Bahrain International Circuit at the end of November – all part of the championship’s ninth annual season. Divided into two categories; GT1 includes road beasts such as the Ferrari 575 Maranello, Lamborghini Murcielago and the Maserati MC 12, while the GT2 category includes the Porsche 996 and Ferrari 360 Modena. The oldest driver to compete in the championship is maverick Manfred Jurasz from Austria at the ripe age of 61. Mike Rockenfeller from Germany is one of the youngest hotshot to be competing at only 21 years old. As Vin Diesel’s character in The Fast And The Furious points out, “Ask any racer, any real racer. It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile; winning’s winning.”
Age and nationality will go out of the window during the Dubai round of the Championship as drivers will all have one thing on the mind: winning. And it won’t just be the boys and their ridiculously expensive toys that’ll be thrilling the crowds. Twenty-six-year-old Californian Liz Halliday has already stamped her influence on the GT scene – in 2003 she became the first woman ever to win the GT3 Cup after driving her Porsche to victory in the British race. Switzerland’s Lilian Bryner is also getting the crowds going and this GT season she became the first woman to win a major international 24-hour race after winning the ‘Proximus 24 hours of Spa’ round in Belgium (a 24-hour endurance race as opposed to the 3-hour race setup in the Dubai round). Bryner has also impressed fans by finishing 3rd place overall for the last three years.
Drivers will aso be given time to warm up as they take advantage of two 90-minute practice sessions – revising their knowledge of the track and ensuring their car’s performance is up to speed. There’s more at stake the following day as two 45-minute qualifying sessions will dictate each car’s position in the starting grid. After a 15-minute warm-up period on the Sunday, even drivers right at the back of the grid will have the chance to take pole position when they race 500 km over three hours, reaching speeds nearing 300 km/h.
You’ve watched the films and pretended you’re a racing driver on the mean streets of Dubai – now it’s time to get the T-shirt as the big boys (and girls) come to town.
General access around the track is free but paid-for tickets offering a view of the starting grid and finish line and sections of the track range from Dhs 60 to Dhs 200 for VIP Grandstand tickets. FIA GT Championship, November 16 to 18, Dubai Autodrome. Tel: (04) 3678700 www.dubaiautodrome.com.