“I feel the need, the need for speed” – Tom Cruise’s immortal lines in the movie Top Gun might chime with those watching the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend. If you feel the urge to release your own inner-need to speed, but don’t have the luxury of being an F1 driver, where and how can you do so in relative safety?
F1 track driving experiences
Yas Marina Circuit’s “Driving Experiences” are the ultimate gift for those who fantasise about getting into the driver’s seat of an F1 car. The most popular vehicle that Yas Marina Circuit has on offer is the Aston Martin GT4, according to Phil Ellis, who runs all the circuit’s driving activities. The car’s top speed is about 280kph, but that doesn’t mean you should go full speed ahead. “You could get up to around 220kph on the track,” says Ellis. “It’s a proper GT racing car, not a car that’s been modified from a road car, so it’s very fast and very noisy. But unlike an F1 racing car, it’s got a roof.”
The closest you can get to driving a real F1 car is the Yas 3000, a single-seater developed specifically for the circuit by the Formula One engineers Cosworth. “At top speed it’s similar to the Aston Martin but gets there a lot quicker because it’s much lighter,” says Ellis.
“Even though it only has 250 horsepower, it weighs just 650kg, which makes it extremely fast in the way it accelerates and brakes.” You also look the part in the Yas 3000 because, like an F1 racer, it’s got slick tyres and wings.
The Dh1,600 drive in the Aston Martin GT4 or Yas 3000 includes a briefing before getting kitted up, then a 20-minute spin around the circuit with an instructor.
Alternatively, you can bring your own car to the circuit (for Dh650), or ride as a passenger with an expert driver (Dh825).
Pick a car
If you’re not yet sure which car might take your fancy, then rock up to Yas Marina Circuit on a Tuesday, Thursday (9am to 5pm) or Saturday (1pm to 10pm) – just not this weekedn – to sample any of an array of cars they have out and ready to drive. In addition to the Aston Martin and Yas 3000, there’s the Toyota 86 for those who dare to drift, as well as a Mercedes-AMG GT S and E63. “The GT S has 510 horsepower and a top speed of over 300kph,” says Ellis. “They’re road cars but they’re extremely fast.” Booking is recommended.
On two wheels rather than four you can still build up quite a speed on one of the UAE’s cycling tracks.
Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba track is lit at night, and there are plans for a cafe on site soon. In Dubai, the Al Qudra Cycle Path has been extended, with one path that runs to Al Barari, making the current track a whopping 160km long. The Meydan (Nad Al Sheeba) track has had some changes, too, which opened this week.
Best bikes for building up speed
Amy Carter, one of the co-founders of the new Yas Cycles store in Abu Dhabi’s Al Zeina, suggests the Eddy Merckx San Remo for those after velocity. “It is the aerodynamic model which enables you to overcome drag more effectively,” she says.
“The human body accounts for 40 per cent of the wind resistance while riding a bicycle,” says Carter, so the position the bike puts you in is key to achieving speed.
For more information visit www.yascycles.com
Another way to get a speed fix is on an electric bike. E-Bikes UAE, founded by three Emirati friends, is the first electric bike specialist in the country. The bikes can be switched from electric to pedalling, so that riders can choose the level of physical exercise they want. A single charge lasts up to 80km.
“E-bikes can go up to speeds that are higher than that of a normal bicycle, and because of the motor you are able to ride for longer with less effort,” says E-bikes UAE’s co-founder Ali Al Madani. Their Stealth B52 (Dh42,500), a high-performance electric bike from Australia, is capable of reaching speeds of 80kph.
Al Madani adds: “Riding faster means that you can go at the same speeds as traffic on the road, which can be exhilarating; however, it is very important to be safe and wear a proper helmet and safety gear while out on the road.”
The company also provides bikes suitable for sand cycling. For more information visit www.ebikesuae.com
Take a lesson in dune-bashing
It’s not advisable to drive fast (or at all) on the dunes unless you’re sure of the right techniques.
So Offroad-Zone, which is based in Dubai, offers a service to turn you into a seasoned dune-bashing pro. And rest reassured that camp areas and safari trails are avoided en route. A Dh1,400 session gets you behind the wheel of a modified 4x4 Jeep Wrangler, along with safety equipment, a walkie-talkie, water and a five-hour driving experience with personal instruction from a guide.
If you have your own car and equipment, it's Dh600. The drive is available after 1pm from Saturday to Thursday. For more information visit www.offroad-zone.com