Getting behind the wheel of an elite racing car is easier than you'd think. Faisal al Sahlawi, the racing school manager for Yas Marina Circuit, explains how he helps aspiring speedsters.
Official hours start at 8.30, but that depends on how late we stayed the night before because we usually have racing experiences that run until 10 or 11pm. Once in, I speak to our head engineer because he always has an update for me in the morning. We do a detailed check on all the cars. We make sure everything is safe. Wear and tear on race cars is high.
Once a week, there's a meeting with ticketing and sales, and we decide what cars are available. Everyone hears "Aston Martin" and that's the one they want. But once they get here and they see the SuperSport or Formula Yas 3000 they go and book another experience with one of those as well. The Aston is noisy, big and heavy. My favourite is the SuperSport, because it's the lightest one.
Usually we're going through reports from previous experiences, planning for future products. We'll have programmes launched soon that will basically turn a regular driver into a race driver in a very short period. Training includes driving, health and fitness, diet, how to deal with media.
We're lucky to have seven hotels around us, the [Yas Links] golf club and Ferrari World. Otherwise, I eat at the canteen in our headquarters.
I'm overseeing the delivery of the experience: the way the instructors talk to the clients, the way we line up the cars in the pit lane when the clients get them, the way we put the helmets out for them, the evaluation they get after they do the experience.
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The "experience", or racing, starts. People come and we have the briefing. We also introduce them to their instructors.
They get suited up then get into the cars. They drive around the track, slowly for the first lap, and then they can push as much as they want as long as they are following the instructions. We've had students at 250kph on some straights. We also lift the cars just like they do in a pit stop. They think that's just for looks but that helps us cool the brakes.
By the time the first group leaves the car, the next group will be briefed and suited up.
Of course, I never miss a chance to do a lap myself, but I don't get a lot of chances. There are safety marshals that have to be on the track; they leave. I leave. I don't go home. I have to meet someone, either friends or family, before I go to sleep. Otherwise I'll feel like the whole day went to waste.