Retro race cars line up for Gulf Historic Dubai Grand Prix Revival

The event paid homage to the emirate's first unofficial grand prix race in 1981

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Classic and retro racing cars lined up at the Dubai Autodrome this weekend for the return of the Gulf Historic Dubai Grand Prix Revival, which wraps up on Sunday.

In a celebration of the golden age of motorsport, museum pieces have been on display as the high-octane roar of engines can be heard as they zip around the track.

It's the second time the UAE has marked its first unofficial grand prix race, which was held in 1981, when racing legends Sir Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio and Nigel Mansell hit the streets of Deira.

This year's event is the second revival and introduces two new racing classes and 100 thoroughbred cars, alongside the drivers who have arrived from across the world for the occasion.

Cars featured in the three-day motoring festival have included the Hesketh 308B raced by 1976 Formula One world champion James Hunt and a Le Mans-winning 1987 Rothmans Porsche 962.

Drivers have competed across two F1 categories and two longer endurance events in cars registered from 1970 to 2010.

Back in the 1980s, parts of today's Corniche Road and Al Khaleej Road were created as two sides of the UAE's first motor racing circuit, a 2.6km track built from scratch in the sand around the then new and isolated Hyatt Regency.

The list of drivers who took part in what was billed as the Dubai Grand Prix on December 4, 1981 was as long as it was improbable.

That year's Formula One season had concluded in Las Vegas on October 19, with the Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet claiming what would prove to be the first of his three championship titles. Piquet didn't come to Dubai, but the contemporary Formula One grid was represented by John Watson, Mansell — then in only the second of his 15-year-long F1 career — Keke Rosberg and Brian Henton.

The race was a celebration of 10 years of the unification of the Emirates, with a parade of saloon cars, beach buggies and a police marching band.

Four decades on, the Historic Dubai Grand Prix Revival paid homage to the 1981 race and marked the UAE’s golden jubilee in December last year.

It was so successful, it's back for another year, with all of the action taking place on the 5.4km Dubai Autodrome racetrack in Motor City.

“Enthusiasm for track-based motor racing in the Middle East has been steadily building in recent years,” said Pierre-Brice Mena, managing director of event organisers GP Extreme.

“With this second [revival] event, we’re establishing a concept we hope to expand in the coming years.

“We have a desire to be disruptive and break the norms, and with that we’re bringing an entirely fresh view of motorsport to the Middle East.”

Friday's race day featured some of the most famous names from Formula One, Le Mans and the Dakar Rally, also including 1964 F1 champion John Surtees’s TS9B car from 1972.

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Updated: November 27, 2022, 10:51 AM