Meet the Emirati car collector who loves to put his Porsches through their paces

Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal talks custom builds, track days and how he became the Middle East’s answer to Jeremy Clarkson

Classic Car Collectors: Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal owns a Ruf RCT Evo

Classic Car Collectors: Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal owns a Ruf RCT Evo
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Like many motor enthusiasts, Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal’s love of cars started when he was a young boy.

“I used to collect miniature models in kindergarten in Tokyo. They were either 1:18 or 1:24 in scale, and I would create entire cities on the carpet,” Al Sarkal tells The National.

While this is where many a car collector’s dream starts and ends, for Al Sarkal it was just the beginning of a lifelong passion.

From reading about the latest cars in magazines to launching Carz, a Top Gear-style TV show in 2002, motoring has been a constant for Al Sarkal. A first for the Arab world, Carz was one of Dubai TV’s top shows and ran for four years.

“We made more than 52 episodes and put cars head-to-head like Jeremy Clarkson and Tiff Needell used to,” says Al Sarkal. “We compared cars like Nissan Sunny to Toyota Corolla, as well as Ferrari Enzo to Porsche Carrera GT. My colleague and I were presenters, and my sister was the director.”

After the show ended in 2006, Al Sarkal continued to test-drive vehicles in the UAE and around the world. He’s been behind the wheel of almost every desirable vehicle to date, but only one brand has captured his heart: Porsche.

The shape, design, size, performance, usability, durability – I was like: ‘What on earth is this?'
Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal, car collector and Porsche enthusiast

While most of his Emirati peers now know him as “Marwan with the Porsche collection”, Al Sarkal says the German manufacturer didn’t feature highly on his list of loves at first.

“I never liked Porsche as a brand,” he confesses. “During Carz, I met a guy and said I wanted to try the Porsche 911 Targa. He told me I could, but on one condition, which was to drive it for three days and then do the shoot.”

The instructions were an obvious ploy to encourage Al Sarkal to explore the intricacies of the vehicle before making his judgment on Porsche, and it worked. “After three days, I fell in love with that car,” he says. “The shape, design, size, performance, usability, durability – I was like: ‘What on earth is this?’”

Since that day, Al Sarkal has gone on to curate an impressive Porsche collection.

It features a selection of Taycans, Carrera GTs and even a high-performance Ruf, which isn’t strictly a Porsche, but uses the brand’s parts to create a barely street-legal lookalike.

These are not “garage queens”, says Al Sarkal. Unlike collectors who like to keep their prized collectibles holed up and sparkling, he enjoys driving them and regularly meets up with the UAE’s Porsche Classic and Carrera GT owners groups.

These unofficial gatherings are another reason why Al Sarkal loves Porsche. “This is where it feels like more than car ownership,” he says. “You feel part of a family, and it’s the people that make it – not just the brand alone.”

The meetings bring all types of Porsches (and Porsche lovers) together in one place. It’s less about showing off, and more of a laid-back event where like-minded people connect and discuss their passion over coffee or lunch.

Al Sarkal says picking a favourite from his vast collection of vehicles is tricky, but the two closest to his heart are the Porsche GT, “even though the best sound comes from my Carrera GT”, and the RCT Evo he had custom-built from family-owned German manufacturer Ruf.

The electric blue, full carbon-fibre monster is equipped with 425bhp and makes light work of chewing up the asphalt.

Speaking of which, Al Sarkal is a regular on the UAE racetracks at the weekends.

“I enjoy taking the cars to the limits and using them on the track,” he says. “I’ve driven on tracks in Japan, Italy, Silverstone in the UK and the Nurburgring in Germany,” he adds.

As vehicle manufacturers speed towards an electric future, how does Al Sarkal see Porsche’s place in the revolution?

“Porsche has done a great job with the Taycan; it’s very fast, but the range is bad right now.

“They’re missing the technology Tesla has. They had a chance to take it and improve it, but it focused on the dynamics and how it feels to drive, which is great but misses the point," says Al Sarkal.

One thing is for certain: whatever the carmaker decides to do next in the EV space, there will be at least one such model booked for “Marwan with the Porsche collection”.

Updated: November 08, 2023, 6:48 AM