Pole Position: Motor racing fun for every type of fan

Barry Hope on the two, possibly three, types of motorsport spectator.

Motor racing spectators tend to fall into two groups. The first are the knowledgeable enthusiasts who not only know what type of engines are in the cars but can probably tell you the size and rim width of the tyres. These fans are known as "petrolheads".

The second and perhaps larger group have less knowledge of the technical side of racing but are usually able to recognise the make of the cars and simply enjoy the sound and the dramatic spectacle of racing.

A couple of years ago I was invited by my business partner to attend the F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, where I believe I located a third and so far unnamed group.

I was sitting with a bunch of people around a table in the heady atmosphere of the F1 Paddock Club. This particular hospitality suite was run by a couple of close friends of the newly crowned world champion, Jenson Button, who was racing the Brawn GP car at the time. Jenson is an amiable and down-to-earth sort of chap and was happy to visit each of the eight tables and have a quick chat before the race.

The Paddock Club provides a five-star race day experience and is suitably expensive. It's also a place where companies can take wealthy clients to entertain them with a day at the grand prix.

So I found myself sitting with a group of people who worked for one of the world's biggest banks and who were clearly more interested in talking business than in racing. The banker lady sitting next to me asked what the noise was. I pointed to one of the television screens showing the action. She asked me where those cars were. I told her they were outside. She thanked me and then continued to try to engage with her wealthy customers. At no point did she feel the need to watch the grand prix.

In the same way, I guess there are plenty of people that dress up for the Dubai World Cup who never see a horse. There surely must be a collective noun for this group.

The national race event that took place last weekend included the first round of the 2011 UAE GT Championship and the second showing of the UAE Touring Car and UAE Sportbikes Championships.

The GT grid may have been smaller than last season but, from a spectator's point of view, it was as good as anything you are likely to see, especially at what is often termed a "club meeting", where the event is organised and run by Dubai Autodrome Motorsports Club.

Let me give you a run-down of the exotica on the grid just in case you missed it.

On pole position there was a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, the replacement for the 430. Alongside that was a Lamborghini LP560-4 GT3, then a Corvette GT3 and, behind that, a Porsche GT3. There should have been a Mosler GT600, but that got delayed.

Also on the grid were a couple of Aston Martin GT4s and some more Porsche GT3s. Enough?

So even if you're not a petrolhead and can't recite the workshop manual for a Porsche GT3, I'm sure you would be excited to see this lot at full throttle racing into turn one.

Barry Hope is a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to find an Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.gulf-sport.com or on Facebook at GulfSportRacing.

Published: October 26, 2011 04:00 AM


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