The dark side of Dubai’s fast car obsession

The death of four people in an overloaded Ferrari shows the danger behind the glitz

As the details of the fatal Ferrari crash in Dubai on Sunday continue to emerge, what we know so far reads like a tick-list of factors that were likely to lead to the kind of tragedy that claimed four young lives. Two men and two women were squeezed into a high-powered supercar that is designed to seat two and it was being driven recklessly and at high speed in the early hours of the morning. Police reports said all four had been drinking alcohol when the rented Ferrari 458 Spider hit a pavement, crashed into a lamppost and split in two.

This kind of incident shows the dark side of this obsession with supercars and speed. The association between Dubai and supercars has generally done an excellent job of projecting an image of modernity and prosperity, and of being a place where ingenuity and hard work can bring big dreams to fruition. The supercars in the Dubai police’s fleet, for example, have provided many times their purchase price in the form of free advertising for the emirate’s tourism sector.

However, as these four deaths would suggest, there is always the prospect that some who buy into this glitzy image fail to appreciate the risks involved and do not take on board all the warnings that are made. Just a few days before the Ferrari crash, a video was released of daredevil rally driver Ken Block performing spectacular car stunts around some of the emirate's most famous landmarks. By yesterday, the YouTube version had been viewed more than 12 million times. The video begins with an attempt to dissuade copy­cats and stresses both the high level of skill of the driver and that the roads were closed to normal traffic. It includes an admonition to behave responsibly. Despite these warnings, it undoubtedly glamourises this kind of spectacular driving, and inevitably some of those who view it will be tempted to try it themselves.

There are, of course, places where this kind of activity can be indulged safely, such as dedicated racetracks where there are adequate passive safety measures and expert supervision. But no racetrack operator would countenance an overloaded supercar, and the backstreets of Jumeirah Lakes Towers clearly lack the safety barriers that could well have prevented the driver’s loss of control of the Ferrari escalating into a fatal crash. Dubai’s image as a centre for supercars is hugely beneficial, but that has to be tempered by a healthy dose of common sense.