Dubai motorsport heritage day to remember 1981 grand prix street race

Dubai Autodrome event on December 3 will mark the UAE's jubilee year

The Historic Grand Prix Revival on December 3 at Dubai Autodrome will give a nod to the 1981 Dubai Grand Prix.
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A celebration 40 years after the UAE’s first unofficial grand prix race will be marked with a motorsport revival at Dubai Autodrome on December 3.

The 1981 Dubai Grand Prix proved historic, as motor racing legends Sir Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio and Nigel Mansell hit the streets of Deira.

In the only race of its kind, some of the biggest names in motorsport raced around a temporary 2.6-kilometre track near Dubai Corniche on what is now Al Khaleej Road.

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, and the Historic Dubai Grand Prix Revival will pay homage to the 1981 Dubai Grand Prix to mark the UAE’s jubilee year.

“It has been decades since that remarkable event that brought racers, drivers and fans to Dubai to witness the first F1 grand prix in the region,” said Faisal Al Sahlawi, general manager at Dubai Autodrome.

“Since that celebrated event, Dubai has become a host to hundreds of motorsports events.

“This year, the public will once again witness historic Formula One cars, Group C cars and more, racing around the 5.39km Dubai Autodrome Circuit.

“Our goal is to unite the past with the present as we celebrate the country’s 50th Anniversary.”

The two-day event in 1981 aimed to attract new interest in the emerging city of Dubai, and began with a 10-lap saloon car race between celebrity drivers.

Each driver was given a Citroen CX to tear round the track laid out by truck tyres and shipping containers used as temporary paddocks.

A desert motor race was the idea of British business man Martin Hone, an amateur racing driver with an ambition of establishing a street racing series of events in the UK.

In between races over the two days, teams competed for the fastest lap in a Formula One car for the Hyatt Regency Trophy and a $5,000 prize (about $16,000 in today's terms, adjusted for inflation).

There was also a feature race for historic sports cars, won by Gerry Marshall.

The Dubai Autodrome event on December 3 will give a nod to the past, with a display of iconic and classic cars and a UAE heritage village with live music and entertainment.

Celebrity drivers are also expected to attend, while visitors are encouraged to dress in vintage classic style.

December promises to be a big month for motor sport fans in the UAE.

A five-day procession of classic sports cars will tour the country from December 5 under the banner of the thousand-mile Italian race, the Mille Miglia.

A week later on December 12, and Yas Marina Circuit will host what promises to be an exciting climax to the 2021 F1 season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Updated: October 18, 2021, 4:14 AM