Friday, 8.30pm, Starbucks Motor City: Earmuffs are part of the Dubai Motor City tenancy contract, I hear. If so, there could be no other night in the year the poor souls will need them than tonight, as the relentless drone and roar of the racers next door ring through the unusually nippy night air.
Leaving the Autodrome early enough to post this story and now seated with a hot cup of brewed coffee, I can hear them – and see them coming downhill on the roadside circuit lap.
As I write, this very moment, the dark sky is suddenly lit up in a series of colourful explosions – fireworks. May be someone decided to celebrate the New Year late. But the real fireworks, and the carnival mood is inside the Autodrome, where thousands, if not tens of thousands, flocked to cheer their favourite car brands – or just to see the congregation of an amazing number of brands, and drivers, racing for the title. At what other event can you see Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Audi R8s and SLS pitted against GTIs, TTs, Minis, BMW Ones, Clios and Cupras?
Dunlop 24 hours of Dubai is raging at the Dubai Autodrome and in the past six hours, I’ve witnessed many a crafty cornering, rogue drivers playing one-up at cautious corners and treacherous bends, baffled smaller cars meekly giving way to the monstrous powers that chase them – outright loss of control with cars facing incoming racers and just an hour ago, one driver crashing into the concrete barrier in what looked and sounded like a horrific incident.
Only a few feet in front of where I was feverishly clicking away, car no. 131 skidded hard, within five minutes of two others stumbling ahead of the very same corner, and swerved into the wall with a thud, sending Styrofoam from one of the speed signs flying like a feather-pillow ripped open. The face of the car was smashed beyond recognition that we were left guessing. Spectators waited with a gasp caught in their throat, expecting bad news – it was a couple of minutes before the engine of the shattered car revved awake. Inside, there was someone alive enough to start his car on his own!
“I don’t believe this!” exclaimed an onlooker with disbelief and relief. Anyway, the car was done beyond the point die-hard courage could drive it any further. The slowing cars avoided the mess and kept going before the rescue team arrived and towed it away along with the driver in it.
It doesn’t matter who wins – whether the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 team and UAE’s Khaled Al Qubaisi keep the trophy or the sensational Audi R8 LMS Ultra snatches it away. 24 hours of Dubai at Dubai Autodrome is simply a great place to see what your favourite legends can actually do. And even listen to what those powerhouses of passion sound like when they are angry – be it the fluttering grunt of an SLS or the raspy roar of the R8 or the famous rumble of the Ferraris – all merging into one hell of a scream into the race night.
It’s a once in a year weekend for motoring fans. If you live in or around Dubai, hope you make it there before the 24hour finishing line.