After a few days back in the UK, adjusting to the cold and catching up on some rest, we can now give you a full report on our time in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Drag Racing Festival. Please see the full gallery for behind the scenes photographs.
What can we say about Abu Dhabi? It is certainly one of the friendliest places you could ever wish to stay. From our arrival at the airport, everyone was so polite and helpful and went out of their way for us. The place is exceptionally clean and tidy and people seem to take an immense pride in maintaining a high level of cleanliness. Most people have a good grasp on the English language although the northern accent might have thrown some!! Apart from the obvious bonus of lovely warm sunny weather, there was plenty to explore. As well as Yas Marina Circuit, we also visited Ferrari World and Abu Dhabi City. We didn’t get to visit Dubai this time round, which is only an hour drive away, but maybe if we go again, we will find the time to do so.
Arrival – Mon 28th Feb
We arrived late in the evening on Monday and after making our way from the airport to Yas Island, then being shown around our hotel (The Yas Hotel), the only thing on everyone’s mind was a cold beer and to explore our new home for the next 10 days. After a couple of drinks on the rooftop bar, it was time to retire to our rooms ready for the visit to Yas Marina Circuit the next day.
Tues 1st March
Our first visit to the Yas Marina Circuit certainly didn’t disappoint. Apart from the dragstrip, the Yas Marina also houses an impressive F1 circuit alongside a drift circuit, handling circuit and kart track. With numerous entrance gates and a vast layout, we headed to the reception building to get our instructions and directions. With our passes and a map, we headed to the Race Tower to meet with Rod Fuller, who was one of our initial point of contacts. The race tower itself was a work of art. Being made of glass, it was a spectacular sight to mark the beginning of the track. The guys took some time to inspect the track and to check out the strip before we then headed over to one of the pit garages where the car was stored. The garages themselves were immaculate and most importantly, air conditioned, which was greatly appreciated!
This was our first look at the car since it had left the UK in the container. Initially, there were a few observational issues due to the car being unloaded from the container before our arrival. Therefore, knowing exactly how it had been packed and the equipment loaded, a couple of problems presented themselves immediately. After some discussions with YMC staff and trying to establish some information, we were able to inspect the car properly for the first time. However, the first priority was sourcing a table and some milk to get the tea and biscuits on the go!!
The only real problem was a faulty switch on the shut down system. The YMC staff offered to source one for the next day, so hopefully end of problems.
Wed 2nd March
Just a brief visit to the car, but unfortunately a new switch could not be located in time. A repair was therefore needed on the old switch ready for the test fire up on Thursday.
Thurs 3rd March
Thursday was spent moving the car and equipment from the garage to our pit space on the track. At 5pm, we had our allocated time slot for testing the car on the track for the first time. A test fire up was done at the startline minus the body. We were all happy with the testing and there were a lot of surprised people watching as they had never seen a jet car in the flesh before. All be it naked!
After the test, a discussion was held by Health and Safety at the track and ourselves as to the safety of staff in the race control tower and concerns over the glass panels in the building. Although the team were satisfied that there would be no issues, a 100% guarantee could not be given, so the track officials wanted us to start from the 60ft mark for Friday and assess the situation for Saturday.
The first of many interviews was also done. The main interview for the YMC to be used for promotions and which was played throughout the event on the big screens around the track and prior to our runs.
Fri 4th March – Yas Drag Racing Festival Day One
The gates opened at 4pm for the public, so most of the day was spent checking and prepping the car for the 3 scheduled runs.With a short turn around time in between each run, it was vital to ensure we were organised and ready to go after the first run.
As this was the first time a jet funny car had run at this track, let alone FireForce 3, the circuit had certain apprehensions about the glass race tower and health and safety measures were enforced fully. As we couldn’t do any staged runs and the car had to start from the 60ft mark, there are no timed runs to report. Extra precautions were taken for spectators and staff and the normal VIP area at the side of the track was closed off and the spectators moved further back underneath the grandstand.
The first run shocked and entertained a lot of people. We performed a short show and launch from the 60ft mark and clicked it off early. The car was stable and settled all the way down the track and gave us confidence for the next shows to up the performance.
As we pulled round for the second show, the crowd were appreciative and supportive towards us with plenty of cheers, clapping and whistling. The show was similar to the first but a little bit longer and probably more aggressive to whet their appetite for the final show.
The third and final run of the evening was later than scheduled around 11pm and again the remaining crowd showed their appreciation when we pulled underneath the control tower. The car performed it’s signature startline show and moved up to the 60ft line to launch, however the burner would not light, which resulted in a vapour show going down the track. Back to the pits to find out the problem before tomorrow.
Sat 5th March Day Two
An early start to resolve the previous night’s problem on the final run. The issue was located with a faulty onboard battery. A new battery was fitted and everything seemed back in order. Again three runs scheduled for today but this time we were allowed to run staged passes after discussions with the Health and Safety and they were satisfied the car would not cause any problems.
The first run was scheduled approx 5.45pm and we were looking forward to getting some times on the board and putting on a proper show for the crowds. The debut of a jet funny car (FireForce 3) in the Middle East for the full ¼ mile pass did not disappoint and the car ran 5.93secs @ 274mph. The track is one of the smoothest that this car has ever run on and we were all delighted with this first full run. Looking forward to the remaining two runs.
Towing back to the pits in front of the grandstands, the crowd and the staff showed their appreciation to the team.
The second run, we were determined to up the performance a little bit by running 5.91secs @ 274mph.
The last run for FireForce 3 in Abu Dhabi was about 10.30pm and we wanted to give everyone a performance to remember by running quicker. The car rolled up to the startline after giving the crowd numerous burner pops and vapour shows and ran a storming 5.89secs @ 275mph. Not too bad for our first visit to the Middle East.
Throughout the two days, the car gained a high level of interest with people asking questions and taking photographs constantly. The main questions being, ‘What engine is it?’ ‘What’s the horsepower?’ ‘Who’s the driver?’ and ‘How much to buy the car?’ Unfortunately I wasn’t offered enough money to retire!!!
We handed out our hero cards which were warmly received. And even had a brief visit from the King. However he must have felt sorry for us as we were treated to some of his leftover buffet at the end of the evening, which were very enjoyable…..thanks.
All in all, we had a fabulous time and a very enjoyable experience entertaining the people at Yas Marina Circuit. As the event is only in it’s second year, it will be interesting to see how it develops over the next few years and puts drag racing on the map in Abu Dhabi. If we got invited to attend again, would we? Definitely yes!! We would love to.
Our thanks to all staff and officials at Yas Marina Circuit (Horace says thanks to Sheila for the Bourbons), for their hospitality and for making our attendance possible and trouble free. Special thanks to ‘Hot’ Rod Fuller and his team for their assistance, to Rashed for the invitation to the circuit, Mark Boyd for the Health and Safety assistance and for all of the new fans we hope to have gained.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Abu Dhabi, we would all thoroughly recommend it and we have all had a wonderful time.