You were born in Dubai but moved to England when you were a kid and soon began missing all the great cars we have here...
That’s right — especially since Lexus had just come out when I left and there were loads of those cool Chevrolet Caprice Classics around. In Lancashire, all we had were Ford Fiestas and Mondeos, hardly anything to get excited about. I used to travel out to the Middle East to visit my dad and really loved seeing the cars. I trained as a teacher and after travelling around the US in a Mustang GT and then a Mercedes-Benz 300D, I took up a position in Muscat.
What did you drive there?
I had a 1992 Jeep Wrangler Sahara, which I used to drive to Dubai and Abu Dhabi on weekends. It was a bit of a death trap, but very good on sand. Muscat was not my cup of tea, so I moved to what I class as a petrolhead’s heaven — Abu Dhabi.
You must love living near Yas Marina.
I do — it’s one of the best Formula 1 tracks in the world. I was fortunate enough to be a marshal there for the first two Grands Prix. It is great having the best cars, not to mention kart racing tracks, on my doorstep.
You used to race quite a bit yourself, right?
Yes, I used to race my own Rotax kart in the UAE Rotax Max Challenge in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai but it cost far too much time and money, so I now just race the rental races and some of the Dubai endurance races. Cars are really a rich man’s passion — not a primary school teacher’s passion — but I get the chance to do more here than I could back in the UK. I rented a Porsche Carrera 4S last year and I’ve done most of the track experiences on Yas including the Renault Clio RS Experience, the Formula Yas and the drag racing. I’ll be doing the Radicals soon when my brother visits and I’m going to give the drift school a go too.
Tell us about the time you drove around the Nürburgring.
Last summer my brother and I drove from England to the legendary town of Nürburg, Germany. When we got to the track, it was like being a kid in a toy shop. We took his Renault Clio 182 and rented a Lotus Exige S and we had an absolute blast.
There were so many cars there ranging from race-prepped works Minis, Volkswagen Sciroccos, Caterhams and a Nissan Juke R. But the highlight was being taken around the track in a BMW M3 CSL, which made both of our days. I can’t recommend going there enough — I’m probably going to go again over Easter.
After driving the Exige, I’d really like to get a track car here, especially living so close to Yas. But I have to say, nothing I’ve driven yet comes close to the feeling you get from racing a Rotax race kart. It’s the most fun by a mile, not that I was ever that good.
You moved to Abu Dhabi and got a Peugeot 207 RC but you weren’t too impressed by it. Why?
Well, the turbo needed replacing after 45,000km and I had to get one in the UK and bring it over. I got some funny looks at the airport with that in my luggage. Then I changed jobs and accommodation this summer and decided to change cars, too. I really had no idea what to get but was thinking of a VW Golf MKV R32, a Nissan 350Z or a Clio 197. Then I came across an advert for an Audi on the internet that had the R32 in the background.
Well spotted! What did you do next?
Something very risky... After calling the seller and agreeing a price, I transferred the money over to him without even going to see the car. He was a friend of a friend and I took a chance and luckily it worked out. He was very trustworthy, so it wasn’t a completely blind purchase.
You must have wanted this car pretty badly.
I’ve wanted a MKIV R32 ever since I passed my driving test. I just love the look of them. I’ve never seen one in the Middle East and as far as I know this is one of two here. I’m told there’s supposed to be a black one in Muscat.
Must be fun to drive...
It is fast enough if you put your foot down but compared to your average car off the assembly line now, it isn’t much different. Even with coilovers, front and rear braces and 245 tyres it doesn’t handle perfectly. It’s got a lot of weight up front and most of the power goes to the front wheels too. It’s the six-pot noise that makes the car a bit of a cult classic. It’s very addictive, especially when I first got hold of it after a summer of driving my mum’s Ford Fiesta diesel back home.
Ha, for real. Do you have any favourite roads?
I try not to put too many miles on it as the previous owners have been really good with that. It’s on 64,000km at the minute and that’s mostly driving from Raha Beach to the city centre every day. But I might go on the next VW/Audi club run up to Musandam.
Let us know how you get on. Any plans on upgrading the performance or handling?
I don’t intend on doing anything to it, as the only things I wanted on it were already fitted; a performance air filter and coilovers and a manual gearbox. I’m starting to get an itch for some wheel spacers, a new exhaust system or maybe even a supercharger kit but that’s just getting a bit silly.
I’ll probably get another car next year and keep that as a toy and if I happen to stumble upon a pot of gold, a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, an RS4 and a Nissan GT-R will be first on the list. It certainly beats saving up for a mortgage.
Name Chris Coles
From The UK
Wheels 2003 Volkswagen Golf MKIV R32
In the UAE Born here