Abu Dhabi: Yas Marina Circuit has unveiled plans for the Rallycross of Abu Dhabi on April 4-6, which will be the first race on the 10-event calendar of the FIA World Rallycross Championship 2019 season.
A purpose-built track has been constructed at Yas to kick off the revamped campaign — now in its sixth year — with the UAE capital joining the tour for the first time.
Racegoers can expect a fun-filled weekend, with three days of on-and-off-track events, including family-friendly activities, a Food Festival area, KartZone challenges, pit-lane walk, driver meet-and-greets, live music and, of course, racing.
Unlike the Formula One race that takes over Yas every November, Rallycross will see five cars, from Ford Fiestas and BMW Minis to Renault Meganes and Seat Ibizas, on the tarmac at one time to compete over a short, 1.2km track in quicker, four-lap heats before the finalists are decided. Due to its shorter length, spectators in the grandstand will be able to view the entire track and not miss out on any of the action.
The series has attracted some of the world’s best rallycross drivers such as Xite Racing’s Oliver Bennett to pit their wits on around the course, which has a jump feature and gravel thrown in for good measure, and the Englishman was impressed by what he saw first-hand after he drove the course for the first time on Sunday.
“It’s a 10-event series from here in AD, all across Europe and to Canada and South Africa,” he said.
“The tracks will all be different, but this one here is one of the best I have been to, especially as it is a new design on a Formula One track. It’s got hills, tight turns, fast straights, short straights, it’s got a mix of everything you want. The track is tight and there is going to be lots of guaranteed overtaking. It will be a tight race throughout the weekend, I couldn’t put any money on who would win. It will be tight.”
And he certainly was taken aback by the purpose-built jump that comes just before the start-finish line.
“It’s big. My back is still hurting,” he joked “but this game is not meant to be smooth. It’s going to be excellent.”
Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice-President of IMG Motorsports, the FIA World Rallycross Championship promoter, was equally impressed. “They’ve done a fantastic job here,” he said. “The track is only 1.2km and the paddocks and food venues are all here in one place, so the fans don’t have to walk too far to get to any of the events. You are in the heart of everything. Also all the spectators will be in the North Stand here and will be able to witness all of the action and not rely on the screens, which you see at Formula One races. And there are lots of starts with all the heats. For those who have never experienced rallycross before, you are in for a treat. Rallycross is all about short, sharp, door-to-door racing and non-stop action between hugely talented drivers.
“We are moving to 2019 and this will usher in quicker, better racing, so you don’t need to be a big motorsport fan to get into this. It’s going to be amazing.”
Al Tareq Al Ameri, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit, added: “Yas Marina Circuit is always innovating when it comes to hosting thrilling motorsport races that attract fans and entertainment seekers to Abu Dhabi and the FIA World Rallycross Championship is the latest in our portfolio of world-class events.
Mohammad Bin Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club for the UAE, Vice-President of the FIA, added: “The UAE has a long history of motorsport, and this new international event complements the existing local and regional season calendar.
“I have been a rally driver for 20 years so FIA World Rallycross is something special for me personally and I am very much looking forward to introducing the sport to a whole new audience. Abu Dhabi provides an excellent kick-start to the 2019 season and I look forward to April and the arrival of this exciting new discipline to the UAE.”
As part of the weekend-long festival for all members of the family, ticket holders can make the most out of their time on Yas Island by opting for the ever-popular X-Parks Pass. The exclusive tickets provide access to Yas Marina Circuit as well as unlimited access to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Water World, or Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi from Thursday to Sunday.
Weekend tickets are priced from Dh395 for North Grandstand general admission, Dh595 for the North Club Lounge and Dh1,495 for Yas Central Hospitality. For more information on tickets and packages, please visit www.yasmarinacircuit.com