The UAE is known for its proliferation of supercars and dune-bashing SUVs. But how many car owners truly know how to give a great performance behind the wheel of their super automobile? These skills aren’t taught when you take up a driving course for a licence. Luckily, some specialised performance-driving schools can help.
Whether you’re speeding around a closed course, traversing Dubai’s most famous dune, Big Red, or simply driving down Shaikh Zayed Road, the technical skills taught in these courses will make you a better driver. Not only do these programmes help you improve in your chosen motoring hobby, the emphasis on safety will stick with you in the most mundane circumstances.
Not to be confused with the fiery rowing teams sometimes found in the waters off Dubai Festival City, Dragon Racing, an international racing team, offers personalised track-driving experiences for both individuals and small corporate groups. Using a fleet of track-ready Ferrari 458 Challenges and McLaren 12C GT Sprints, it provides advanced driver coaching, team-building exercises for corporate groups and a race-day experience for aspiring drivers with no prior hours on a track.
The UAE-based team offers its services in Dubai and Abu Dhabi at the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit respectively, and aspires to an international level of performance. Leon Price, Chairman and Founder of Dragon Racing, says, “We race to win, whether at global motor racing events or sharing our passion and expertise through our advanced driver training and track-day experiences. Not only do our clients feel the thrill of professional racing first-hand, but their experiences are enhanced by the personalised elements that make each one truly unique.”
Yas Marina Circuit
Abu Dhabi’s premier racetrack (pictured above) offers a wide variety of options, from the opportunity to drive high-performance vehicles such as the Aston Martin GT4, several Mercedes-Benz AMG models and the iconic Chevrolet Camaro. There’s also the Yas Drift School where you can master controlled loss of traction and receive private lessons.
Yas pairs students with qualified driving coaches who cover the basics such as proper braking techniques and using the heel-and-toe method of downshifting in manual transmission. Yas positions its one-hour tutorials as a chance for students to hone their skills in preparation of attempting to become a certified race car driver by taking the Automobile and Touring Club UAE-endorsed licence course.
Motoring enthusiast Chris Letrek recommends the Aston Martin GT4 experience. “It was, by far, the best track day in my life and I have done many.”
The autodrome offers track time in an impressive array of vehicles, ranging from F1-inspired single-seaters to Audi R8 and Audi TT coupe. There’s also the option to drive the Chevy Camaro.
The autodrome’s R8 driving course affords students classroom instruction, on-track cornering analysis and progressive lead-and-follow sessions with professional drivers.
Fraser Martin, who has taught the Audi course, cautions that the best way to draw value from these courses is to check your ego at the door. “If you are prepared to put your prejudices about your own driving talent aside and learn, they can be useful,” he says.
The venue also offers what may be the only programme for more junior drivers. The First Drive experience for 12- to 18-year-olds is a track programme that accepts unlicensed drivers. If that sounds worrisome, consider that the kids are closely supervised and drive the humble 1.6-litre Chevrolet Aveo.
4x4 Desert Driving
Arabian Tours offers a weekly desert driving course. These four-hour sessions are one-third theory and two-third practice, including professional extrication when new off-roaders get stuck.
This 4x4 course focuses particularly on the techniques of when and how to use your vehicle’s off-road features as well as strategies for driving over sand — speed control, tyre deflation, climbing and descending sand dunes, how to get unstuck and more.
Offroad Zone’s desert driving course also offers expert instructions on how to drive on Dubai’s enticing and ever-shifting sea of sand. Offroad Zone allows customers to bring their own vehicle or rent one of the company’s Jeep Wranglers, Ford F-150s or Toyota FJ Cruisers, all of which have had their suspensions lifted and modified for the desert and come fully equipped with safety and recovery equipment.
You can also rent a GoPro video camera to document the experience. The five-hour intensive course is offered every day for a fee, but Offroad Zone also hosts a free monthly off-road trip to explore different parts of the UAE.