Dubai Autodrome GM Faisal Al Sahlawi shares its role in driving motorsport in the UAE
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Dubai Autodrome’s GM Faisal Al Sahlawi shares its role in driving motorsport in the UAE

Dubai Autodrome’s GM Faisal Al Sahlawi shares its role in driving motorsport in the UAE

As the UAE’s premier motorsport and entertainment venue, Dubai Autodrome hosts some of the largest motorsport grids in the region plus a host of international events

Gulf Business
Faisal Al Sahlawi – GM – Dubai Autodrome

How has Dubai Autodrome contributed to fostering a love for motorsport in the UAE?

Since 2004, Dubai Autodrome, a subsidiary of Union Properties, has hosted some of the largest motorsport grids in the region plus a host of international events.

As a racetrack that drivers love to compete at, we have managed to attract and host the likes of the FIA GT Championship, European Touring Car Championship, A1 GP, GP2 Asia, Lamborghini Super Trofeo ME, MRF Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge ME, the Gulf Radical Cup, Ferrari APAC, F3 Asia, F4 UAE, Asian Le Mans Series, the Gulf Historic Dubai GP Revival and the renowned Hankook 24H Dubai endurance Race.

Hosting such prestigious races attracts several thousands of spectators each year, with the numbers rising year-on-year proving that the UAE motorsport season is thriving. Furthermore, we play an important part in ensuring its growth.

Our community-driven approach allows spectators to get up close and personal with the cars and drivers, making it more accessible compared to other top-tier sporting events.

Walk us through the various racing tracks and facilities available at Dubai Autodrome. What makes each track unique and suitable for different racing disciplines?

The Dubai Autodrome includes an FIA Grade 1-sanctioned 5.39-kilometre circuit with six different configurations.

Two of these – the GP and International Circuits – are FIA grade 1 and enable us to host top-level motorsport. This creates a good variety for different championships whereby they can run different rounds on different configurations in a given season.

The other configurations are suitable for our public driving experiences and tailor-made corporate events. The track is supported by a race school out of which we run our customer driving experiences, the Grandstand Retail Plaza and the Business Park, which has a total of 19 units with more to come shortly.

The Business Parks units are home to an array of automotive companies and race teams.

Across the road is the world-renowned Dubai Kartdrome featuring outdoor and indoor tracks. These tracks offer the general public the most accessible taste of motorsport.

The 1.2-kilometre outdoor track also hosts numerous karting competitions, which is the breeding ground for many local and regional racing drivers.

Beyond racing circuits, what other motorsport experiences do you offer visitors and enthusiasts?

As a track for the community, we offer an array of driving experiences. Thanks to our partnership with AGMC, we have a fleet of the latest BMW M cars for the public to enjoy. We also have several Ferrari race cars, single-seaters and a Formula 1 car. All our driving experiences are open to anyone with a valid driving license.

We host several car track days that allow Dubai residents to push their cars to the limit in a safe and controlled environment. When it comes to karting, we operate 365 days a year and offer go-karting experiences for kids and adults.

We also have several leisure kart racing events, the pinnacle of which is the Dubai Kartdrome Endurance Championship, which has been running since 2005.

The championship has seen stars, including Fernando Alonso, Pedro De la Rosa, Stoffel Vandoorne, Oliver Rowland, Ed Jones and more, participating in this iconic series.

Can you share any success stories of Emirati drivers who have honed their skills at Dubai Autodrome?

Over the years, we have had several Emirati drivers develop their race craft and prove their skills against international talent – from the early stages of karting in its different categories, all the way through to the F4 UAE and the 24H of Dubai.

Most recently, we have seen the rise of drivers such as Rashed Al Dhaheri, and Amna and Hamda Al Qubaisi who have cut their teeth on the UAE karting scene and graduated to the world of single-seater racing in F4 and the F1 Academy.

The Dubai Kartdrome has been a key racing track in their development as it hosted many rounds of the local IAME and Rotax championships which they competed in.

In the world of GT racing, notable drivers include the 24H of Dubai winner Khaled Al Qubaisi and our professional racing instructor, Saeed Al Mehairi, who has competed in numerous editions of the longest-running endurance race in the region.

Saif Al Ameri is another rising Emirati star who has delivered stellar performances in the 24H Series’ Porsche 992 class in the Rabdan Motorsport outfit.

Dubai Autodrome has hosted many prestigious international racing events. How do these events contribute to the UAE’s image as a global motorsport hub?

One only needs to look at the calibre of international events that have recently visited the Dubai Autodrome to know the impact. The UAE, which has two incredible racing circuits near each other, attracts international championships during the winter months. Hosting these events has also contributed significantly to the local economy.

As an example, we had 70 cars compete at the Hankook 24H Dubai earlier this year, each team has approximately 15 staff and drivers that travel with them. They are usually in the country for five to seven days.

These contribute significantly to Dubai’s economy through hotel room nights, F&B, rental cars, flights and of course, the numerous containers that are shipped with the race cars.

How is Dubai Autodrome adapting to new technologies and trends in the world of motorsport?

Dubai Autodrome has been home to several manufacturers who use our facilities for hot weather testing of their vehicles. This is something that has been growing in recent years with more and more manufacturers booking the circuit during the summer months.

Additionally, the Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League utilised our track for a substantial amount of research and development to test their first autonomous vehicles in preparation for the races taking place.

How is Dubai Autodrome supporting the emirate’s net-zero goals?

On a group-wide level, Union Properties has set a mandate to align itself and all its subsidiaries with the UAE’s Net Zero 2050 strategy.

As part of our efforts to be a sustainable venue, Dubai Autodrome eliminated 4,544 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions through its solar panels project in the last 12 months, while almost a quarter of its total annual unused solar energy was put back into Dubai’s electricity grid to help serve the UAE’s communities.

The figure is the equivalent of the removal of 965 trucks from roads in one year or 552,844,819 smartphones being charged, with Dubai Autodrome beginning to reap the benefits since its solar project operated one year ago.

Having partnered with SirajPower to install more than 5,000 solar panels around the venue, a total of 10,828,139.29 Kilowatt-Hours of power was produced, of which 2,053,820 Kilowatt-Hours was put back into public electricity systems to help meet the emirate’s power needs across various neighbourhoods.

Additionally, we’ve installed 13 electric vehicle chargers and aim to install more shortly. There are plans to expand our green space, including the possibility of relocating and preserving several ghaf trees at the venue in the future. The ghaf, the , the UAE’s national tree, is a drought-tolerant tree, which can remain green even in harsh desert environments, and is vital for the survival of animal and plant species.

How will Dubai Autodrome continue to shape the future of motorsport in the UAE and the region?

Our overall strategy is to emphasise and provide value to the community – this is a group directive that Union Properties has set across all its subsidiaries.

With community at the epicentre, a major goal of ours is to nurture and educate grassroots talent with the ultimate goal of seeing more Emirati drivers on the international motorsport scene, we will continue to do this through the (Dubai Autodrome Karting Academy) and through providing opportunities to the local youth to begin their motorsport journey.

Additionally, a long-term plan for us is to create a consultancy arm through which we could take on projects in other countries around the region and provide them with best practices to ensure a profitable business model.

What are the upcoming events we can look forward to at Dubai Autodrome?

In 2025, the autodrome will host the 20th edition of the Hankook 24H Dubai. We are exceedingly proud of hosting it for the past 20 years. We will also be hosting the Asian Le Mans series for the fifth consecutive year. The Formula Regional Middle East Championship, which featured record grids in the previous season, will also be returning.

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