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February 2019

Issue: February 2019

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Welcome to a world of travel, entertainment and culture, curated from a global collective of writers, photojournalists and artists. Each article of our award-winning magazine is sure to inspire, no matter which of our destinations you call home.
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Travel to Dubai


The Cult of the Supercar

1 February 2019

Tourists in Dubai often spend a lot of time with their necks craned, gazing up at the city’s spectacular skyline. But for car culture vultures, the focus is squarely aimed at street level.

Dubai is internationally renowned for its love affair with the automobile. From a police force with an attention-grabbing fleet of supercars to smashing Guinness World Records with the largest synchronised car dance, it seems there’s always a car-related headline breaking the internet and maintaining Dubai’s premiere position on the automotive map. There really are very few, if any, places in the world where spotting rare and exotic machinery driven on the street is the norm, rather than an exception.

It is hard to fully comprehend the automotive passion that exists in Dubai. It’s true that the automobile has always been a status symbol and Dubai does have an affluent portion of the population, but that doesn’t quite cover it. From the ruling family, to the citizens, to the residents, it’s a shared passion. This passion has swerved eco in recent years – much of the taxi fleet are now hybrids, and Tesla is becoming increasingly popular in the region – but the love for the traditional automobile has endured.

Almost all car marques have their Middle Eastern, African and Indian regional headquarters based in Dubai, placing it as the automotive hub for a large portion of the planet, and it has even started to attract new car manufacturers. If you’ve seen the Hollywood blockbuster ‘Furious 7’ from the Fast and Furious series you will be familiar with the Lykan HyperSport, a luxury, high-performance supercar from Dubai-based W Motors. This was the first supercar to be designed and produced in the Middle East but is certainly not the last. The company is now preparing to commence deliveries on its successor, the Fenyr SuperSport, which will be limited to 110 cars and carrying a price tag of US$1.4m (AED 5.2m), compared to $3.4m for the Lykan.

If that sounds a bit pricey there is always the opportunity to pick up a pre-owned supercar at one of the many showrooms dotted along Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai. From luxury barges to exotic sportscars, chances are you will find what you are looking for here. But petrolheads on the hunt for something truly unique in the second-hand market will head to one particular showroom, tucked away off the main road.

Tomini Classics is Dubai’s premier classic car gallery, specialising in post-war sportscars. You will find an eclectic mix of machinery here, from a 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Ellena to more modern rarities like a 2007 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren 722. Tomini isn’t settling for just being Dubai’s premier classic car gallery, with ambitious global ambitions. As operational manager Assyl Yacine states: “We want to be the best in the world. If we aren’t aiming for that then we might as well stop now.”

What makes Tomini Classics different than other showrooms selling rare machinery is the provenance of the vehicles in its inventory. A 1973 Porsche 911S 2.4 previously owned by Porsche factory racer and three time Le Mans winner Al Holbert? Check. A 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Sport Berlinetta that Mussolini bought for his lover? Check. You get the idea – the vehicles in stock are often the best examples that can be sourced of already-rare cars. With this added provenance, Tomini becomes an Aladdin’s Cave to the automotively-inclined.

Far from treating these vehicles as irreplaceable automotive objets d’art, Tomini – like many other UAE-based outlets – believe that cars exist to be driven. Even examples like the 1973 Holbert 911S mentioned above are regularly driven; the aforementioned even competing in the Dubai Chopard Classic Rally recently, driven by none other than Le Mans winning racers, Jacky Ickx and Alexander Dumas.

Dubai is a new city with a modern road network that is user friendly when it comes to driving exotic machinery. With most venues, hotels and restaurants offering valet parking, owners can feel secure that their pride and joy isn’t going to suffer any unfortunate parking lot mishaps while they are enjoying a meal or a night at the opera. The result is that supercars and classic cars alike get driven in Dubai, and regularly. Their significance is such that they are even included in royal quotes. As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, once said: “If I were alone on an island I would make sure to have three things: fishing equipment, a car and a person I love.” This country-wide passion has helped to establish a passionate community of likeminded individuals and the formation of multiple car clubs and drive events to participate in.

The Ninth Degree Supercar Club is arguably Dubai’s premier car club for automotive enthusiasts. Founded in April 2015 to provide local car enthusiasts with professionally run events and tours, the club now boasts over 260 members and hosts an average of 36 events per year across different luxury locations within the United Arab Emirates. These private members-only events involve adrenaline packed track days, drag racing and drift events where owners can experience the ability of their high-performance vehicles to the full in a safe and – importantly – legal environment as well as official drives through scenic locations and social events.

In response to extensive requests from tourists and UAE residents who wanted to experience the thrill of driving supercars (without the corresponding financial commitment), the club decided to expand its business beyond owner events. Half day, full day and even overnight tour packages are available and take in pre-planned routes, encompassing some of the best roads in the UAE and experiencing other adrenaline-filled activities, from zip-lining in Ras Al Khaimah to skydiving over The Palm. Far from its Knighstbridge billionaire reputation, car culture in Dubai is becoming truly inclusive.

Naturally, with the prevalence of exotic supercars and classic cars, satellite businesses catering to the specific needs of owners has become a crucial element of Dubai car culture. Modern day hyper-hybrid supercars are a hefty investment and consist of complicated, cutting-edge technology requiring specialist care and attention. Priceless classic cars require an altogether different approach in maintenance and preservation, especially during the hotter summer months, which older cars were never designed to endure.

Driving pleasure comes from trouble-free motoring and, thankfully, Dubai has an automotive infrastructure in place keeping machinery in prime condition and ready to be used.

One such solution catering to the needs of owners is Parc Fermé. On the surface a basic car storage facility, the interior reveals a one-stop shop for owners, where each vehicle is individually cared for and catered to its – and its owners – specific needs in a climate-controlled environment. Service and maintenance is carried out by a small team of experts ensuring that the vehicle is always in prime condition and ready to be driven by the owner without the associated headaches associated with car ownership. Parc Fermé will also take care of annual registration, insurance or even the logistics in relocating the vehicle should the owner wish to drive it while on holiday in a foreign country or have their car waiting for them upon arrival at Dubai airport. In essence, the complete care service provided by Parc Fermé means owners can focus on what is really important: the thrill of driving.

What does the future hold for automotive enthusiasts in Dubai? The passion for the classic car will undoubtedly endure, as well as more tourist-based experiences. But in a modern city that embraces the future, environmental concerns will see a shift in the automotive landscape. With the current breed of hybrid hyper cars and the next generation looking to be all-electric – don’t expect this automotive passion to just suddenly dwindle and die out. Dubai is, and will continue to be, the land of the supercar for the foreseeable future

Words: James Davison