ABU DHABI // Amid the sound of screeching tyres, the roar of engines and the smell of burnt rubber and petrol, cars line up for head-to-head races on the drag strip.
Spectators excitedly watch from the stands, while other drivers in their souped-up sports cars and 4x4s line up, waiting for their turn.
This is the scene at the Yas Drag Nights, which take place twice a month at Yas Marina Circuit.
The event, the latest of which was on Thursday, aims to offer a safe environment in which speed-loving motorists can get their kicks away from public roads.
The clientele – mostly young men – gathers in the circuit to test their racing skills and abilities.
Mohammed Al Shaikh, drag officer at the circuit, explained what the night is about.
“On Yas Drag Nights, it’s an open day, anyone who wishes to participate can. Modified cars, street cars, whatever they have,” he said.
“The schedule has been running since 2009 and the men know about it and look forward to participating.
“Some men are young, mostly between the ages of 20 to 35 but there are others who are professionals.”
The cars must pass stringent safety checks before being allowed on the track.
“A committee examines the car to look at its modifications. We have no limit to the horsepower but we have to ensure it is installed properly,” Mr Al Shaikh said.
“We also have to check for possibility of leaks, pipes must be properly fitted and car seats must be special in cases of very fast sports cars. We have a specific standard to abide by.”
Some men also bring in a helmet and safety shoes for peace of mind.
The circuit itself has a rescue team in case accidents happen during races.
“We provide two fire lorries, an ambulance and a specialised hospital at hand. We also have a rescue and rapid response in case we need to pry open the car. They are always available during the races,” he said.
Col Jamal Al Ameri, head of PR at Abu Dhabi traffic police, said the circuit is giving young men the chance to enjoy racing while ensuring their safety.
“We have a slogan: ‘driving has manners and speed has a track’,” he said.
“The principle is that those who wish to race can go to the specialised tracks, such as Yas Marina Circuit, where safety standards and procedures are available to preserve the safety of the public,” he said.
Abdulla Al Khoory, 22, who owns a Mercedes-Benz E63s, said his interest in high-speed driving and modified engines led him to attend.
“I always participate for fun because we can race and go for the high speeds in a secure arena as we are prohibited from drag racing on regular streets,” he said.
Another regular participant, Fahad Al Mansouri, 30, said he used to race on deserted highways with his friends, until he discovered the circuit races.
“To me, I was more comfortable knowing I would be surrounded by help in case, God forbid, something happens, and, when racing, anything can go wrong either with the engine or with the driver’s control of the vehicle,” he said.
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(via The National)