TO THE LIMIT
ON TRACK WITH DRAGON RACING
If you follow the UAE national racing season at all, you’ll no doubt be familiar with Dragon Racing. It’s one of the most successful GT3 racing outfits in the Gulf, and has won a number of local championships, as well as competed in international races such as Le Mans.
But if you’re a high-flying CEO from an international company, with little understanding of the racing scene in the Middle East, you still might know about Dragon Racing—albeit for entirely different reasons.
While the Dubai-based racing team does what you might expect of any team—taking part in and winning races—dragon Racing’s bread and butter is actually in teaching high-flying members of the elite how to race. The company is all about taking elements such as precision, control, and knowing how to push the limits of skill, and applying them to race days so that corporates can gain a feel for what it’s like to be a real racing driver.
With its corporate track days, dubbed the
Pro-track Experience, Dragon Racing puts corporate customers behind the wheel of a track-modified racing machine, and offers coaching from some of the very best international racing drivers. On top of that, the company offers state-of-the-art telemetry systems, which measure various aspects of a track drive, providing feedback on how drivers can improve.
A corporate race day in the hands of Dragon Racing looks something like this: A team of corporate customers arrive at the venue (either Yas Marina Circuit, or Dubai Autodrome), and get their race suits fitted, along with protective gear and helmets. After that, there’s a briefing, which provides information on the car, driving techniques, and an introduction to the telemetry systems. Following this, there’s an initial driving session, followed by a debrief and lap analysis, and then another driving session and debrief and lap analysis. There’s a quick break for a gourmet lunch (complete with frozen yoghurt, if it’s a hot day), and then there are two more driving sessions, each with their own debrief and analysis sessions.
The driving sessions are intense, 25-minute affairs—a gruelling amount of time for anyone unused to thrashing a race-prepared car around track. However, because Dragon Racing employs top racing drivers from around the world to instruct its customers, guests end up becoming addicted to the idea of lowering their lap times. And on that count, the company really delivers— while not giving a precise number, the company claims that customers are generally “astounded” by the improvements in their lap times over the course of the day.
The cars that Dragon Racing offers up for these corporate track experiences are really special. There’s a choice of two: the Mclaren GT 12C Sprint, and the Ferrari 458 Challenge. Both are hardcore, race-prepared machines with much power, plenty of aero, and little in the way of luxury. They are designed to go fast around tracks, end of story.
The 12C Sprint has been developed by Mclaren GT, the car manufacturer’s in-house racing arm, to deliver a more track-focused racing experience. Stripped of creature comforts and unnecessary weight, the machine retains the balance and precise characteristics of the road car, but augments that experience with Formula 1-style technology. Indeed, the V8 growl of the 3.8-litre, twin-turbo engine and the safety features are just about the only aspects of the Mclaren road car that remain. This track-focused machine develops 625 bhp, and thanks to its weight of just 1,350 kilograms, it will hit a top speed of 299 kph.
The Ferrari 458 Challenge, likewise, is a high-performance machine that has been purpose-built for the track. Powered by a race-tuned, 4.5-litre V8, and stripped of all non-essential weight, the 458 Challenge is a mere 0.2 seconds slower around the Fiorano test track than the legendary Ferrari FXX racing machine. The 0-100 kph time is dealt with in three seconds, and top speed is 309 kph.
To help its customers get the most out of these machines, Dragon Racing offers some of the finest tuition. Heading things up is Rob Barff, the company’s director of racing and tuition. A professional British
racing driver, his career spans 25 years, with the last 14 years as a fully professional race driver and driver coach. He specialises in international GT racing, and has also competed in LMP1 and LMP2 sportscars at the highest level. He’s also an expert at vehicle data interpretation, meaning that he can make sense of the data that comes out during the post-racing debriefs.
Naturally, all of this excitement doesn’t come cheap. Barff explains that the cost is justified, however, given all that is on offer. For one thing, Dragon Racing offers the chance to rent out the entire track, so that the racing sessions really are private. For another, racing instructors can be flown in from anywhere. Barff proudly explains that, if there’s a Japanese CEO in town who wants a day of racing, Dragon Racing can arrange for a Japanese racing driver to be flown in for the instruction sessions, so that lessons can be delivered in the student’s home language.
“That sort of thing really makes a difference to people,” Barff says. “To have a lesson given in your own language, people get really surprised that we’ve actually gone to that much effort, and they always leave with a smile on their faces.”