We visit GP Extreme’s showroom in Dubai, only to find a temple for motorsport.
You may remember GP Extreme from our experience at the Dubai 24 Hours. The GP Extreme team ran two Renault works cars, placing 2nd in the ‘Am’ class, an achievement for a relatively young team and a new car.
In addition to being a race team and providing track coaching, GP Extreme also has a showroom. Having heard good things, but never visited, I stopped by one weekday to have a look around and speak to the general manager, Stephan Clain, about a few details for the upcoming race.
Walking through the glass doors(no, not that way), the first thing I spotted was the green Caterham Formula One car. Taking pride of place at the front, it was meant to be a pit crew tyre-change simulator. Glancing at the shelves, I noticed numerous Amalgam scale models, displaying minute details. Formula One cars, GT3 racecars and even a LaFerrari occupied the long, sleek shelves, which stretched halfway through the showroom. A particularly interesting model was the engine and transmission of a Ferrari 250 GTO, complete with the gearshifter.
Moving deeper into the showroom, there was an array of helmets, signed by famous Formula One drivers. Senna, Schumacher, Raikonnen, Button and other illustrious names were etched onto them. On the walls, I found artwork by Fabian Oefner, which consisted of famous classic cars ‘exploding’, their parts suspended in mid air.
Any homage to classic motorsport is incomplete without the familiar colors of Gulf Oil. Sure enough, I found a Triumph Bonneville painted so, along with a massive sign for the petroleum corporation on the wall.
Other artefacts included a 1:1 replication of a modern Formula One steering wheel, classic Heuer stopwatches, models of team trucks and a part of a racing transmission, with the gears exposed.
Taking a seat on the couch to regain my bearings and take it all in, I looked at the floor, only to find a magazine rack with both exhaust manifolds from a Formula One car. To think that those very pieces of metal had been instrumental in expelling hot gases during a race, and now form artwork that could sit on your living room floor was surreal.
A massive poster of Senna in a corner caught my eye, and moving closer, I realised that was a small part of a shrine to the racing legend. His helmet, trophies, and caps were all there. What motorsport would be if we had him today, we can only guess.
Scale models of Mercedes Formula One cars of the ‘50s and the ’60s filled one shelf. The rest of the space was taken up by more Formula One merchandise for various teams, including mugs, key fobs, race suits and windbreakers.
Don’t yawn just yet.
Seeing that I had been all around the showroom, Stephan beckoned to me and I entered a dark room. Giving my eyes a couple of seconds to adjust, I found a full size race simulator. Modeled on an Aston Martin GT3 racecar in fibreglass form, it had proper racing seats and a roll cage. A 180-degree screen surrounds the front, onto which the image is projected.
After strapping myself in and getting the seat adjusted, Stephan got me started. Having had no track experience whatsoever, I had no illusions about my ability, and instead decided to simply enjoy the experience. Setting the Dubai Autodrome Club Circuit as the track, I started off.
The first few laps were predictably laughable. Punctuated by a few spins and a couple of crashes, it was all I could do to keep the car on track, while getting a feel for how sensitive the controls were to my input. Stephan, silent up till this point, suggested that I watch him drive a couple laps, before trying again, something that I gladly accepted.
Watching as he deftly clipped apexes and followed a disciplined racing line, I could only marvel at the time he put on the board. Putting me back in the driver’s seat, he handed me a set of headphones, through which he would help me improve.
Lo and behold, with Stephan instructing me, I began to see immediate results. Being in the right gear through certain corners, modulating my braking and acceleration and generally following a better line, I managed to cut my time by a whole minute over ten laps. Getting an absolute novice to drastically improve on his driving was a testament to Stephan’s skills as a racing instructor, leaving me with a decent time on the clock. I actually broke into a sweat by the time I was done, the experience was so realistic.
Afterward, he showed me the technical aspects with the MoTec software, giving me concrete tips on how to improve further. Far from any arcade game, this was a proper race simulator, meant to help skilled drivers’ practice before a race.
So, besides being a racing driver’s virtual practice ground, the entire showroom pays homage to motorsport, both classic and modern. Hamilton and Hunt have equal representation among the items on GP Extreme’s shelves. Perfect for the true motorsport enthusiast then, it’s definitely worth a visit. Whether to pay your respects to Senna, or try your hand at racing on a circuit of your choice, it’s a special place all right.
Special thanks to Stephan for taking the time to show me around the showroom and helping me improve my track driving.