The Gulf Historic Dubai GP Revival took place at the Dubai Autodrome in early December 2023. The third running of the event proved to be the biggest and best to date, featuring seventies F1 cars on track and a seventies theme in the paddock. There was also racing from historic Le Mans cars from the eighties to the noughties. A new event saw pre ’66 Le Mans cars take to the track at sunset for an endurance race that  brought thunder to the Autodrome late into the night.

Motorpunk was there with media access to trackside, pit lane and paddock. This event is only in its third year and coming as it does at the very end of the season it’s something of a hidden gem. The paddock was a relaxed affair with great access to the cars and the historic race teams. It looked and felt like a miniature, more intimate Goodwood.

A diverse collection of classic cars fringed the paddock, some arriving straight from completing the Dubai Mille Miglia. The classics would have the chance to drive the circuit in between races. Our award for “Most Motorpunk Classic” goes to the heroic souls who drove across the UAE in their prewar Alvis.

           

             

                     

Friday practice was a great day to take in the paddock and the efforts of the organisers to give a seventies theme to proceedings. Creator of the event, Frederic Fatien is a French petrolhead with more than a whiff of Lord Hesketh about him. It clearly showed in the paddock, where you could find two Hesketh F1 cars receiving close attention from a James Hunt doppelganger, complete with pretty girl on arm and pursued by a paparazzo. You could also find roller skating children of the revolution, two ladies decorated in car parts, bunting draped palm trees, mechanics in paisley shirts sporting Japanese Bandos, and a DJ twiddling her decks.  It was only nine in the morning and Fred was already crushing the Hesketh meets Goodwood vibe.

               

The pit garages boasted Le Mans legends including Porsche, Lancia, Spice, Mazda, Rondeau, Saleen, Chrysler Dodge Vipers and Le Mans spec 911s.

             

             

             

           

The seventies offers some of the best F1 nostalgia and one half of the motor sheds was awash with classic F1 cars in team names and liveries lost to time. The fleet included aforementioned Heskeths plus March, Surtees, Minardi, Tyrrell, ATS, and a genuine Wolf Williams to name just a few. The other half of the sheds held a squadron of Shelby and Chapman porn supported by stars from Jaguar, Porsche, Lister Triumph, Costin and AC.


                           
The racing started on Saturday with a Le Mans 80s event that saw the Alpha liveried Porsche 962 take victory from a hard driven Spice SE90 it was the perfect launchpad for the weekend with the two cars trading places and  lapping the field in their battle for the top spot.

 

Much admired in the garages was this fabulous Ferrari powered Lancia. Straight out of a thirty year hibernation and still geared for the high speed running of Le Mans, it struggled with fuelling issues on the low speed technical curves of the Autodrome.

The F1 seventies race was also a thriller with a seventeen car grid and BTCC race ace, Jake Hill, making his debut in a vintage 1973 Ensign F1 car. Jake, a dab hand at sliding a classic Capri around a race circuit, proved just as adept at slinging the Ensign around a track. Qualifying fifth, he lost out at the start only to fight his way back to fifth place in the oldest GP car in the race. Sunday he went one better, finishing fourth after fighting off Jamie Constable in a Tyrell. Not too shabby for his first ever outing in a single seater. If by some chance Jake reads this, he is cordially invited to join our Lemons team for 2024.  



Saturday also saw Alain Prost reunited with his 1991 Ferrari for some demonstration laps of the circuit. The professor was willing but his steed proved wanting, expiring after just a couple of laps. Many a  Formula One Ferrari driver can sympathise. I was just pleased to grab these snaps of him,  ducking the scrum of waiting fans by sneaking through the motor sheds.

                                           

Grid walks preceded each race offering another chance to get up close to the cars and drivers. Each grid was celebrated with a marching band, Arabic singing, and in keeping with the seventies theme , a bevy of grid girls. 

               

                                       

The wild rear aero of this Rondeau M482 is even more impressive in the flesh. Jean Rondeau is the only man to win Le Mans in a car bearing his name, He took victory in 1980 driving a Rondeau 379 in a rain sodden, David and Goliath battle against Porsche.

                 

Beautifully prepared by John Danby Racing, this Courage Cougar C28LM took the eighties class honours in the Sunday race.

Nineties F1 cars also provided demonstration laps at the autodrome featuring a wealth of talent from Le Mans winner, and former Mclaren and Ferrari driver, Stefan Johansson, in the ex Ivan Capelli Leyton House March. F3 driver Sofia Floersch  took the last of the Brabhams, the BT60B out for some laps.

             

                         

Away from the cars the paddock also offered a picnic and hospitality area with views of the track and a tented shopping avenue. If you had the means, you could purchase a vintage Rolex, some designer trinkets for the wife, or a $10,000 electric go kart for the kids. Most made do with an ice cream.

Saturday night also saw the debut of the pre 66 Le Mans night endurance race that included no less than five GT40s. The race and the ambient temperatures pushed cars and drivers to their limit and packed in a hefty slice of drama. It will be a separate feature on here soon. In the meantime,  you can find the full race report for the weekend, written by some bloke called Swanson, in Historic Motor Racing News, 

 

Images Steve Swanson

About The Author

Steve Swanson

Steve turns any opportunity to write about cars into a roadtrip. It's seen him ride shotgun in a Bentley Blower with Clive Cussler, and cross paths with automotive YouTubers in Canada and the US. His work has been published in Magneto, Classic Cars, Classic American and some magazines that no MotorPunk reader has ever heard of. When he's not writing or driving you can find him kicking tyres at seedy auctions and hawking junk optimistically described as Automobilia

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