Wow! Lap up the Yas Marina

2012-01-28 14:35

I’ve never been to the United Arab Emirates. If the crazy videos I’ve watched on YouTube of people racing their cars on the streets were anything to go by, I was stoked beyond comprehension.

But a couple of days before I was set to depart, my friends and loved ones put me on a tiny trip of paranoia.
 
“You have to wear a doek. Don’t have too much fun. Don’t laugh out loud. Don’t wear any pants, just long skirts.”

And the comment that caused the most paranoia was: “Don’t be caught alone with a man.”

They claimed that these were the rules of engagement in this Islamic country. I was the only woman in a contingency of 11 South Africans, so needless to say I was petrified.

My destination was Abu Dhabi, Yas Island – the land of Ferrari World, an amusement park so big it can be seen from outer space, and more recently the spectacular Yas Marina Grand Prix Circuit, which opened in 2009.

Abu Dhabi screams postcard beauty, but it is also austere.

We stayed at the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi on the urban resort of Saadiyat Island. It’s an exclusive haven designed for the discerning traveller.

The hotel opened its doors late last year. Everything is perfect, and patrons are treated like royalty in the spacious and luxurious rooms.

As we approached the Yas Marina Grand Prix Circuit, the new Porsche 911 Carreras – lined up in all their glory – were a sight to behold.
To the

average Joe, the new 911 would probably look no different to its predecessor, but there are subtle nips and tucks that the Porsche junkie will spot immediately. In fact, 90% of the car has brand-new components.

The 911 rear-wheel Carrera, powered by a 3.4l boxer engine and kicking out 257kW of power, is the first passenger car to have a seven-speed manual gearbox.

It has a wider front end, bigger wheels wrapped around the 19-inch alloys and redesigned for a more pronounced rump that looks all very Aston Martin-ish.

It has a more curved windscreen, larger side air intakes, a bigger extending rear spoiler, new bi-xenon headlights and slimmer LED rear lights.

Although there are several aesthetic changes, a lot has been done to make this 911 a beast, with heaps of technology resulting in improved power figures and
less emissions.
Our chariots were a rainbow of Carrera S models. The Carrera has a 3.8l boxer engine and blasts

off with 294kW of power mated to the optional seven-speed Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe (PDK, or double-clutch system).
The first part of the two-day launch was a 130km drive in the left-hand models on public roads. We drove in convoy and that meant no overtaking.

My driving partner was eager to drive first and I sat in the passenger seat pinching myself blue. Here I was, sitting in a 911 on a very new Yas Marina Grand Prix Circuit in Abu Dhabi.

It’s the very same circuit where some of my racing heroes – such as

Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Michael Schumacher – will compete later this year in the Abu Dhabi leg of the upcoming F1 season. It was surreal.

While he got a few corners and turns, I got the long stretches of road. Good thing I was last in the convoy so I could hang back and really put my foot down when the opportunity presented itself.

Day two was track day. Divided into two groups, I set off to the first activity of the day, which was some gymkhana driving in the Carrera S models – both with and without the optional Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control (PDCC).

It allows you to drive like a lunatic and feel just a little bit safer doing so.

Realistically, though, the PDCC allows for more agility and a bigger margin to really make those tight corners. According to Porsche, it’s an active roll compensation system that eliminates the action the moment it senses the car is beginning to roll.

The S model also features the standard Porsche Torque Vectoring (PTV) system, which enhances improved tracking, along with a rear differential lock and variable torque distribution to the rear wheels.

While some may say the new 911 has gone back to its roots of pure driving pleasure, I have to agree with the other lot that it’s a much more refined car.

I will cherish those two days, and the four hours on the Yas Marina Circuit, for quite some time to come. It’s my new happy place.

» The 911 is immediately available to preorder at local Porsche centres, but will only become available from early March 

Model:
Porsche 911 Carrera / Carrera S

Engine: 3.4l / 3.8l

Power: 257kW / 294kW

Torque: 390Nm / 440Nm

Fuel consumption:
9.0l/100km / 9.5l/100km

CO2 emissions:
212-194g/km / 224-205g/km

Price:
From R989?000 / From R1?133?000

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