The 1981 Dubai Grand Prix

A friend shared a video of a sports event that took place in Dubai in 1981, The Dubai Grand Prix which happened during the 10th UAE National Day weekend.

I don't remember the event myself, but do recall races were held around the Hyatt Regency hotel (the building in the image below). I used to really like that part of Dubai, but alas, today, instead of a clear ocean view, you have the dreaded and unfinished Palm Deira

In the video, the 1981 Dubai Grand Prix was promoted as "the biggest motor racing event ever to hit the Arabian Gulf", and with racing cars and classic cars taking part, it was described as "a potent mixture of razzmatazz and pizazz and racing nostalgia with a certain amount of competition thrown in".  

The event was put together by "Birmingham entrepreneur, Martin Hone" and you can watch him being interviewed in the video by the poolside of the Hyatt Regency hotel (where I used to go with my siblings to swim when we were kids). 

There's a very, dare I say, colonial tone in his voice, especially when he said that when he first introduced the idea of racing, the locals thought he was talking about camel racing. He got permission to call it the Dubai Grand Prix to make people realise it's a motor car racing.

He goes on to say that in three years, "we will have educated the local people sufficiently enough to say yes, we like this event as a tourism event, as a publicity and promotion event - and we will go for a world championship Grand Prix". 

Of course that never happened and it was only recently that Abu Dhabi started hosting the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Today we have the Dubai Auto Drome, but it is nothing compared to the track built in 1981.  

But before Abu Dhabi and even Bahrain, Dubai had the ambitions to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix. I do love this small chapter of motor racing history that happened in Dubai. Why wasn't this pursued to become something bigger? I don't know. My guess is Dubai preferred building big malls and tall buildings.

Please do watch the video. It really is quite amazing and comical at the same time, it's like something out of Wacky Races

The National wrote a detailed article about this event in 2010 (which I don't know how I missed). There's also a write up about the 1981 Dubai Grand Prix with images in Dubai As It Used to Be and 8W. I strongly recommend you visit all three links. 

Thanks Wissam for sharing this. You made my day.

[Dubai Grand Prix poster image via F1 Rejects.]