Yas, Yas, Yas! Behind the scenes in Abu Dhabi


Monday 21st February, 2011 - 9:55am


The Yas Marina Circuit is an amazing facility – no matter how many times you go and see it

The Yas Marina Circuit is an amazing facility – no matter how many times you go and see it

It’s incredible to think that just 15 months ago the first Formula 1 Grand Prix was held at the spectacular Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, while just three months later our very own V8 Supercars were there strutting their stuff on the same – albeit slightly shorter –circuit.

Last week’s second foray to Yas was at least as good as the first and now that the circuit and the neighbouring environs have matured there was a more seasoned feel about the entire Yas Island precinct. Add to that the completion and opening of the ‘Ferrari World Abu Dhabi’ theme park, together with the burgeoning and ever-changing cityscape just down the road in Abu Dhabi’s CBD and the real picture starts to become clearer.

Dubai was the catalyst for tourism in the area, yet the region overspent on massive borrowings without enjoying the benefits of being an oil rich nation. By contrast, Abu Dhabi enjoys incredible mineral wealth and the rate of development just has to be seen to be believed. In the year since last we were there, new buildings of all shapes and sizes have popped up, real estate has boomed and exciting tourism attractions have continued to take shape.

In amongst the bright lights of the Abu Dhabi city and its race circuit, it can be easy to forget that you are in the desert ...

In amongst the bright lights of the Abu Dhabi city and its race circuit, it can be easy to forget that you are in the desert ...

The Yas Island development is but one of a number of major projects in the area and it’s hard to fathom how, just under three years ago, there was nothing there … yep, nothing but sand and water. The effort that went into building the world’s slinkiest racing facility, together with the infrastructure of the adjoining environs is just incredible, while the Yas Hotel is altogether something else.

Here are a few vital statistics and points of interest:

Yas Island business district, hotels, theme parks, golf course and Yas Marina Circuit … estimated cost: $3.7-billion USD.

Yas Marina Circuit … estimated cost: $1.2-billion USD.

14,000 workers built Yas Island and the motor racing circuit

25-million man hours went into the construction

35 different construction companies

225,000 cubic metres of concrete

25 tower cranes, 75 mobile cranes

120 JCB-type lifters

5000 trees planted

143 Marina berths with mega-yacht capabilities

The marina is illuminated underwater and houses the Yas Yacht Club

Yas Island Water Park and wave pool

Warner Bros theme park

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park

General information

Yas Island is 25km square, located North-East of Abu Dhabi’s mainland, approximately a 30-minute drive from Abu Dhabi and just over an hour from Dubai.

When finished Yas Island will host over 20 hotels including Yas Hotel, three theme parks, including Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, a Super Regional shopping mall, golf courses, several marinas, commercial and residential property developments.

Impressive indeed and spending time there is fantastic, although one shortcoming is the Cab rides … cheap, but frequently at no less than 140kmh along the Causeway in the hands of drivers that won’t ever challenge our V8 Supercars stars!

Food is also quite expensive at the hotels in and around the circuit but the room rates are more than respectable. I ate at the Yas Hotel one evening and a good steak was around $55AUD, a Corona closer to $12AUD. The choice of wine is limited with most of it being French and at $20AUD per glass, and it was a fairly average drop, so the beer was a better option.

But other than that it is awesome. Clean, safe and full of interesting history, and the development going on in Abu Dhabi has to be seen to be believed. The shopping malls are chock-full of the big name brands and take two days to get around and there are skyscrapers of all shapes and sizes going up in every direction. The current population is over 900,000 people with plans for 3-4 million in five years time!

In addition to the city’s numerous tourist and shopping attractions there is no sign of things slowing down and Abu Dhabi’s will soon open its very own Louvre and Guggenheim museums / art galleries.

It is definitely a place to visit and if V8 Supercars is not your thing then get yourself to the Formula One event in November. It’s a great place to go at any time of year, but come Grand Prix time it is the place to be … and not just for the after-race concerts, which for the last two years have boasted some of the biggest stars on the planet. Eric Clapton actually played when the V8 Supercars were in town last weekend. Not quite my cup of tea, but many visitors attended.

Now that we know racing cars – well, V8 Supercars at least – can actually make passing manoeuvres on the unique Hermann Tilke designed layout, you have everything you need for a brilliant race week with a difference … a very big, glamorous, opulent and culturally exciting difference.

So, like so many who have done so thus far, add a trip to Abu Dhabi and the Yas Marina Circuit to your motor racing must do list … you won’t be disappointed.

For more with Chris Jewell, see his Jack’s 10 Questions interview below …

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