1981 Dubai Motor Racing Grand Prix

Dubai's First and (to date) only, Motor Racing Grand Prix in 1981 celebrated the United Arab Emirates' Tenth Anniversary since declaring independence on 2nd December 1971. It was an unlikely event for a City State still unknown in the World back then and with no experience of Motor Racing of any kind.
That the 1981 Dubai Motor Grand Prix took place at all was, in hindsight, a remarkable show of confidence in Dubai.

Whose idea was it to hold a Dubai Motor Grand Prix?

Dubai's 1981 Motor Grand Prix had its roots in Martin Hone's 1966 dream of holding a Motor Racing Grand Prix on a UK city street circuit.

Martin Home with Birmingham's Mayor

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In 1970 Martin found support for his idea with a member of Birmingham's City Council but the barriers were formidable, not least UK's Legislation not allowing motor racing on public roads. That Legislation had to change before a race could be held. Eventually Birmingham City Council saw the motor race as a means of changing Birmingham's drab profile to a modern go-ahead city. Martin Hone and his company, International Festival Services helped them with their task but continued to be frustrated in achieving an outcome.

As an interim step in 1980 Martin Hone organised a ‘The Lucas On The Streets Sport Spectacular’ to raise support for his Birmingham Motor Grand Prix Plan. Racing cars of all kinds were driven around a 1.8 mile circuit on Birmingham's streets, many by international racing drivers. No racing was involved. No speed limits were exceeded. It was a "presentation" of motor racing cars to the public. The public loved it.

How did Dubai became involved?

Watching this "presentation" event was Dubai's newly appointed Chief of Police, 28 year old Dahi Tamim 28 Said Khalfan accompanied by his colleague Major Saeed Khalfan who was also Chairman of Al Nasr Motor Sports Club. They were obviously impressed and approached Martin Hone to run a similar event in Dubai. Martin saw this an as opportunity to further promote his Birmingham Plan and gain experience in running this type of event.
Martin Hone flew to Dubai in January 1981. He soon realised the enormity of his task and commented....

There was no racing circuit, an insufficient public road network to make a street circuit, no racing cars in the Emirates, few racing drivers, no trained marshals and no officials.”.

Deira Corniche reclamation had not long completed. Only the Hyatt Regency Hotel had been built on this reclaimed land and its surrounding area was largely sand with a single road connecting Dubai's Shindaga Tunnel. Martin designed a new 1.85 km circuit around the Hyatt Regency Hotel incorporating part of the Shindaga Tunnel Road. He also helped arrange Contractors to build the new circuit and brought out Clerks and Marshalls from UK to train and assist with the Grand Prix. There was criticism at calling the event a "Grand Prix" as it was not a Race for Formula 1 Grand Prix racing cars. There had been local major motor racing events in Asia that had given themselves the title of "Grand Prix" so Dubai's 1981 Motor Grand Prix followed in that mould.

Where did the cars come from?
How did they get to Dubai?

1981 Motor Racing Grand Prix season had ended so there were cars and drivers available to travel to Dubai if they could be persuaded to do so. But more racers were needed to fill a full 2 day programme so Martin Hone approached UK's Aston Martin Owners Club as well as saloon car racers. Prospect of racing in the sunshine and a working holiday in Dubai sounded attractive but there remained the problem of how to get the cars to Dubai.

Dubai's Jebel Ali Port had not long completed. Sheikh Rashid awarded the Port's Management Contract to Sealand Shipping Company, an American Company that pioneered Container Shipping during the Viet Nam War era. Sealand Shipping were both managing Jebel Ali Port and introducing their container shipping services to the Gulf Region and Dubai. Shipping these racing cars to and from Dubai for the 1981 Dubai Motor Grand Prix provided a major opportunity to promote both Jebel Ali Port and Sealand Shipping Company's Container Services to the Gulf and Dubai. By 1981 Dubai was promoting itself as an international transit hub for sea and air cargoes so there were cargo airlines willing to transport some of these racing cars to and from Dubai's Grand Prix as a publicity exercise. The overall approach was to demonstrate Dubai's cargo handling capabilities as well as its accessibility. Both Sealand Shipping Services and Cargolux Airline were featured in the publicity surrounding Dubai's Grand Prix.

1981 Dubai Motor Grand Prix Circuit

1981 Dubai Grand Prix Circuit Dubai Grand Prix Programme

Opening "Grand Prix Parade" featuring sponsors products, saloon cars collector's cars, beach buggies motorcross presentation by Al Nasr Motor Club, marching band of the Military and Police Authorities. Dubai water-ski club presentation "World Champions Parade" Hoteliers Floats, "Hilton", "International" "Metropolitan" "Sheraton". "Hyatt Regency" followed by the "Metropolitan Kart Racing presentation"
The TRANS GULF Crystal Decanter will be awarded for the best float.
Pace Car driven by Walt Cunningham. American Astronaut.

Pre and post war sports racing cars Featuring the World's top racing Aston Martins.

1. Victor Gauntlett 1961 DB4 3670cc Surrey
2. Michael Bowle 1960 Zagato 3670cc Surrey
3. John Downe 1960 Proj.212 4200cc Scarborough
4. Michael Salmon 1956 DBR1 2960cc Jersey
5. Francois Duret 1962 DB4GT 3670cc France
6. William Lake 1953 DB3S 2960cc Sussex
7. David Preece 1960 DB4GT 3670cc Salop
8. Simon Phillips 1961 DB4GTS 3670cc London
9. Roger Hart 1960 DB4GT 3670cc Bucks
10 John Freeman 1948 SPA SPECIAL 1949cc Kent
11. David Lomas 1961 DB4GT 3670cc Cheshire
12. Stewart Bond 1960 DB4GT 3670cc Lancs
13. Richard Pilkington 1955 DB3 2960cc Devon
14. William Monk 1956 DB3S 2960cc Bucks
15. Eric Thompson 1950 DB2 2600cc Surrey
16. William Symons 1959 DBR1/4 2500cc Newcastle

Featuring demonstration laps by some of the world's classic cars.

  1. JUAN MANUEL FANGIO (ARGENTINA) Mercedes-Benz 300 Monoposto.
  3. ROY SALVADORI (MONACO) F1 Aston Martin DBR4.
  4. JOHN HARPER (GREAT BRITAIN) F1 Connaught "A" Series.
  6. IAN PRESTON (GREAT BRITAIN) F1 Bugatti Type 35B.

A Super Sports classic car race over ten laps.

1. David Piper 1967 Ferrari 330 P4 4000cc Guildford
2. Richard Attwood 1965 Ferrari 275 LM Wolverhampton
8. Nick Mason 1970 Ferrari 512S 5000cc London
4. Mike Knight 1968 Lola T70 MKIIIB 5000cc Ascot
2. Mike Wheatley 1968 Lola T70 MKIIIB 5000cc Middlesex
5. Nigel Hulme 1967 Lola T70 MKIIIB 4991 cc Sussex
7. John Brindley 1966 McLaren N1B 5000cc Guildford
42. Malcolm Clube 1968 McLaren MIC 5000cc London
11. Richard Knight 1967 McLaren MIC 4995cc Guildford
20 Robert Horne 1970 McLaren M8D 8100cc London
25. Jeffrey Johnstone 1964 Elva Buick 3528cc Scotland
69. Gerry Marshall 1968 Lola T70 MKIIIB 4991cc Hampshire
10. Mike Ostroumoff 1964 Ferrari 330P 4000cc Worcestershire
14. Richard Thwaites 1968 Chevron B6 1800cc Huddersfield
15. Bernd Becker 1967 Porsche 910 1991 cc West Germany
Late Entry Joe Wiedmer 917/10 Can Am 4500 cc Switzerland

Repeat ten lap one make Saloon Car Race featuring drivers based in the U.A.E. driving the saloon cars propelled by the World Champions in Race One.

1. Major Saeed Khalfan (U. A. E.) Dubai
2. Lt. Abdullah Omar (U. A. E.) Dubai
3. Tony Peck (G. B.) Dubai
4. Stephen Carter (U. S. A.) Dahran
5. John R. Watts (G. B.) Dubai
6. Andrew Hedges (G. B.) Bahrain
7. John Tait (G. B.) Abu Dhabi
B. John Micklethwaite (G. B.) Dubai
9. Capt. Alan Skennerton (G. B.) Dubai
10. Lars Johansson (Sweden) Dhaid
11. Jack Russell (Captain) (G. B.) Abu Dhabi
12. Charles Sammut (G. B.) Abu Dhabi
13. Bruce Reid (G. B.) Abu Dhabi
14. To be nominated
15. To be nominated

In between races Lap Record attempts will be made for the HYATT REGENCY TROPHY for the fastest lap of the Dubai Grand Prix circuit by a Formula One Car. A prize of $5000 will be awarded.

  1. The 1978 Grand Prix World Championship winning TEAM LOTUS
  2. The internationally known Grand Prix World Championship con¬tenders TEAM THEODORE
  3. The World Championship MARLBORO TEAM McLAREN

Presenting all of the racing cars and drivers in a two by two spectacular followed by a repeat of the opening "Dubai Grand Prix Parade"

Practice Days

2nd and 3rd December 1981 are Practice Days

Race Day Arrangements

Facilities at Dubai's 1981 Motor Grand Prix were basic but adequate. Some of the track was marked with truck tyres and the pits and paddock constructed from shipping containers. Al Futtaims (Dubai's Toyota Dealer) provided Landcruisers fitted out with locally built hand operated crane. These were stationed around the track to deal with breakdowns and incidents. Fire, ambulance and Rescue Services were in place. Spectators were generally accommodated in temporary stands. Prior to Race Day was a Practice Day.

Race Circuit remained in places for a number of years before being absorbed into Dubai's changing road layouts. Nevertheless outline of Dubai's 1981 Motor Grand Prix can still be traced in Google Earth and Maps.