Ever dreamt what it’s like to strapped into a single seat race car and driving around the most modern Formula One circuit in the world? Well the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi offers various driving experiences all year round (with the exception of when the F1 Grand Prix is in town).
My better half bought the Yas 3000 Driving Experience for me last year and I finally got the chance to redeem it last weekend.The experience costs 1500 AED and can be bought online or in any number of shops. After a short drive from Dubai, (and spotting a rare Ferrari 512TR on the way)
I arrived at the Yas Marina Circuit and followed the map and instructions emailed, to Race Central. I arrived early to soak up the excitement to get a good look around, and get some photos. When you sign in, you have the option to sign an insurance waiver for 200 AED (which I did) to cover any damage to the car. Not worth the risk in my opinion as they are expensive cars. Before the drivers briefing I took the opportunity to grab a few photos around the pits.
Different driver experiences are also taking place at the same time, so it is advisable to book in advance to ensure you get a good time slot and not just turn up. These experiences include the Yas 3000 Single Seat, Aston Martin GT4,
Mercedes SLS AMG, Chevrolet Camaro and the Yas Radical SST. For pricing and detail see online.
Passenger experiences are also available for the Aston Martin GT4, the Mercedes SLS AMG and the Yas Radical SST.
For now lets focus on the Yas 3000 Driving Experience. The driver’s briefing takes place upstairs past Johnny Rockets Cafe and lasts about 30 mins. The instructors brief you on the order of the experience, the basic layout and controls in the Yas 3000, track rules and procedure, racing lines, braking points, turn in points and corner apexes. The experience takes place on half of the F1 track including the start/finish straight (but not under the famous Yas Viceroy Hotel)
The Yas 3000 has a clutch which is used to engage 1st gear only and a 6 Speed Paddle Shift gearbox. Pull left paddle to change down, pull right to change up. The digital screen behind the steering wheel has basic telemetry and the LED shift light display above. Neutral can be engaged at standstill in the pits by pressing a button on the steering wheel.
Basic stats: 3.0L V6 Cosworth Engine, 0-100kph in 3.1 seconds. 250 BHP. Top speed 275kph. Weight 700kg (compared to my Mini JCW at 1260kg)
Fly by Wire throttle control. 6 Speed Gearbox and Limited Slip Differential.
After the briefing it’s change into the driving suit and off to complete a couple of laps in the Renault Clio RS to familiarise yourself with the track and various brake, turn and corner apexes (all marked by different colur cones). Important point is that you must be familiar with driving manual gearboxes as the Clio is manual, as well as the Yas 3000 1st gear start.
The Clio has a 2.0L 16v engine, 197 bhp and 0-100kph in 6.7 secs. Not bad and certainly fun to drive, very basic inside, but prefer my Mini John Cooper Works (no offense to Clio owners!)
3 Laps around the track in convoy gives you time to work out the corners and track layout.
Then it’s back to the pits and await your turn for the single seat. In the meantime some Yas Radical SST’s and Aston Martin GT4’s were heading out for driver and passenger experiences as well.
Unfortunately I left my longer lens for the NEX7 in the Mini so not quite as detailed or focused tracking shots were caught.
The speed at which these cars were driven around, particularly in the passenger experiences was clear to see. Maybe next time.
Then it was our group’s turn onto the track. There’s not alot of room in there and at 5ft 8in I did just about reach the pedals. So 5ft 10in and slim is best!. After getting strapped in, steering wheel attached and visor down, the Ignition button is pressed, starter button held in for 3-4 seconds and the noise begins. Admittedly I stalled it first time as I let the clutch out too quick, but not the second time. One instructor leads out 5 cars with another instructor at the rear.
After 3 laps in convoy, getting used to the car, we pull back into the pits for the instructors to decide who is faster or slower and the group is split into two, with the two groups returning to the track soon after with an adequate gap in between. There is strictly no “racing” or overtaking allowed, with the only exception being if a car infront spins out or if your group approaches the slower group and you cruise around it on the straight.
The speed and acceleration of the Yas 3000 does take some time to get used to, as well as the brakes. Each lap you begin to push the car harder and leave the braking later as you get more accustomed to the capability of the Yas 3000. Each time I approached the corners and spot the braking point cones you leave it later and later with a determination to hit those apexes.Thankfully I completed 6 laps without incident, though one driver in front did spin out on the hairpin bend after the pits.
What surprised me was the amount of buffeting and turbulence your head feels when you’re in 6th gear on the long straight at 240kph. It’s really hard to keep your head steady and focused. The feeling of accelerating the car down the start finish straight is amazing and certainly unique. How the F1 drivers last upto 2 hours in the cockpit with the extreme G Forces and level of concentration astounds me? You really do imagine yourself as Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso, you cant help yourself. It was certainly disappointing to see the chequered flag waved to say our time was up.The screen shot earlier, is taken from the 2 video cameras fixed to the car infront and above/behind the driver. Click on the link below to see the full video.
The video costs 200 AED (copied onto a USB to takeaway) and covers your laps on the track. My only criticism is clearly the quality could be significantly improved, especially in the days of GoPros and 4K video. Also there was no telemetry on the video itself so difficult to see actual times or speed.
Overall I would say the Yas 3000 Driving Experence is a great way to get a brief feel as to what it maybe like to race a single seat race car. I would certainly do it again (maybe in the winter when it’s slightly cooler) or take out one of the Yas Radical SST’s for sure. For more information on the Yas Marina Experience Packages look at their page online.
What a rush (excuse the pun). Have you completed the Yas Marina Driving Experience? Let me know what you think…