Site visit: Motorsport Business Park, Dubai Autodrome
Designed to serve as a hub for motorsports in the UAE, Union Properties’ Motorsport Business Park is expected to be ready for handover by December 2017
When the 7th installment of the Fast & Furious film franchise was released in 2015, featuring scenes shot in Abu Dhabi, movie critics and viewers were quick to point out the suitability of the location choice.
After all, to many people, the UAE has become synonymous with fast and flashy vehicles.
In the Telegraph’s review of the film, for instance, the newspaper’s film critic dismissed the plot’s explanation for the cast’s trip to the UAE capital, writing: “The real point of their visit, of course, is to ogle the country’s finely tuned, outrageously expensive supercars.”
It’s important to note, of course, that merely owning fast cars does not necessarily equate to racing – especially in public settings. Nevertheless, with international events such as the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and national races like the NGK Racing Series, it’s fair to say that the UAE has more than its fair share of petrolheads.
Such events reflect an active motorsports sector, as the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) tells Construction Week: “The motorsports industry has experienced steady growth year on year, via promoters, organisers, and world-class facilities.”
One such facility is Dubai Autodrome. Located within Union Properties’ (UP) Motor City development, it opened in 2004 and features a 5.39km circuit that has been sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the global authority that governs auto racing events.
The Dubai Autodrome circuit offers six different configurations, as well as karting tracks, a school for aspiring racing drivers, a grandstand retail plaza, and the still under-construction Motorsport Business Park.
Valued at $4.3m (AED15.8m) and spanning 5,600m2, the Motorsport Business Park project certainly isn’t the largest Dubai development on paper. Neither is it particularly demanding from an architectural perspective; the facility resembles a warehouse, and for many activities, will function as one.
It is, however, a space that will offer both utility and convenience to an underserved demographic: businesses operating within the region’s motorsports industry, and their customer base of racing enthusiasts.
Speaking with Construction Week, Ryan Trutch, special projects and Kartdrome manager at Dubai Autodrome, says: “It’s basically a warehouse structure. We’ll have a pantry and toilets inside each unit, but [the project] is designed so that tenants can [tailor their] units as they desire.
“Some of them will have showrooms; some will use the units as offices; and some as workshops. The tenants all have different core businesses, so they will fit out their units as per their requirements.”
When Construction Week visited the site of Motorsport Business Park in June 2017, there were only 48 workers present, with the number expected to peak at 120.
Moreover, construction progress was nearing the halfway mark – a clear indication that the project will meet its 31 December, 2017 target completion deadline, according to Multilink Contracting. Awarded the main contractor package, worth $3.4m (AED12.5m), in January 2017, the company also carried out the foundation work for the development.
“[Multilink was awarded] the complete package, which includes civil works, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP), and erection works,” says Anil Gedam, projects manager at Multilink Contracting. “We have in-house teams, so we are doing everything.”
Detailing the progress the company has made on the project, which broke ground in March 2017, he continues: “We have already completed 45% of all construction works. Structural is almost 70% done and about 95% of erection works have been completed.
“We have also installed an underground water tank, which is approximately 25m x 9.5m, as well as the fire pump room. And soon, we will start on the flooring work and the block work.”
Once completed, the business park will feature 12 units ranging in size from 225m2 to 450m2. All units have been leased, Trutch reveals, adding that they were pre-booked within two weeks of the project’s launch.
This high demand has prompted talks regarding the possibility of expanding the project to include a Phase 2, Trutch continues, but clarifies that these discussions are still in the early stages. If UP does decide to pursue a second phase, the expansion will add between 3,600m2 and 3,700m2 to the development’s overall size.
Johnson Mathew, projects manager at Design House Engineering Consultancy, the company that was engaged to design the business park, and which is now providing project management services, explains that – if greenlit – Phase 2 will likely consist of two buildings.
“One building will be approximately 2,000m2, while the second will be around 1,600m2. Common facilities, such as the water tanks and the substation, will be shared,” he reveals.
Mathew further notes that if the proposed Phase 2 is approved, the additional buildings will be constructed on the same row as Phase 1. “Once Phase 1 and Phase 2 are completed, we will have three buildings in a row,” he elaborates.
While a UP development, Motorsport Business Park is firmly a Dubai Autodrome initiative, says Trutch, remarking that the idea to develop a facility to cater to motorsports businesses was actually part of the original Motor City master plan.
“It was never really taken forward, as changes happened in Motor City, [and] it became more residential. So [Dubai Autodrome] decided to proceed internally with it,” he explains.
With Phase 2 still unconfirmed, Motorsport Business Park is a relatively small project, but its stakeholders remain extremely confident that it will play a significant role in facilitating the country’s motorsports industry.
According to ATCUAE, the development of the business park represents “a positive step for motorsports and provides the industry with a strong platform to develop and to cater for the increasing demand in events and competitors”.
An authority on the industry, having celebrated its golden jubilee in 2015, the ATCUAE is collaborating with other motorsports federations in the GCC to kick off a new series called the Gulf Challenge, which will see bikes, cars, and buggies competing in cross-country rallies, with rounds in different GCC states, including Saudi Arabia, Oman and, of course, the UAE.
The inaugural rally for the competition, which is the brainchild of HE Mohammed Ben Sulayem, former rally champion of the Middle East and president of ATCUAE and Abdullah Bakhshab, former rally driver from Saudi, is expected to take place next year.
“Due to the success of grassroots programmes and young talent, the building blocks are in place to expand [the sport] for the next generation,” states ATCUAE.
Meanwhile, Trutch highlights the significant role that will be played by the business park, noting that it will support the recently established Grandstand Retail Plaza, which boasts a collection of retail outlets. Overlooking The Ribbon Mall and the main straight at the Autodrome, he hopes this facility will feature a restaurant by September of this year.
“All of the [business park] tenants are motorsport-related companies, and we are a motorsport circuit, so everything works hand in hand,” he continues. “They will benefit from the use of our circuit, and we’ll benefit from them being onsite and bringing extra footfall and business to our facility.
“We call Dubai Autodrome the home of motorsports in the Middle East, so all our activities and projects are aimed at developing and strengthening that identity.”
Touting your development as “the home of motorsports in the Middle East” may seem bold, especially considering the number of racing circuits across the rest of the country and the wider region. However, Trutch points out that Motorsport Business Park will help set it apart from the competition.
“There are other circuits in the UAE, but [Dubai Autodrome] will serve as the hub for motorsports businesses in the country,” he says, adding that the facility will see motorsports teams and automotive companies coming together under one roof and setting up their base at the circuit.
He concludes: “Motorsports as a whole has really taken off, and this project will only help boost it even more in the coming years.”