Get Your Motor Running
Written by Nick Hall
Ferrari, Pagani, Koenigsegg, Lamborghini and more have been drawn like moths to the flame of emerging wealth in gas-rich Doha. With Europe, the USA, and even neighbouring Dubai falling on hard times in the global recession, their eyes are fixed on Qatar’s buoyant economy, and they are bringing out the big guns to entertain the crowds.
So we can expect the kind of visual delights normally held deep within the confines of a Sheikh’s climate-controlled garage.
H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, has lent his patronage to an event that he believes is yet another step forward for Qatar’s international image, as evidenced by Qatar Tourism Authority’s hands-on role in its organisation. “Qatar has made significant investments in sports infrastructure and has already made an impact on the motor sports scene with our night-time MotoGP and championship rally team. QTA is excited to bring the Qatar Motor Show to Doha as another exciting addition to the events calendar for Qatar and for the region,” said Ahmed Al Nuaimi, Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority.
As well as the traditional stands to show off the wares, the Qatar Motor Show will offer a hands-on approach, with test drives and the chance to see, hear, smell, and even feel the world’s best cars in action in the test drive area outside.
If that’s not enough there’ll be off-roading, freestyle, and even drift exhibitions to keep the adrenaline flowing. The Middle East’s rich tapestry of motor sport, from motorbikes through to international rallying, will be well represented, with some of the world’s most famous competition cars and drivers out in force to show just how wild things can get when they’re not against the clock. But don’t expect the Ferrari salesmen to join in the tyre-shredding fun with a 458 Italia.
H.E. Sheikh Al Hussain Bin Ali Bin Ahmed Al Thani, CEO of Q.media, co-organiser of the event, said: “The show will be a hands-on, interactive event. The Qatar Motor Show will be an immersive and all-encompassing experience that will have something for everyone.
“In addition to rally champions, fancy cars, and the top international car manufacturers, the Qatar Motor Show will stand out from other auto shows by featuring exclusive interactive opportunities. When we launch the inaugural Qatar Motor Show, we will set an impressive benchmark for an event that will surely become a tradition, and that all residents of Qatar, as well as visitors from around the region and the world, will be able to enjoy for years to come.”
Elsewhere the dedicated Concept Car pavilion combines a fanciful leap into the future with the technology that will shape the cars of tomorrow. Concentrating on Italian concepts, the show will welcome such iconic designers as Bertone, Pininfarina, and Autostudi. That means that Bertone’s almighty Pandion – based on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione – will almost certainly be there in all its glorious madness.
Built to celebrate Alfa Romeo’s 100th birthday, this implausible design concept comes with giant elongated doors that form the entire side of the car, a grille so sharp it could dice pedestrians, and a rear end that makes it look like military hardware. Of course the Pandion and many other concepts will never sit in anyone’s driveway, but they are a window into tomorrow’s world and some of the most spectacular designs we’ll ever see.
Expect big things from the luxury car manufacturers, too; after all, both Bentley and Rolls-Royce have produced special editions for the Middle East. Rolls-Royce, in particular, knows the value of pandering to the Middle Eastern aristocracy, and the BMW-owned English marque has produced numerous editions of the Phantom named after famous Arabian race horses, including the Peony and Mirage.
Now with the Ghost in its stable, expect the once quintessentially English brand, which is synonymous with wealth, style, and breeding, to come up with something unique for the Doha show once again.
Bentley countered its one-time stablemate Rolls-Royce with the Flying Spur Arabia edition, with minor cosmetic changes and a mild power boost. That was in August, though, and with Qatar offering a clean slate for both brands, expect the English to go to war once again in a bid to wrest orders from well-heeled local socialites.
It will be the same in the SUV ranks as the dominant Porsche Cayenne comes with a new shape and a new attitude, which it will need to see off the challenge from the likes of BMW’s X6, Mercedes’ ML, and many more. These two-tonne leviathans have proved favoured weekday workhorses for those with a supercar in the garage for the weekend, especially in their most potent forms, and both the manufacturers and tuners who individualise these monsters will be out in force in Doha.
But the highlight, at least for most visitors, will be the supercars. While an evening in Doha or the right part of Dubai is like a rolling motor show, when the wealthy residents show off their own heavy metal, the Doha Motor Show will be the only chance for some to get up close and personal with the cars they dream about.
And there will always be cars that they simply cannot have seen. Koenigsegg will bring its all-new Agera to the show; while Bugatti will almost certainly use the opportunity to sell the last few remaining Veyron Super Sports.
Ferrari, too, will be well represented at the show with the supremely rare 599 GTO and FXX trackday weapons joining forces with the more standard 458 Italia, California, and 599 GTB. With the recent launch of Ferrari World amusement park next door to the Grand Prix circuit in Abu Dhabi, the Italian icon is sure to want to make a big impression on the crowds in Qatar too.
Porsche will be in attendance collecting orders for the soon-to-be announced 918, and we can expect a major push from the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi too, as they look to use their ‘halo cars’ to sell the bread-and-butter machines.
As American muscle has been so warmly welcomed across the Middle East, expect to see the Boss Mustang, Chevy Camaro, and Dodge Charger in various states of tune. And the Mannai Automotive Group will proudly show off the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V after the car’s successful Middle Eastern launch in Lebanon in November.
The Qatar Motor Show is more than just an exhibition, too, as the Middle East Automotive Convention will bring the power players together at the start of the show. This think tank will bring high-profile members of the automotive industry from around the globe to discuss a new vision of sustainable, intelligent, and secure mobility.
In short, the very future of the car could be decided behind closed doors in Qatar, while out front, potential customers are poring over colour schemes, specifications, and just which supercar to add to the climate-controlled garage.
So whether you’re changing the world or simply changing your four-wheeled-fun, for three days at least every road will lead to Doha and the first Qatar Motor Show.
Stars of the Show
Price: US$1.7 million
Top speed: 390kph
Christian von Koenigsegg is the latest pretender to the supercar throne, and his outrageous Agera is, perhaps, the antithesis of the Veyron. Whereas the Bugatti is so simple to drive that your grandmother could take the wheel, the Agera is a rougher, brasher beast. With its 5-litre, twin-turbo engine churning 898bhp through the rear wheels, the Agera takes far more skill to find the limit. But driven to its absolute maximum it will stay nose-to-nose with the Veyron in a straight line until the speeds get silly, although it is actually faster round a bend. For bragging rights, the Veyron still has the edge; for an absorbing drive the Agera wins out. For those with the money to make such a choice, life is already pretty fine.
Bugatti Veyron Super Sports
Price: US$2.6 million
Top speed: 468kph
It isn’t new, but the Veyron Super Sports is the absolute pinnacle of road car design. With 1,200bhp, a 0–100kph time of just 2.5 seconds, and a top speed of 468kph, it’s the fastest, most powerful, most expensive, and simply the best production car in the world.
The Veyron Super Sports is a rolling superlative. The eight-litre W16 quad turbocharged engine is unlike anything on Earth, and the engineering expertise that went in to making this four-wheel-drive monster as easy to drive to the shops as it drives to 468kph is what marks it apart from the herd.
VW brought Bugatti back from the dead and unleashed the original Veyron in 2005, before giving the car a massive power boost to reclaim the production car speed record last year. The final allocation of 350 cars is almost sold out, and once those who can truly afford it get close to this landmark of engineering, the rest should be spoken for before the final curtain call in Doha.