Rayan Bawab feels the need. The need for speed. Interestingly, just like the man who first burned those words into the annals of cinema history – that'd be Tom Cruise as Maverick, in ’80s insta-classic Top Gun – he’s also a little on the short side. Then again, he is only eight years old.
“It’s the feeling of going fast that I like,” says Rayan. “The feeling of going round the corners, trying to keep tight to them.” Corners, as it turns out, are quite the hot topic today. With Rayan having been to Motor City’s Indoor Kartdrome a number of times now (“He’s been here for a lot of racing birthday parties,” says proud mum Samar, “he tends to win”), we have brought him back to hone his natural skills.
We start in the drivers’ briefing room, with former racing pro and Dubai Kartdrome head honcho David Bright talking him through the rules. “No zig-zagging across the track,” says Bright, sternly. “And absolutely no bumping other kids.” Rayan’s dad, Bilal, raises an eyebrow at the back of the room. “He does tend to do that quite a lot,” he chuckles, not quite quietly enough under his breath.
Those key rules burned into his brain, Rayan is talked through the key flags he needs to know and then Bright sits down with him and a paper copy of the track to talk tactics. “I know you’ve been before,” says Bright. “But now we’re going to make you go faster. The trick to driving a car fast is the bit between the steering wheel and the seat.” Rayan looks at him, quizzically. “Yes,” says Bright. “I mean you.”
The pair talk corners. Specifically, apexes. “Always brake before a corner,” says Bright. “If you’re braking and turning it’s rubbish – you’re slowing down. You need to brake in a straight line, then gas and steer. This is how you keep the speed – you’ll learn this in Physics later.”
“So I don’t need to always stay close to the inside of the corners?” asks Rayan. “Not all of them, no,” says Bright. “It’s all about hitting the apex of the corner, and that changes depending on the corner in question.” Rayan studies the map of the track carefully. “Got it,” he says.
We move from the briefing room to the garage, to get inside the engine of the machine Rayan will be taking out on the track. “The kart you’ll be driving is one of the junior ones, and has a maximum speed of 45km,” says Bright. “And I’ll tell you how the kart gets the power.”
Bright talks Rayan through the carburetor, and how the fuel turns into power. Rayan is transfixed. Then Bright talks Rayan through the brakes. Rayan stifles a yawn. “It’s important to know how the car slows down as well as speeds up,” laughs Bright.
“I know,” says Rayan. “I just can’t wait to get out there.”
We head to the changing rooms to get fully kitted out, and Rayan is given a bonus balaclava as a souvenir of the day. That and helmet on, he beds down in the car. But Bright’s not happy with his arm positioning.
“Both your arms are too bent,” he says. “If you bend them you lose the force in your arms. You need to keep the force down the arm and into the steering wheel. That’s where the power comes from. And, don’t forget, you push the wheel, never pull it. If you’re going into a right-hand turn you don’t pull the wheel down with your right hand, you push it up with your left. That’s how proper racing drivers drive.”
Rayan puts the pedal to the metal and pulls out of the pits. We head upstairs to the viewing platform to get a proper look at his style on the track below. He is, frankly, nailing it – burning up the straights, braking just before the turn, and then accelarating through the corners in style.
“He’s going too close on that one, though,” says Bright. “He’s missing the apex.” He heads down the stairs and out onto the track. (Frankly, he’s taking his life into his own hands a little.)
Bright stops Rayan and reminds him of the lines. And that’s it, Rayan flying round the remaining laps like a pro. He pulls up at the end, sweaty but happy. “I loved that,” he says. “When can I do it again?” Bright smiles, relishing the opportunity for a plug. “On October 8 we actually have an ESKC Welcome Day, where kids aged seven to 18 years old get a free drive. So, you know, tell your mates, get them along...”
www.dubaiautodrome.com (04 436 1400).