Racing Laps with a #DriveYas Pro Manager

Laura H

1 year ago

Have you ever accepted the challenge of driving a Formula 1® car? Perhaps you’re even among the lucky few who jumped at the rare opportunity to ride in the passenger seat at some point in their lives. If you could describe the unforgettable feeling of flooring the gas pedal on an automotive marvel, how would you go about doing justice to an experience so surreal, thrilling and scarcely believable— with mere words?
Sitting down for a tête-à-tête with Philip Ellis, the Driving Experience Manager at Yas Marina Circuit, located on Yas Island, we set our pulses racing with a closer look at the #DriveYas experience he manages, and unlocked a few secrets about the adrenaline-fueled world of motorsports.

‘Drive Yas’, he explains, “…is a product that we offer at the Racing School that enables anyone with a full driving licence to buy a driving experience on the track. We have the Formula Yas 3000 single seater racing car (looks like an F1 car), Mercedes AMG GT, Aston Martin GT4 race car, Jaguar F Type S, Ferrari 458 GT race car and Chevrolet Camaro for our drag strip. Customers can drive any of these cars on track with an instructor alongside to guide them and keep them safe. We also offer high speed passenger ‘hot laps’ for those who don’t want to drive.”

Indeed, considered one of the most technologically-advanced Formula 1® circuits in the world and a fully-equipped home for motorsports in the Middle East— every year, the circuit plays host to the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Philip, who acts as main stage presenter during this annual event, is also responsible for testing and assessing all vehicles in the fleet, in addition to designing, scheduling and delivering all driving experiences throughout the year.

Recounting his typical day on the job, he says, “A normal Drive Yas day for me starts at 7.30 am. My Chief Instructor and I brief the team of instructors who are working that day. We allocate roles, explain how many customers are booked in to drive and tell them anything else that is required for them to successfully complete their tasks.”

Working within the realm of extreme sports, Phil’s role also comes with a hefty responsibility to ensure the safety of all staff and visitors. He reveals, “We ensure the highest standards of safety both technically and operationally. Each car has a strict maintenance schedule and is serviced completely after each day. The track has the highest safety standards in the world and has an F.I.A. (the world authority for motorsport) safety licence issued from Paris. Each activity is carefully planned and tested before launch and there are strict rules applied. Each customer receives a detailed safety briefing before driving and has to wear high quality safety equipment. All of our instructors come from a motorsport background and have to go through rigorous training before they are issued with an instructor licence. We monitor their progress and training is ongoing.”

A self-dubbed, “Mr. Fix-it”, Phil discloses the most important qualities to embody for long-term success in his area of work: “Passion, dedication and a readiness to work hard in sometimes very hot conditions. Keeping a cool head in stressful situations also helps!”

Despite the inevitable challenges that crop up, such as keeping his team motivated and happy during the sizzling summer heat , Philip divulges, “I love my job working for Yas Marina Circuit and being part of an amazing team of people.” Helping every client unleash their inner motorsport champion and “seeing them leave super excited,” he explains, is one of the most personally rewarding aspects of his career, as well as “being able to work with racing cars at one of the best F1 tracks in the world.” Another surprising perk, he states, is getting to meet many celebrities and famous people, some of whom have become good friends!

During his time off from work, Phil can be spotted Jet skiing or relaxing at Yas Beach. He concludes, “I love the views, the weather and witnessing Yas Island’s constant development. Being a small part of making Yas Island a great place to visit is very rewarding.”


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