Crazy uncle huh?
Abu Dhabi Insider mag http://7daysinabudhabi.localpeople.c...ian/4561388070
7 minutes with Sam Zian
Yas speed merchant talks family inspiration, fast food and faster cars...
Sam Zian must have one of the greatest jobs on the planet. Working as an instructor at Yas Marina Racing School, he gets to drive at breakneck speed on a daily basis. The 31-year-old is also a full-time race driver, taking part in a range of race categories in the region. We caught up with him for a noisy, high-octane ‘hot lap’ at the Yas Formula One track, as part of a special event hosted by Gillette.
What a job Sam! Did you always have ambitions to work in motorsport?
“I learned all about speed and adrenaline strapped into a car with the family. My uncle used to race cars in Germany when he was much younger, in the 1960s and 1970s, and my mother was the first female rally co-driver in her country. I started racing myself aged 14 when we were living in Los Angeles, at a place called the Malibu Grand Prix track. I was racing karts or single seaters for fun but they realised I had a really fast lap time and made me a club driver.”
So what are your day-to-day duties?
“I’m a contracted instructor at the Yas Marina Racing School, so I work on a whole range of fast cars. But I’m also a full-time racecar driver as well, the only one in the UAE. I race carts, touring cars, do testing for single seaters, prototypes, anything I can get my hands on. Ask any racecar driver, there is nothing more valuable than track time so I’m a lucky man.
What speeds are you talking about on race day, and how do you prepare?
“You’re talking speeds of up to 270kph on the straights, so you have to concentrate and have good reaction times. We need to stay fit so we can stay relaxed and energised at the same time. If you’re tired you’ll struggle. I keep fit and watch what I eat - apart from an odd tradition where we have ‘race’ food, more commonly known as junk food! But also I meditate a lot. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realised I need to do a bit more to prepare and be on top form.
Have you had any close shaves?
“Unfortunately, yes, in competition. Back in 2008, in the UAE touring car championship, we had a freak suspension failure and hit the wall - the car was destroyed. It was a bad scrape, not something I like to relive, but I had to straighten out, focus and get back on track. Believe it or not, the only broken bone I’ve had is my nose - and that was nothing to do with racing!
Who are your heroes?
“Well there’s the obvious ones. Anyone who hasn’t seen ‘Senna’ is not a racer. He and Michael Schumacher are F1 legends. But my heroes are not mainstream. I grew up in America where Nascar and Indy are the big things and I was more into drag racing so my heroes are the guys doing the racing out of the spotlight. The craziest driver I ever knew was my uncle, so I owe him a lot for the love of g-force!
What’s your take on the roads here?*
“If you have a family or friend who drives too fast and aggressively, do them, and everyone, a favour and take them to the track for a driving experience, karting or even hot laps. They need to get that out of their system - fast! When they finish here, they won’t feel the need to do anything other than cruise on their way home.”
What’s your take on motorsport in the UAE?
“Well when I got here eight years ago there was only one track, for karting - at Jebel Ali. Now we’ve got the best F1 track on the planet in Abu Dhabi, and with tracks in Bahrain, Saudi and Qatar, we need to make sure people are engaged in motorsport all year round.”