Getting Lost In Dubai Can Make A Porsche 918 Hell On Earth

Illustration for article titled Getting Lost In Dubai Can Make A Porsche 918 Hell On Earth

"Fuck you Travis Oval-piston-face." The words repeated and scorched the inside of my head and the anger grew and swelled and assumed a magnitude which left me no longer in control of it.



The man walking on the sidewalk next to me did that thing where you walk and stoop and wince simultaneously in an attempt to make yourself at worst physically smaller, and at best invisible. I remember thinking "How can he know I'm so angry if I'm shouting inside my head, he must have special powers?" And of course then I realized I had unknowingly transferred from the sensible to the antic state. I was shouting out loud. I was ranting. I was livid.


And I was sitting a Porsche 918, in the armpit of downtown Dubai staring at the hotel I so desperately needed to enter and use for sleeping purposes. It was literally fifty yards away with nothing but ten lanes of seething traffic between the carbon nose of my borrowed Porsche and it. And yet I'd spent that past hour and a half attempting to reach that 50-story oasis of sprung mattresses, and condensed milk sachets and failed each time. How hard could it be? Who was the sadistic prick who made it impossible to cross the Sheikh Zayed Road? It was groundhog day with 887 hp and lashings of hybridity.

And Travis? I'd tweeted a smug photo of the Porsche earlier and he replied questioning whether the many 918 videos I'd produced left me with more seat time than most owners. Cheeky prick.

Let me tell you this Travis: I love the 918 - I love it with an elemental devotion I reserve for my children, my dog, and my testicles - but right at that moment I wanted to burn the fucking thing. One massive napalm strike to vaporize the road, the man on the sidewalk and everything animal mineral or vegetable within shouting distance. Maybe even me. I hated it for no reason other than my sense of withering desperation and self-loathing. I wanted Travis to see this manifestation of 918 seat-time. He needed to see the other side of the deal.


And where the fuck was Spinelli anyway?

Yep – that Spinelli. Founding Jalopnik editor, languid New York raconteur, fellow video producer for the past few days, and a man still shimmering in the 150 SPF sunblock he'd slopped about his blue epidermis hours earlier. Blue? Spinelli turns white on exposure to bright sunshine. My last sight of him was his ghostly visage peering through the windshield of a 458 Speciale as I gave the 918 full-beans down some side-road and opened a 200 yard gap. That's what a man on the edge of reason in a hypercar can do to a pallid New Yorker in his little soft-cock, non-electric Ferrari. A BAAAAAM! of motorsport V8 meshed against a WHEEEEEEESH! of electricity and, well, you're gone. Solid gone.


The Porsche jumped a time-zone, Spinelli didn't.

I couldn't be fucked to wait for him. I was broken.

I couldn't be fucked to wait for him. I was broken. I founded the Spinelli fan club; I love the man, but events had led me to a dark place. I hated everyone at that moment including him and the incessant beam of his LED front lights in my mirror, so I left him after an hour of uselessly circulating Dubai in search of the mattress and the milk sachets. And the citrus shower gel. Oh, shower gel.


I left him because minutes earlier, I'd explained that I was directing us using a combination of sky-scraper orientation and poor local knowledge – and even then, even after the tragedy of this admission, Spinelli didn't offer to use his sat-nav. He had sat-nav people! That's insane! He could have saved us from madness, but instead he chose to follow me as I peered up at the 828 meter high Burj Khalifa in search of a vague position, and a hope that somewhere it might be possible to switch from the south-bound 11 highway onto the north-bound carriageway without driving to Abu Dhabi and back again. But that was academic now, he was gone and I didn't care for his well-being. Nothing saps empathy like raw, spit-flecking anger. Spinelli and his Speciale could get fucked for all I cared.

I found the 11 North and then my phone rang. I looked at the handset just long enough to remain in the right lane and miss the off-ramp so clearly marked '11 North' and so began another journey perpendicular to the direction I needed to travel in.


Did you know that flicking the bird in Dubai is not a good thing?

Did you know that flicking the bird in Dubai is not a good thing? You can be arrested for offering the middle finger of truth and justice to your fellow road users – no evidence is needed, just the word of a local. Some berk in a Patrol nearly stoves the rear of the Porsche in a, well, I'm tempted to say kamikaze lane-change, but no Japanese pilot in WW2 ever displayed quite the same level of aggression and disdain for personal longevity as an indigenous Dubai driver. My fingers fold inwards in preparation for the swift unfurling of that sole middle digit, and then I remember the chat. Self-vasectomized, I allow myself a decent bellow of the word 'prick', before pulling a U-turn back to the 11.


There are many problems associated with using the second tallest building in the world as a guidance tool, chief among them the impossibility of judging distance. Twice I'd thought I was underneath the thing, only to discover it was about ten blocks away. Like a poorly calibrated F1 wind-tunnel, my radar was broken and I'd just been scared of admitting it to myself. The 918 was a development car whose normally excellent navigation wasn't UAE friendly and my iPhone was dead. Behind me, mirroring my every wrong move was an intelligent man with a fully-functioning satellite navigation system at his disposal. But I'd dropped him now.

Hypercars are intimidating: noise, speed, lack of visibility all burr together in one ball of nervousness...

Hypercars are intimidating: noise, speed, lack of visibility all burr together in one ball of nervousness, but there comes a point of desperation where the sheer awesomeness of them can be weaponized in traffic. I'm usually passive and looking not to crash in something this tasty, but I soon discover that all drivers in the battle of the aggressive lane-change, even psychotic cab drivers of Pakistani origin, are keen to avoid collecting a million dollar machine. I think this as I ping south of the hotel on the 11 for the fifth time, sand scrunching under my eyelids and Spinelli a distant memory. Maybe he just headed to Riyadh?


I try to loop back again and fail. I stop at a gas station and sit in the car shouting at myself and tiredness and the sand embedded in my eyeballs by a 1000hp dune buggy four hour earlier and the world; and not the 918. The 918 is actually exemplary in these conditions. Travis, I'm so glad I called-off the napalm strike.

The epiphany comes on the next pass. I locate the 11 heading north. I recognize the building. I swoop past it and make the tricky little turning and the sense of relief, the sense of knowing the ordeal is about to end nearly has me in tears. How the hell does that work? Why do these moments of intense frustration and tiredness and general desolation trigger such an infantile reaction in me? I don't cry at funerals. I must be socially backwards.


Straight to floor 35: I wonder at the citrus shower-gel, plump the bed, check emails including a roaster from editor Hardigree. I then send a placatory message to Spinelli. My feelings towards him have mellowed as my frenzied state thawed. He makes his way back at almost the same time. I can't ask him if he used the navigation – either answer would trigger a regression to the homicidal me. The next day I'd discover the Ferrari sat-nav couldn't find the hotel anyway.

We arrange to go for some food – good curry in the hotel restaurant. Spinelli passes on the slices of water mellon for desert; I don't. I spend the majority of the night sitting on a porcelain bowl making wrong noises and wondering how I can poison Okulski, Hardigree and Spinelli in one single event.


There are miles in a 918 Travis, and there are miles.

Illustration Credit: Sam Woolley

Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`


Travis Okulski

I'd rather be covered in sand and stuck in Dubai traffic in a 918 than live in my apartment.