Iannis Mardell, Co-Founder & Managing Director Zarooq Motors, talked with Dr. Tausif Malik, Founder-Editor of GCC Region’s First Startup & Entrepreneurship Newspaper ‘GCCStartup.News’. Here are the excerpts of the Interview.
We specialise in exclusive high-performance luxury vehicles with Dakar-grade off-road performance capabilities as well as a design worthy of the best Italian, English or German Supercars while being perfectly road legal and luxuriously comfortable for a daily use.
Dr. Tausif Malik. Its very rare to find a automotive startup. What is the story of Zarooq Motors?
Iannis Mardell. As many happy motorsport stories, Zarooq Motors started in the pits of a race, during the Formula One GP in Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, the three initial founders gathered and that’s when the idea sparked.
Bruno Laffite, coming from Europe, had the vision to support the development of motorsport in the UAE and to organise a single make racing series, as many similar ones exist in the US, Europe or Asia. Mohammed Al Qadi and Iannis Mardell, having deep experience of the local motorsport scene, saw an opening and suggested to bring the racing series from the tarmac to the true soul of motor passion in the UAE, the sand, and to build the first ever supercar which can go off-road, and born in the sands of Arabia
November 2014-Mohammed Al Qadi, Iannis Mardell and Bruno Laffite meet in the UAE and discuss first elements of the concept
March 2015-The basic specifications of the car are laid out
April 2015-Campos Racing becomes the key engineering partner
June 2015-Initial sketches for the body
August 2015-First chassis is welded together in UAE
September 2015-Final choice for the brand name: Zarooq Motors it is
October 2015-Overall architecture (engine position ,chassis, size, firmed up body design) are finalised
November 2015-First Press conference announcing the inception of the project in Sofitel the palm Dubai
March 2016-First Body manufactured in UAE by local workshop
April 2016-Full-size Mock up presented in a confidential event in Sofitel the palm Dubai
May 2016-Testing and review of the chassis and architecture
June 2016-Laetitia Laffite becomes fourth founder
Production of second version of the chassis (to allow for various optimizations including switch from transversal to longitudinal transmission)
July 2016-Selection of Weddle and Intrax as suppliers of choice
September 2016-First contacts initiated with German tuner partner
November 2016-Naked car assembled with a twin turbo V8
December 2016-Testing of the naked prototype on and off-road
January 2017-Switch to a naturally aspirated V8 (to ensure better resistance to heat)
February 2017-Tests of the new engine
March 2017-Detail Re-engineering of the body achieved, in cooperation with German tuner partner
April 2017-Final 3D and actual Mockups
Interior design with Verstappen design
May 2017-Finalization of the detailed technical documentation
Production of the final moulds of body
June 2017-Interior fitting by German tuner.Final Testing
So far we have invested 2 million dollars, there are currently more than 15 people working on the car.
Dr. Tausif Malik Please tell us about the founders, co-founders and team?
Iannis Mardell. Bruno Laffite is a Frenchman with 25 years of racing experience in Karting; formula 3, formula Renault; formula Ford as well as a test driver in US Indy car. He also owned racetracks and coached drivers in various categories like DTM. He comes from a famous family in Motorsport, his uncle Jacques, having several victories in Formula One, and his cousin, Margot, is the main Formula One TV Anchor on French television. Bruno, based in Monaco, oversees the technical development and our manufacturing partners in Europe.
Mohammed Al Qadi is a UAE National who graduated from Ajman University, has been a pillar of motorsport in his country for more than 15 years. He started his career in Motor Sports back in 1994 as a volunteer marshal at one of the local rallies, and since was involved in cars and motorsport, for instance as a volunteer for all the events held back then by the Emirates Motor Sports Association (now known as Emirates Motor Sports Federation), and moved up the ladder from being a marshal, to Rally Stage commander all the way to become the UAE Rally Championship Manager. His career led him to hold key responsibilities in Dubai autodrome and then was Chief Operations Officer of the Formula One circuit of Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. Mohammed is based in Dubai and is Zarooq’s UAE sponsor and in charge of leading motorsports.
Iannis Mardell, a British, Irish and French Citizen, graduated from ESSEC MBA, has 20 years of experience in strategy consulting in international Top-Tier firms. He has worked for global leaders in the sports industry as well as automotive players. In the Middle East, he has worked on the issue of local industrialization and in the motorsport field. He worked with the founders of the Winfield Racing school (Mike Knight and Simon de Lautour), which is the most prolific school for Formula One drivers. Iannis is based in Dubai and oversees finance, strategy and marketing, globally as well as UAE operations.
Laetitia Laffite, a Belgian citizen, has 15 years of experience in exclusive art market (Monaco Art fund, Lalique Art Partner, Florida Baker Museum Adviser, Monumental Art Promotion). Laetitia is based in Monaco and she oversees Design partnerships.
The company also benefits from a series of advisors mostly coming from the premium car brands or from motorsport (e.g. Stephane Ortelli, Mike Knight, Simon de Lautour)
Campos Racing supported the conception of the chassis. It was founded in 1998 when Adrian Campos having competed successfully for over eighteen years. The objective of this new project was to bring young talent to the highest level in world motor racing. Campos competes in various categories (GP2, GP3, WTCC, Formula E, …)
Campos has won the first Formula E driver Championship in 2015 with Nelson Piquet Junior.
Chief engineer, Philippe Gautheron, has 25 years of successful motorsport engineering supporting champions (e.g. Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Vitaly Petrov) to win. He personally supervised the development of the chassis in support of Zarooq team
Christian Verstappen Design
The company is recognized in the field of renovation and transformation of luxury vehicles and closely follows the evolution of new technologies. The many accomplishments executed for their clients reflect the trust and satisfaction that they have shown. Following the evolution and demands of its customers, it then turned to the interior & exterior design of other vehicles: development of private boats and aircraft. Part of the team, Eric Delattre brings significant capabilities in terms of 3D engineering.
The Dubai composite workshop develops its activities in racing cars, in the field of motors sports industry. Mastering the different implementation technologies of technical composite epoxy matrix, Carbon-Plus is able to offer unparalleled quality solutions, and serving key clients such in aerospace or LeMans Series teams (Bentley)
Dr. Tausif Malik. Where can a car enthusiast can buy your car and what is the price?
Iannis Mardell. We usually choose our clients, yet people are more than welcome to join the waiting list.
The price of the full carbon edition with a 525 hp V8 is USD 450.000 as only 35 will be made
Dr. Tausif Malik. Do you custom make the cars, if the customer requests you to?
Iannis Mardell. We benefit from a significant experience of our team and partners and can provide absolute bespoke interiors and event special body modifications, on demand
Iannis Mardell. Until 2018 we will produce 35 SandRacers.We will then ramp up production, but will \remain under 100 per annum
Dr. Tausif Malik. What are the challenges you are facing and how are you overcoming the challenges?
Iannis Mardell. We have faced technical challenges but thanks to our great team and partners, we have overcome all of them.
The next stage will be commercial and distribution issues, organizing after sale and growing internationally, as well as building a worldwide brand synonymous with exclusive performance and luxury.
On the technical side, our next challenges will be to develop a thorough industrialization framework and to invest into road homologation across the world (this is the main reason why we will need to raise some capital ($10m) in the future.
Dr. Tausif Malik. Mohammed Al Qadi Founder, Zarooq Motors quoted in DigitalTrends.com that “Zarooq is also investing in the construction of a race course, called the Dubai off-road racing circuit, that will allow Sand Racer owners from all over the world to push their cars to the limit”, can you further explain how this project is shaping up and when it wiII be open?.
Iannis Mardell. We are currently focusing on the car, yet we have initiated some talks indeed, it should be opened by end of 2018
Dr. Tausif Malik. What are the future plans?.Bit of a secret no ?
Iannis Mardell. We have lots of exciting projects (new models, new kinds of vehicles, new powertrains, branding expansion), we are innovative, creative and optimistic, yet very pragmatic
Dr. Tausif Malik. Finally, a message to Entrepreneurs who want to setup businesses in the U.A.E?
Iannis Mardell. Talk about your project, don’t keep it to yourself. Always plan for twice the team you thought it would take.
Be sure to have enough cash to take the project until the end.