Fun filled. Gulf News Fun Drive will have more than 850 cars this year Image Credit: GN Archives

DUBAI By the time Dubai shrugs off the early Friday slumber on January 9, thousands in more than 850 four-wheel drives will be revving up the engine on the sands of Sharjah at the 34th Gulf News Fun Drive Overnighter.

First timer Thomas Lynch, 49, says he can’t wait to get behind the wheel of his eight-year-old four-wheel drive for the roughly eight-hour drive through the all-new 219km route – starting, like last year, at the UAE Motorplex and ending at the camp in Al Aqran area in Umm Al Quwain. “I am really very excited. Desert driving is very challenging and it always keeps you interested,” said the Irishman who moved to Dubai 18 months ago. “I have driven through ice, snow, grass and mud back in my country and across the deserts of Iraq for several years but I know this one is going to be a completely new experience,” says Lynch.

Sand terrains

According to Saliya Jayaweera, 48, the Deputy Route Director of the Gulf News Fundrive, this may be one of the longest routes in the event’s 29 year history but certainly one that will appeal to all. “The first two of the overall nine sections will have dune and sand tracks while the idea of section three is to get people out of the South Dhaid road, into the interesting sand terrain where there are some great dunes and nice tracks along the way,” the Sri Lankan, who has been involved with the fun drive for 15 years, told XPRESS.

His advice for all drivers is short and simple though. “The route is challenging, so people shouldn’t waste time - especially if they want to get to sections 8 and 9 early. They are indeed the most beautiful sections of the entire route,” adds Jayaweera. The route through some of most beautiful desert terrain of Sharjah also includes a 27 km tarmac section in order to avoid the environmentally protected areas.

The 34th Gulf News Fun Drive, supported by Al Futtaim Motors – Toyota, will flag off at the UAE Motorplex Umm Al Quwain at 7:30am and end at the specially constructed camp in the Al Aqran area.

Participants return home the following day after an overnight stay at the camp. Like every year, there will also be entertainment in the evening with camel rides, circus shows, a magic show for children, DJ and live band.

The first Fun Drive was held in March 1986 as a Day Drive with 75 four-wheel-drives and became an overnighter in 1989.

Checkpoints are sponsored by Amity University Dubai, Dubai Duty Free, Orient Travel, Pringles, Rexona, RSA, Total, Toyo Tires.

Fun Drive Numbers are sponsored by 3M Protected while Total are the lubricants sponsors. Support sponsors include Alco, Al Ain Water, Byrne, Cha Cha Chai, Emirates Flight Catering, Jebel Ali Golf Resort, IATC, and WOW – Emirates Wet Wipes. The Fun Drive is being held with the support of Emirates Motorplex UAQ and the UAQ Municipality.