This year, he 38th Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive begins at Al Fathiya and ends at Moreeb Dune in the Liwa desert, considered by many as the world’s tallest sand dune at a height of over 300 metres with an incline of 50 degrees. Image Credit: Atiq-ur-Rehman/Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Get ready for adrenaline-pumping dune bashing this weekend in the 38th Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive, where marshals say you can expect long and steep drops, and even gazelles and eagles if you’re lucky.

This year’s Fun Drive will take drivers back to the Western Region in the Liwa Desert to experience some spectacular terrain. The drive begins from Al Fathiya and ends at Moreeb Dune, considered by many as the world’s tallest sand dune at a height of over 300 metres with an incline of 50 degrees.

GN Fun Drive Route Director John Spiller said this year they improved on the Liwa route by avoiding trouble spots in places that caused issues in the past, which should make for a smoother ride even for beginners.


89 men and three women

“They can expect to see some beautiful country, some enjoyable driving, some tricky spots that are a bit more demanding,” said Spiller, who is doing his fourth Fun Drive this year.

Beginner drivers will definitely learn a lot of lessons on how to recover cars from the sand, he said. Knowing how to tackle tricky sand dunes is a must.

“Beginners can possibly learn to read the desert. It can be deceiving because what looks like a flat plain of sand ahead of you can have a hidden gully with a sharp drop that can take you by surprise and if you’re not belted in, you’ll get a bloody nose, at least,” he added. Apart from lots of sand, Fun Drivers, if lucky, might see gazelle if they’re in one of the first cars, as well as lizards, eagles, or even probably foxes and rabbits.

The 260km route is divided into eight sections and can be finished in roughly eight hours on average, and in five hours by experts. When it comes to favourite spots, section five is Project Leader Mitch Perera’s top choice.

Participants enjoy dune bashing on thier way to Liwa during the 35th Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive on a foggy morning. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

“Section five has the longest and steepest drops and inclines. It’s a little bit more tactical to drive. Liwa has dunes that vary from 30 metres to 40 metres, all the way up to 400 metres, but we won’t do that in this drive. The tallest dune we’ll tackle this year is 150 metres. Sections three and five are the most adventure-packed ones,” added Perera, who is one of the Fun Drive’s longest serving marshals.

“Those who make it to the last sections, seven to eight, can also experience some interesting bits towards the end.”

Having done all the 38 Fun Drives over the last 33 years, Perera said Fun Drivers have only one thing to bear in mind while driving that day — safety. But of course they should also have fun, he said.

To be able to tackle steep dunes, Perera’s best tip is to “Keep your front wheel absolutely dead straight while descending and apply gentle brake if required. When you get to the bottom, prepare yourself to get to the other side.”

Spiller said the big drops can be daunting but shouldn’t really be a problem but drivers should still exercise caution. He said: “Never forget that the desert, while beautiful, can bite you hard. It’s a dangerous place even though it’s beautiful. So you must respect it.”


estimated drive time

The Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive is supported by Al Futtaim Motors – Toyota who are the main sponsor. Checkpoint sponsors include Al Jazira Poultry Farm LLC, FASTFIT, G-Shock, Orient Tours, Orient Travel, Toyota and Western Digital. Support sponsors include Byrne, Emirates Water, Flow Composite Manufacturing FZC, Fly Audio & Almani by Ahaat, JANSPORT, TORC The Offroad Company, US Polo Association. Catering is by JA Resorts & Hotels and Mafraq Hotel. Food Packs are by Mister Baker.

Fun Drive numbers are sponsored by Amity University Dubai, Communication Sponsor is SanDisk and the official Tyre Sponsor is BF Goodrich. Recovery is by IATC. The Fun Drive is being held with the support of Al Gharbia Sports Club.

Spiller’s Top Tips: The key to a fun, hassle-free drive is preparation.

John Spiller, the route director of the Gulf News Fun Drive. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

1) Prepare the vehicle and yourself. Make sure your vehicle is in top condition, recently serviced and with a full tank.

2) Make sure the tyres are in good condition, the spare is in good condition and has air in it and you have a jack.

3) Deflate your tyres only at the designated area before the start of the actual drive. Large and small 4WD vehicles should have between 14–16 psi. When you reach the tarmac after the drive, keep your speed down to avoid blowouts and re-inflate your tyres.

4) Ensure all of your seatbelts are fastened throughout the drive.

5) When it’s dusty, hold back because there could be unseen stationary vehicles that cause a hazard.

6) Don’t get complacent in the desert just because everything is going well. It can change in a snap if you get cocky.

7) Don’t race because that takes your mind off what you’re doing. Concentrate on the 100 metres ahead of you, that’s the only thing that’s going to hurt you.

8) Keep an eye on other vehicles around you. When you get to tricky points, hold back, and let the vehicle in front clear it. Otherwise if you go over, you’ll hit the back of their car.

9) Everybody should have a flag on the back of their vehicle so people can see each other.

10) If you’re a beginner and you’re tackling a dune, be confident without being complacent and have a little bit of faith in your ability and your car. If you hesitate, the car will get stuck. Keep rolling and don’t use your brake ‘cause if you brake, the tyres will dig in and when you restart you’ll get stuck.

HOW TO AVOID GETTING LOST? Make sure you download the tracking app before the trip.

In Numbers:

259.93km — Total distance

7.30 hours — estimated drive time

92 Marshals, (3 Females and 89 Male)

700-800 Fun Drive vehicles