They don’t wear capes, but they are the desert warriors.
Meet John Mitchell-Ross, 54, from the 8th Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive sweep team. Thanks to him and his crew, no man gets left behind in the desert. They are your quintessential superheroes who swoop to your rescue if you are in any kind of trouble during your desert adventure.
As Mitchell and his team — who were deployed in four cars — geared up to protect the participants, here was his take on …
His sweep team’s role in the Gulf News Fun Drive:
“The sweep team is in place to ensure that no participant in the team gets left behind. In the early years, we didn’t have the ability to track participants who are off-roading, so there were several instances where they lost their way or went off route. There were also instances where their vehicles broke down or they got left behind the main pack. Our job is to find them and get them back to safety. Having said, the Gulf News Fun Drive is always fantastically organised and a huge number of people get to experience the magic of our desert.”
Technology helping them do their job better:
“The technological advances when it comes to tracking has only gotten better. With that progress in mind, the instances of people who get lost have diminished … I have been in the emirates for 23 years and I have been running sweep teams for 20 years … Over the years, the GPS has only gotten better at navigation and storage … Now, there’s also an app that tells us where every participant is. If the control room detects anyone going off route, they can always alert the driver and the sweep team … Plus, there’s mobile coverage throughout the tracks. So there’s no need to panic.”
His top safety tips:
“A desert can be an unforgiving place, but remember there some form of track or tarmac road just 20km away. So there’s absolutely no need to panic. Secondly, while most participants have big smiles on their faces, there are a few who don’t listen to our advice. Listening to us will help you a great deal. Thirdly, check your tyre pressure gauges (recommended tyre press is between 12 and 14 PSI). It’s often too high and that causes issues. Fourthly, if your vehicle gets stuck, park the car and use your hands to dig yourself out. That method still works. Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy the unforgettable experience of off-roading in the desert. It’s a wonderful experience.”
His biggest pet peeve while on his watch:
“Littering the desert by throwing out plastic water bottles into the sand. Respect the desert.”