Abu Dhabi: It was an unforgettable experience, that was the consensus on Saturday morning among the participants who had taken part in the Gulf News Fun Drive the day before, as they looked forward to doing it all again next year.
And what a journey it was: A 260km drive comprising over 700 vehicles that started from Al Fathiya on the Hameem Road, with the route split into eight different checkpoints taking thrill seekers deep into the desert until they reached their final destination at the foot of Moreeb dune in Liwa where they made camp for the night.
Officially a two-day event, the second day of the fun drive is more of a laid back affair at the main campsite with participants waking up to a big breakfast and then making their way back home.
Hamad Ali Al Mazroui, an Emirati veteran of the Gulf News Fun Drive and the managing director of the International Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE (IATC), the event’s official vehicle recovery partner, reflected positively on yet another successful fun drive.
“I really love it, I’ll never get tired of the desert, and so I’m always happy to take part in the annual event because it’s a wonderful experience and it’s also organised in such a professional way,” said Al Mazroui, who is a four-time UAE National Rally Champion and International Rally Champion.
Even with such driving accolades and a deep knowledge of the desert, Al Mazroui says the fun drive still offers its challenges.
“It is a challenge and you always learn more, nobody can say they are the best or the top driver in the desert, you will always be tested and find someone who is more experienced than you.”
As the official recovery partner for the event, Al Mazroue said he was pleased with another safe drive.
“There were no major issues this year and for that we are happy. As the official recovery partner we are always looking to improve and also keep our high standard of safety.
“Just like how a driver learns and gains experience with each new desert drive, we as a company are also learning with each year when it comes to improving our recovery missions,” he added.
Indian couple Sumit and Puja Srivastava found the drive extremely thrilling.
“The last section was my favourite, it had the highest sand dunes and the biggest drops, so that was a lot of fun and excitement,” said Sumit during the morning breakfast.
“We got stuck once in the sand during the first phase, but after that we had no issues for the rest of the drive and completed each checkpoint. It was a very long drive but I enjoyed it a lot and could have kept on driving,” he added.
Along with enjoying the sand dunes and bumps, Puja said the scenery of the Western Region and Liwa desert was a standout.
“This was my first time seeing this part of the desert in the UAE and it offered a lot of great views especially with the beautiful sand dunes,” said Puja.
“The community aspect was also really nice, along with the marshals who were always on hand to help, there were a lot of participants getting out of their cars to assist other vehicles that were stuck in the sand and so that was nice to see,” she added.
For Badr Al Deen Nehlawi from Syria, it was his first time taking part in the Gulf News Fun Drive, making it all the more amazing that he was the first one to reach the campsite.
“I was actually the first participant to arrive at the campsite, I completed all the checkpoints and arrived sometime after 2pm. It was a good drive for me and I didn’t get stuck in the sand or run into any trouble. I am an off-roader so I already have a lot of experience in desert driving so that helped me.
“As an off-roader I thought it was really well organised, I was very impressed with the route and even though I am used to driving in the desert I found the last section to be challenging, so definitely if someone was a beginner and wanted to get the real off-roading experience then this was it,” he added.
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.