Dubai: A father inspired his son to turn a marshal at the Fun Drive. Here's their story:
Story of Mitchell Perera, the son
"My first fun drive was in 1985. As a kid growing up in this glorious country that offers a wide variety of off-road terrain, it was my ultimate goal to wait and get my license and go straight into off-road driving. As my parents were already involved in this thrilling pastime I soon caught the bug at an early age. As I was into motorsports I enrolled as a marshal in the local rallies and the famous Masafi 4wd rally. This earned me a lot of knowledge on the offroad aspects and gained much recognition which got me my first seat on the Fun Drive. I drove with the Legendary Gerhard Reek as his Navigator. Back then the Fun Drive was still at an infancy stage.
Soon after I got my driver's license in 1987 there was no looking back. My parents were already part of the Fun Drive so automatically I too became marshal. By this time I was already a certified desert driver and was working for one of the 3 leading Tour desert Safari companies. As this was 365 days in the dunes job it earned me a lot of confidence and gained much valuable driving experience. In those times vehicles were not as sophisticated and powerful as today so it was challenging to say the least.
I have over the years had many fond memories and that's is probably what keeps me drawing back to this great 4wd family event. Then there is the comradery amongst the marshals helping participants out.
Although there are almost no new first time drivers as we like to believe you still get people setting off to the dunes for the first time. We marshals notice this immediately as participants will not have the required tire pressures, a shovel and a Tow rope and the bare essentials in their vehicle. Then most will attempt to do the FUNDRIVE in vehicles that are simply not suitable like in crossover vehicles. Today on our roads we have many AWD ( All Wheel Drive ) vehicles. These can be used to tackle basic flat soft sand areas, however, for dunes and rocky terrain, these will not work.
All I can request from the participants is for them to listen to the instructions from the Marshals, read the literature given and make note of the important emergency numbers in case they have to reach us. There are 80 of us out there to HELP!"
Story of Chris Perera, the father
"From the time of our arrival in UAE in the mid-seventies, we were in and out of the desert as we were involved in a lot of offroad driving back in our country. The adventure was just in our genes.
As time went by Mrs.Patel and Mr. Jehan Bhas Ali Khan seeing our knowledge of the desert and ability of our desert driving invited us to become Marshals.
My last Fun Drive was in 2016. From the year 2000, although I was back in my country I came back for the event till 2016. The reason I quit is because of my wife's poor health, she was my faithful navigator until our last run. I still do a lot of offroading back home and whenever I come to Dubai I am out in the desert having fun with my friends.
My advice to the beginners is to tell them that the Fun Drive is not a racing event. This is purely a family event.
Nobody has to get to the finishing point first. The route is designed to take you to places that you cannot see everyday., therefore enjoy the desert scenery and drive over the dunes carefully . No need to race with each other. Always keep a safe distance from the car in front of you .
If you loose traction, stop immediately get out of the car and see whether a small push can get you moving again if you cannot ask the first Marshal that you see to help.
They are there to always help you. Please let them handle the situation and do not give instructions by all the passengers in your car as that will lead to a lot of problems and even accidents.
I have seen a lot of accidents happening that way. I myself have lost a finger completely while trying to pull a car out when one of the passengers who were stuck in a car shouted the wrong signal for the rescue car.
So please let the Marshals do their jobs as they are all selected according to their experience and ability.
Finally, I have a message for our marshals. "You all are doing a very good job Please keep it up." These days a lot of young people think that having Marshal's sticker on your windshield is some kind of a big prestige or something. Please remember you are doing a voluntary service to help the ones in need, so if you do not like to fulfill these duties that are expected as marshall do not enroll. I am proud to say that I have been part of an elite team of men and women who came forward to help out each year after year.
Finally, I want to say a big thank you to one of the founders and the person who was behind this great event, Mrs. Patel.
Without her, there wouldn't have been any FunDrive. Thank Madam for all your tiring efforts to bring the event in one of the UAE's most awaited events of the year. There were so many obstacles I know in the past but you were always there with us to see this through. I would like to say thank you on behalf of me and my wife."