Not all heroes wear capes. Some command tow trucks and recovery vehicles, riding to the rescue when the need of the hour demands. During the Gulf News Fun Drive Overnighter — The Tilal Swaihan Experience, that honour fell on the shoulders of Hamad Ali Al Mazroui.
The four-time UAE National and International Rally Champion, who is the founder and managing director of the International Automobile and Touring Club (IATC) UAE, returned once again to the Gulf News weekend event to command the recovery of vehicles that faced difficulties on the drive or simply steered off course into the desert sands of Sweihan.
This particular weekend, Al Mazroui came to the aid of 130 cars whose drivers were found in various states of distress, with his last rescue during the March 5-6 weekend taking place well after the stroke of midnight.
“Engines breaking down, broken gear boxes, cars submerged in dunes or tipped at impossible angles were just the kind of issues you face on a normal day in the desert and the Gulf News Fun Drive was no exception,” the UAE national told Gulf News.
“But perhaps the most frustrating recovery of the weekend was a gentleman who steered off course and was unable to direct us towards his car, while feeding us wrong GPS coordinates and wrongly identifying the location he was in,” Al Mazroui revealed.
Yet, not one to ever give up on a rescue, he trawled through the dunes under the light of the moon before the vehicle was located, over 50km off from the location that was described by the driver.
Al Mazroui, who’s been a veteran on the Fun Drive for close to three decades, said his reason for returning year after year always comes down to the organising.
“You rarely, if ever, come across such as well-oiled machine like the Gulf News Fun Drive. It is so professionally handled and well organised — with every stage of the route so meticulously planned — that you simply can’t find fault,” he said.
This driving force, whose extensive knowledge and experience of the desert has been instrumental to the organising over the years, also gives credit to his ‘army’, a group of 25 people who work tirelessly with him during the annual weekend event to ensure no man, woman or vehicle is ever left behind.
Quiz him about the most common issues his recovery team has encountered in the desert and he simply laughed. “What doesn’t happen? Overheated engines, people running out of fuel, tyres coming off the rim — every disaster can occur and has a solution,” he said. “But all this also adds to the ‘fun’ in the Fun Drive and also serves as a lesson to newcomers who learn from their frustrations and the experience.”
And don’t be surprised if you see Al Mazroui hopping in behind the wheel during any such rescue and imparting tips to ensure you get things right the next time. “I always tell people. It’s okay to get stuck, to make mistakes. That’s how you learn. But the desert, now the desert is a great teacher and I recommend everyone who has a thirst for adventure to give the Gulf News Fun Drive a chance. And if things go south, we’ve got your back,” he said.