Dubai: Oommen Jacob began taking part in the Gulf News Fun Drive as a participant in 1997 and a marshal in 2001. Since then he has not missed any Fun Drive.
“It’s unique. It’s a family affair,” he says. “Now that passion has become my business.”
Jacob was a banker until 2015 when his regular drives into the desert convinced him that he should venture out on his own. What took shape was an off-road company.
“We modify vehicles. Most customers are relatively new in the field, so we take them out, teach them to drive in the desert and tell them what needs to be done on their vehicles.”
During the early days, Jacob would join the Fun Drive with his family. Then when he became a marshal, his son took on that role. This year, his son is a marshal, too.
For Jacob, every year in the desert brings new experiences. But there is one he remembers distinctly.
“About 10 years ago we tried to set a Guinness World Record at the Fun Drive. It involved the largest number of vehicles in a convoy. Unfortunately, a sandstorm played spoilsport. But it was worth the effort.”
Fun drives are also a time when friends are made.
Jacob cites the case of Hans Peter, a stunt pilot, who he befriended during a Fun Drive. For the past five years, Peter comes from Amsterdam every year and takes on the role of a navigator for Jacob.
A word of advice to the drivers from Jacob: Be patient. “There are times on the route when the marshals need to let down punters one by one, especially on difficult dunes. But there are always people who want to go their own way. That is difficult to control.”