NAT 220305 GN FUNDRIVE ARAMZAN-10-1646819291407
Participants at Gulf News OverNighter Fun Drive 2022 at Tilal Swaihan. 5th March 2022. Image Credit: Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

A major element of the Gulf News Fun Drive is the route itself which sets the tone for adventure for all participants signed on for the weeked.

The Tilal Swaihan Experience returned after a gap of two years owing to the pandemic, with this year’s Fun Drive powered by Nissan and held over the weekend on March 5 and 6.

Route Director John Spiller was the man behind the scenes who planned out the route with the help of his team of marshals.

This year Spiller and his team decided to go ahead with a balanced plan, one that packed enough adrenaline for seasoned drivers, while a second toned down route was perfect for the enthusiastic newbies.

“All in all, the idea was for everyone to have fun so we came up with two different routes,” Spiller told Gulf News.

“Everybody was itching to get back on the sand.”

Balanced route

TAB JOHN spiller11-1646819297355
Route director John Spiller Image Credit: Supplied

Planning a route that will welcome 700-odd cars take a bit of finesse, but it’s a kind Spiller has long dealt with.

“Those participating in Fun Drive for the first time had the option to choose an easier route. The more experienced drivers opted for a harder terrain, so they could have their fair share of adventure,” he explained.

He added the optional route was meant to ensure everybody enjoyed the Tilal Swaihan Experience without discrimination. “The route is similar to [what we mapped] last time, but we introduced a more entertaining option. We wanted people to enjoy their weekend adventure rather than stressing about getting stuck in the sand,” he explained.

The route this time was a loop, meaning that the starting and finishing points were in the same location.

On the day, Spiller said there were 78 marshals on duty to assist participants.

“There will always be challenges, but we have always dealt with them in the best possible manner — thanks to our 36-year experience in organising the Gulf News Fun Drive,” he added.

People keen on adventure

NAT 220305 GN FUNDRIVE ARAMZAN-29-1646819294364
Participants at Gulf News OverNighter Fun Drive 2022 at Tilal Swaihan. 5th March 2022. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Spiller said the pandemic had put a pause on people’s plans to get out and have fun. But when the Gulf News Fun Drive was announced, it made people get out of their homes and get involved in some outdoor adventure.

Spiller, an experienced event director, route coordinator and Clerk of the Course with a proven history of working in the international motorsport-related events, said considering the slightly different concept drawn up, the event did pose some additional challenges but they were swiftly overcome with his team of experts.

That team also included Mitch Perera, a senior marshal manning a team of marshals on the Fun Drive weekend, who said an initial survey of the place is always conducted prior to planning the route.

“Our initial survey ensures the route is clear of any obstacles enroute the drive. The whole idea of the Fun Drive is to stay off-road as much as possible before coming back onto the black top,” he added.

Perera said two weeks before the event, Spiller and a few senior marshals went out into the desert to plan the route. “The marshal’s drive happened a week before the event.”

Only after all these checks and balances are the participants handed the route map.

This year, Spiller said the route had an interesting flavour to it. “We included some games and fun for participants when they met us at check points.”

From gift packs to music to games to archery, the check points had something interesting to offer along the route. But what the participants took back with them were a lifetime of memories.