Saliya Jayaweera
Saliya Jayaweera Image Credit: Supplied

This marshal flew over 3,000 kms from the Maldives all the way to Dubai for his favourite hobby – off-road driving and he chose the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive to do it.

Saliya Jayaweera is an accountant based in the Maldives who previously lived in the UAE for over 17 years and has attended the Fun Drive religiously.

After moving to the Maldives five years ago, this off-roading enthusiast did not let that come between him and his hobby.

The Sri Lankan national has continued to be a marshal at the event for over 20 years now and he is ecstatic to attend the 39th edition. For the five years he spent living away from the UAE, he has tried to attend all the Gulf News Fun Drives held.

“I would not miss such an amazing event with family fun, and I already know that I am definitely coming next year,” the 49-year-old said.

Memories and friends

Fun Drive
From left to right, Mark Leonard, Saliya Jayaweera, Jim Alain, Gary wheeler and Duleep George during the party of Marshals at Montgomerie Club. Image Credit: Supplied

Jayaweera started off-road driving in 1998 and attended the first Fun Drive in 2000.

Over the years, Jayaweera has not only collected many memories to share but has also made friends.

“Overtime I have made many friends through the Fun drive. We used to be 40 marshals at first now we are close to 100,” he said.

What does it take to be a marshal?

Throughout the years Jayaweera has seen participants excel in their driving skills and progress into marshals.

“We spot good drivers and ask them if next time they would like to be marshals but it is not all about driving,” he said.

Sharing his experiences, Jayaweera explained that over time it has gotten easier to navigate and drive through the desert.

“GPS technology, mobile applications such as the one Gulf News has for Fun Drive and powerful vehicles have made it much easier to drive off-road,” he said.

In the early years, it would take some time to rescue people who were stuck deep in the desert, Jayaweera said that is no longer the case.

However, he warned that not anyone can be a marshal and off-road driving can take a serious turn.

“It is a very big responsibility to be a marshal, other people depend on you,” he said.

Excitement awaits

Making the long journey just to attend the event, an excited Jayaweera said that everyone needs to participate and have fun.

“Most importantly, it is a family event catered towards beginners who need a group for support and get immediate help when needed,” he said. He urges all off-road enthusiasts to try the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive.