Dubai: There is a lot that goes into the preparation of a massive event like the Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive. The annual desert event attracts several participants, both new and old, in the adventure of off-roading. At the end of it all, they leave feeling fulfilled after a well-spent weekend conquering the mighty sand dunes of the UAE.
Much of the success of the Gulf News Fun Drive goes to the marshals who go ahead to ensure participants enjoy the ride while keeping safety in mind.
This year, the 42nd Gulf News Fun Drive will be held in Tilal Swaihan in the coming weekend (Saturday, February 10 and Sunday, February 11). The Drive will be a loop which means the starting and end point will be in the same location.
Gulf News rode with a Japanese expat, a lady marshal on duty - Zeus Azuza Shiraki - on Saturday during the Marshal’s drive in preparation for the event.
Shiraki drives a two-door Jeep Wrangler JK Rubicon (2013) that runs on 3.6-litre engine capacity and her manual gear off-roader (that gives her more control over steering and power) is well equipped with a marshal kit to recover participants on the Fun Drive.
Shiraki has two front and one rear recovery points to attach her kinetic rope to help pull out a distressed vehicle out of the sand. Not just that, she has bead lock rims fitted on her tyres to give an added protection to them when they are deflated.
- Watch: Marshals prep for 42nd Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive
- Gulf News Fun Drive: GWM TANK all set for Tilal Swaihan
- UAE companies come together for 42nd edition of Gulf News Fun Drive
- Watch: Thrill-seekers conquer the UAE desert at the ‘41st Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive – the Tilal Swaihan Experience’
Behind the scenes
Shiraki said just like how her car is equipped with all the necessary gear to help recover vehicles on the day of the Fun Drive, a lot of work goes behind in the preparations leading up to the day of the event.
“Exactly a week before we do the Marshal’s drive for which we are all gathered today (Saturday). The whole idea of this is to prepare the marshals about the route planned for the Drive. I had the privilege of riding along with Route Director – John Spiller - while he was designing the route. So I know the route in and out. But to give other marshals a preview of the route, we arrange the drive for them.”
Combing the desert
She added: “When we are on ground driving up the dunes, we get a picture of the possible trouble spots where off-roaders could get stuck. We obviously make note of these spots and prepare to have more marshals around.”
Shikari said the marshals always come back again in a day or two to place the markings and sign boards for participants to read them along the route. “The route this year has a different path for the more seasoned off-roaders to play around in steeper dunes in order to enjoy a thrilling experience. So we come back after the Marshal’s drive day to place the markings and sign boards on the route.
“The idea is to make sure beginners to off-roading don’t take the more challenging route and get stuck on the sand. At the same time we don’t want the more experienced drivers to miss out on the fun on the challenging routes which would excite them a whole deal. But the important thing is for participants to read the markings and boards so they get a full and seamless experience.”
Tips from the lady marshal
Shikari laid down tips for off-roaders on the day of the event. “Sometimes drivers and passengers are not aware that they can be prone to motion sickness on a bumpy ride. So as a precaution I would advise everyone to carry a non-drowsy anti motion sickness medicine en-route. Second all passengers along with the driver onboard must wear the seat belt. All loose items in the car should be secured to avoid them flying around during the ride. Drivers must not forget to deflate all four tyres. If someone gets stuck on the sand or requires help they must stay on their spot and call for a marshals help. Downloading the Gulf News Fun Drive app is a must.”
GWM an exclusive partner of Al Naboodah Group since 2003 is the automotive sponsor of the 42nd Gulf News Fun Drive.
Checkpoint sponsors for the event include the exclusive Automotive Sponsor, GWM Tank - Al Naboodah, and Castrol Magnatec, which serves as the exclusive lubricant sponsor. Additionally, Dobinsons Springs & Suspension Trading LLC, Al Jazira Poultry Farms LLC, TORC – The Off Road Company, and Yokohama Geolandar, the official tire for the event, and Quanta who are also the Ice-cream sponsor, are among the checkpoint sponsors.
Other support sponsors comprise Karcher, Xbox, Byrne, Steigens, Almarai, Armaf, Ciel Events, Plastica, Baqer Mohebi and Tornado Watches.
Capital Hospitality is responsible for catering the Fun Drive, while the Iranian Hospital is the medical partner. Recovery operations are being handled by IATC – the International Automobile and Touring Club of UAE. Al Ain Water is the official water sponsor, and Twinings is our Official Tea Sponsor.