Words: Evangeline Elsa, Community Solutions Editor and Falah Gulzar, Trainee with Gulf News Social Media Team


The 38th Gulf News Overnighter Fun Drive supported by Al Futtaim Motors – Toyota, was held in Liwa on January 11 and 12. Over 2,000 off-roading enthusiasts gathered at Al Fathiya on January 11, from where more than 800 cars would start an adventurous trip, crossing steep and sharp sand dunes in a drive that was roughly 260 kilometres.

The event kicked off at 9am after participants enjoyed a hearty breakfast. Shaikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan along with Gulf News’ Commercial Director Rajeev Khanna, flagged off the drive.

Apart from the marshals leading the first set of participating cars, there were two on an average following every batch of 100 cars. While most cars made it to the first of the eight check points without much hassle, a few got stuck and needed to be pulled out of the sand in the Liwa’s steep red dunes. Every now and then a car had to be winched out or towed out of soft sand. The marshals were in action throughout the event, ready to help anyone in need. According to route director John Spiller: “There were 100 vehicles with two marshals each.” The first help job of the day began when an off-roader had an issue just a few metres from the flag off point. Marshals spotted that the tyres on a vehicle were a bit too deflated. “A tyre that’s too deflated can be very dangerous. The tyre can come off the wheel rim,” says Philip Eapen, who has been a Gulf News Fun Drive marshal for nearly 20 years. “The tyre pressure has to be just right, ideally it should be in the range of 12psi if you are planning to drive in very soft sand. If the sand is not too soft, the tyre pressure can be in the range of 14-16psi.”

However, being stuck in sand did not dampen the participants’ spirits – in fact, some said it added to their sense of adventure. First time off-roader Adarsh needed help getting his vehicle out of sand. When the marshals came to his rescue, it was noticed that the pressure in the tyres had gone up. After deflating the tyres, the whole family got off the car and pushed together as the driver maneuvered the vehicle out of the sand as per the marshals’ instructions.

“Even though we were nervous when we got stuck, it became fun when the marshals asked us to get out and push the car. It was like team work, to push the vehicle out of the sand. We have never done this and it added to the excitement,” said Adarsh’s wife Seema.

Ahmad Parveez who has been a marshal at the Fun Drive for over 20 years says, “The name of the game is traction and momentum. One needs to let simple principles of physics help them rather than play against them. Soft sand is an off-roader’s worst enemy. When a vehicle gets stuck in soft sand and eventually gets out, one must not proceed to drive further into it. Rather, they need to reverse until they find harder ground or densely compacted sand and drive back from there in order to pick up some speed to combat the softer areas.”

After crossing eight check points, the off-roaders reached the Moreeb camp, with the UAE’s largest dune as a backdrop. Here, the participants were treated to entertainment shows, games and a sumptuous dinner.

The participants loved their Fun Drive experience and most of them are planning to return for the event next year.