Sunday, October 11, 2009

Are you not entertained?

There is a lot more to the institution that is the Gulf News Fun Drive than simply showing up on the day and having a jolly time in the desert. Just some of the various odds and ends that need organising come to mind:- Welcome packs, Goody bags, Permissions from the police and local authorities, Sponsors, Start venue, Finish venue, Catering, Breakdown recovery, Marshalling, and of course a Route.

Route selection starts several months prior to the event, and to this end, the Goat and his Goatmobile joined a small band of intrepid marshals last Friday to drive part of a prospective GNFD route. Clearly it has to be entertaining to drive, yet not too difficult for Fun Drivers who might not have a lot of – or indeed any – previous offroad experience. Picking a route by squinting at Google Earth tends not to reveal new fences, locked gates and in extreme cases, mile upon mile of new motorway. It would be a bit pointless if an off-road drive involved long sections on asphalt. Having dropped the tyre pressures to 15psi or even lower for sand use, protracted asphalt bashing beats hell out of the rubber.

Anyway, the seven of us in five cars representing Japan, Britain and the United States spent eight hours last Friday sweeping across great sandy swathes of the UAE. The Goat is of course sworn to absolute secrecy as to the route, notwithstanding that it is surely going to change repeatedly up to a final drive-through to erect the temporary signs. We found some interesting rocky bits and a lot of seif dunes that might become decidedly unseif after the ridges have been driven along by several hundred Fun Drivers. And we also discovered a magnificently dusty bowl that got a Nissan Patrol cross-axled and mired to above the axles. It took two winches to extricate the vehicle. Of course, photos had to be taken before anyone could render assistance: that’s in the rules.

There is a limit to how much entertainment is permitted in one day. It would probably be better, on reflection, if that particular area of quicksand is avoided. Fear not: there are many others yet to be discovered.



hemlock said...

how much offroading experience can you NOT have and take part in the GNFD? (as in, how much trouble have you marshals had with complete novices?)

Grumpy Goat said...

I've seen drivers with absolutely zero previous experience do the GNFD without problems, Hemlock. Most people read the blurb before turning up, drop their tyre pressures, drive sensibly and have a marvellous time. Actually, once several cars have gone through, it should be possible to follow wheel tracks.

The marshals are there to help with stucks and minor breakdowns (punctures, etc). Coming prepared with your own jack and wheelbrace does help!

The problems come with the cocky know-it-alls who will not listen to instructions, and end up breaking their cars!

Kamal said...

I have 3.0 Pajero LWB, will it work in this type of activity?

Grumpy Goat said...

Kamal: Assuming it's in good mechanical order, the 3.0 Pajero is an excellent desert vehicle.

Grumpy Goat said...

Traction Control

On a gentle desert bimble on Fri 16 Oct I learned something that perhaps ought to be shared. The Ford Explorer pickup truck (among many others) has traction control that can make it impossible to drive in soft sand. Essentially, the TC detects when one wheel starts spinning and applies a brake. All the power disappears, the truck won't move, and you start to imagine horrors such as a dead auto gearbox.

The solution is simple: turn off Traction Control.

The symbol on the dash (probably a car with skidmarks) lights up when TC is OFF. Turn it back on (light goes out) once back on asphalt.

The owner of said Explorer reported that once TC had been turned off, the truck was so-o-o much easier to drive over the dunes.

Ian the Dog said...

Aha! I recognise that Patrol. Clearly dustbowl trumps 35" rubber, Mr R!
GNFD: for God's sake, don't bring anything with 23" rims and bicycle tyres. Deflating causes the tyre to immediately break out in warts and blisters, without any commensurate traction benefit. You will not only get royally stuck, but you will also have to shell out for some new Dh1500+ tyres.


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