Gulf News Fun Drive: Learning to navigate the desert with fresh tyre tracks

Saadudin Ahmad
Saadudin Ahmad has not missed the Fun Drive since 2009.
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: If you are at the Gulf News Fun Drive, then you will not miss seeing seasoned marshal Saadudin Ahmad.

You are bound to meet him somewhere at the breakfast or along the route.

The veteran marshal has not missed the Fun Drive since 2009 when he joined as a marshal.

In love with the desert

Ahmad came to the UAE in 1992, and bought his first four-wheel drive the same year. Rest is history as they say.

“I used to drive in the desert just to catch the view from the Madam desert in Sharjah and the sunset in Al Faqa desert on the Dubai-Al Ain border.”

Ahmad recalled only using compass back in the days as the GPS, smart phones were not invented. “We had pagers and we received signal for that only when we were closer to the main roads. In fact the beep of a pager was a signal that we were close to the city limits.”

Ahmad, who is a Formula 1 marshal at Yas Marina Circuit, said the Gulf News Fun Drive is close to his heart.

“In 2009, I met Jahanbaz Ali Khan who was the route director and fell in love with the Gulf News Fun Drive. I joined as a marshal the same year.”

Developing an interest

Ahmad recalled: “Under Khan, we learnt to follow a convoy based on the tyre marks. This is how we learnt to target fresh tyre tracks and follow in that direction. Preparation for the Gulf News Fun Drive would begin three months prior to the main event. The marshal runs would happen every Friday and we would put up the markers, arrows/signs.”

He said Khan would allocate duties to the marshals. “From our experience we knew there was a spot in a Sharjah desert called Pink Rock. The sand was soft everybody would get stuck. It was called a graveyard of ants where many cars would collect and get stuck in that particular area. In 2010 on the GN Fun Drive I was given responsibility of ensuring this would not happen and indeed it did not.”

Ahmad attributed his love for the Fun Drive to a great team of people working behind the scenes of such a massive desert event. “The professional management of such a huge event makes me come back for more.”