The Dubai Off roaders’ (DO) inaugural open GPS challenge was a combined effort of many people and clubs. This was not the first GPS challenge that DO held but it was the first GPS challenge that was open to teams from all clubs in the UAE in recent times. 

The turnout was exceptionally good; there were 20 teams of three cars each giving a total of 60 cars vying to take home the trophy and, more importantly, the bragging rights! The event also had another dozen or so cars, which comprised the sweep & recovery teams, first aid teams, and other event organizer teams. All-in-all there were approximately 75 cars and more than 150 people. It is fair to say that the onset of the summer heat was not enough to scare off this bunch of hardcore desert enthusiasts!

There were some basic rules for the event:
1. Each team should have 1 advanced driver, 1 intermediate driver, and 1 newbie driver.
2. The team who navigates the route in the shortest distance would be declared the winner.

There were additional, technical rules with regards to the navigation and calculation of the final track but I will not bore you with these details as only a GPS junkie or navigational geek would find them interesting!

The actual course proved to be quite challenging as only three of the 20 teams managed to complete it. There were a host of reasons why many of the teams did not finish. None of these reasons imply any lack of preparation or lack of skill. All of the teams, in fact, were very skilled and quite prepared and most have participated in similar navigational events in the past. The event had a hard cut-off time to ensure all teams were back at basecamp during the daylight hours. Although teams may have been driving well, if they did not reach the designated waypoint by the cut-off they were requested to “Bee-line it” back to basecamp.

Most of the teams who did not complete the route in the allotted time either suffered mechanical issues or were delayed due to a late start, helping other teams on the course who needed it (which is great sportsmanship), log jams at a few of the challenge stations, or general driving and navigation issues. Some of the teams were comprised of regular, consistent drivers who drive with each other on a routine basis while other teams assembled together for the first time. Needless to say, there was an array of obstacles and rewards throughout the whole event, which really tested the mettle and character of all the participants!

By 4:30 pm the Marshals and sweep teams began waving the teams back to base camp if they had not yet reached the designated waypoint. There was a general sense of personal disappointment for some having not completed the course but in reality, everyone was quite excited and filled with a sense of accomplishment for having come out and tested all of their driving and navigational skills on the dunes. This was evident by the smiles and friendly discussions taking place back at base camp.

Once everyone was safely off the course, it was up to the event management team to analyze the gpx files of the three teams that had completed the course. The distances were very close as all three teams had completed the course within 1-2kms of each other. However, the tracks had to be analyzed to ensure they were compliant with the navigation rules. Additionally, the track distances had to be adjusted for any gains or losses incurred from the various challenges that were part of the event. In the end:
• 1st place was awarded to Team Desert Raiders led by Mr. Shibu from Titan Performance garage
• 2nd place was awarded to Team Abu Dhabi 4×4 led by Mr. Mohammed Qaruoty
• 3rd place was awarded to Team Dubai Off roaders led by Mr. Emanuele Gallone

In the final analysis all three were within a hundred of meters of each other on an adjusted basis so hats off to all of them!

Not only did the winners receive prizes for their rankings but all participants received some gifts or takeaway goodies. This would not have been possible without the great support from the event sponsors. A big round of thanks and appreciation for the support and dedication of everyone involved in the organization of this fantastic and very successful event! Plans are already in the works for the next Dubai Off roaders Open GPS Challenge so stay tuned. ■

Words + Photos by: Matt Ficco