Badawi Trail to the Last Oasis finally reaches Dubai

First Ever Badawi Trail to the Last Oasis Breaks New Ground in Middle East
The Badawi Trail to the Last Oasis reached its final destination, the Emirate of Dubai, after 7500km and 17 days since the start in Aqaba, Jordan. In that time four countries have been crossed, 23 regularities contested, 10 desert time controls conquered and 1 test driven by 14 different nationalities, as well as a couple of rotations of the Jeddah Corniche Grand Prix circuit. There have been temperatures of 45 degrees, sand, rocks and even thunderstorms to deal with and despite that, of the 45 cars that began this journey, 43 made it to the finish alongside the QE2 liner in Dubai.

Victory went to the Argentine pairing of Jorge Perez Companc and Jose Maria Volta, taking the win by over 6 minutes in the end. The feat was all the more impressive with the crew nursing a gearbox problem with the Chevrolet Master Coupe for the latter stages of the rally and finishing without second and fourth gear. Jorge had this to say, “It was a really difficult rally, Jose did a brilliant job on the navigation. The car was great, but we had a lot of problems with temperature and the gearbox, but we are here, and we cannot believe we have won.”

Tommy Dreelan (IE) and George Barrack (GB) gave chase but eventually finished in second in their 1938 Chevrolet Fangio Coupe with Tommy’s brother Mike Dreelan (IE), alongside navigator Bob Pybus (GB) taking third place in their magnificent Lagonda LG45 Touring, a job made all the more difficult as they had also suffered almost catastrophic gearbox problems in the Lagonda.

In the Classic Category, the winner had been all but written in stone for a good part of the event, with the win going to Belgians Ann Gillis and Filip Engelen, their second major endurance rally win in the past 12 months, after achieving first place during last November’s Lima to Cape Horn rally. They have been untouchable on most days, winning by nearly 8 minutes and topping the leaderboard overall. Navigator Ann had this to say, “It was a fantastic rally, I really really loved it and I’m happy to be here”.

Behind them were sailors Peter and Lousie Morton (GB) in second place in the 1972 Rover P6, a car which looked more used to sedate UK roads of that period, but yet it proved to be a mirage, performing as well as the crew did in the desert.

Australians Bill and Kathy Gill finished third in their Mercedes Benz 350SLC putting in a superb performance across the Arabian Peninsula.

Together with the Badawi Trail event making its debut was HERO-ERA 1, the new Prodrive-built 1967 Fastback Mustang which proved to be a great desert warrior. It finished a remarkable 10th overall, 2nd in its class and fifth overall in the Classic Class. Swiss crew Xavier and Lucas de Sarrau were happy to beat some Porsche 911s in the process. Xavier said; “Next time we will do even better!”

The ‘Spirit of the Rally Award’ was deservedly given to Bill Cleyndert after piloting the second oldest car in the rally, a 1925 Bentley, to 12th place overall and second in class after a gritty solo effort, navigating as well as somehow driving across the desert in competition. His navigator Emily Anderson had to be repatriated to the UK early in the event after injuring her arm, fortunately she is now OK. The ‘Against the Odds’ Award was gratefully received by the mature duo of Nigel Keen (GB) and Bruce Norris (GB) who took up the sport later in life with the determination of preventing their entirely unlikely ‘ship of the desert,’1968 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow convertible from being sold by their siblings. Instead, they converted it into a rally car as part of the plan for the ‘Roller’ to eventually enjoy a Viking funeral instead of going under the hammer.

The Badawi Trail to the Last Oasis is the last major shakedown for many entered onto next year’s Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, none were perhaps keener to iron out final glitches than HERO-ERA Chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca, competing on this event in his 1914 American LaFrance alongside Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club. By finishing they become the first crew of a Pioneer Class LaFrance to cross Arabia. They experienced plenty of difficulties over the past fortnight but made it to Dubai in the end.

Tomas had this to say, “What a journey, what a great event. We are the first to have travelled the length and breadth of the Arabian Peninsula in a Pioneer Class LaFrance and it was an amazing experience – despite the car being temperamental at times!

“The team has done a super job putting this together, with the complexity of laying on this event format in the Arabian Peninsula for the first time. We have met the kindest people along the way, from Jordan, through Saudi Arabia and in the UAE and Oman. What really made the rally though was a fantastic group of participants, all of whom have been problem solvers rather than problem makers, proving that driving the impossible lives for another day.”

The Badawi Trail  has been a tremendous and ground-breaking rally, the first of its kind to pass through many of the countries in this part of the world, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a place that until recent years has been largely off limits to Western tourism, let alone this sort of event. Through wonderful cooperation with local organisations and the associations of the countries themselves, it happened, even overcoming the lawful boundaries over driving right-hand drive vehicles in the places that the rally went through. Much work was put in by Senior Route Planner John Spiller.

The competition has also been enjoyed by all involved. Like all events of this kind some were there to win and some just to achieve personal goals, getting to the end for many was achievement enough. A man who always relishes the competitive aspect of these rallies is HERO-ERA Competition Director and Clerk of the Course Guy Woodcock, and he had this to say about his experience of the event, “It was bloody marvellous! A few hiccups but that’s what you get when you are being pioneers. We played it safe in a few areas to get the job done, but I think there is lots more to come from this region on the next edition.”