Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pre-Xmas Shakedown

OK, I stand corrected. I should have finished reading 'Daughter of the Desert' before making references to Gertrude Bell, who was in fact the second (not first) European woman to visit Hail. In 1913 she was effectively imprisoned there whilst the Rashid clan indulged in their favourite pastime, viz. plotting against and murdering each other. Small wonder that she favoured the Sauds as a more suitable tribe to rule the nascent Kingdom.

The question is, how do they feel about women now? The Saudi Motorsport Federation have to make a simple but unpalatable decision: allow Sheila to compete as my co-driver, or have the event excluded from the FIA calendar. The ball is in their court, and we await developments.

Meanwhile, I took the race car out for what us rallyists call a 'shakedown' - basically an excuse to go out for a blat in the desert. I was accompanied by Nick Edwards, who has left his job as a rally driving instructor at Silverstone to take up work at the Dubai Autodrome, and hopefully to advance his rally driving career. We drove a couple of stages of the 1000 Dunes Rally, then the first two stages of the recent Dubai International Rally, to give him an idea about the terrain of local events, then back home across country near Al Maha Resort. We were fortunate to meet some Emiratis who were training their falcons for another 'big race' - the Abu Dhabi Falcon 400m! Our passing alarmed some gazelle, which bounded off across the dunes - it's always good to see wildlife. As regards the car, there are a couple of minor issues to sort out, but the it's pretty much ready for the Hail Baja.

Having worked out how much it would cost to fly there and send the race car by truck, I decided it made more sense to spend a bit extra and buy a decent trailer from Ifor Williams in the UK. It will be in a container which arrives in Dubai on 10th January - inshallah. Then we'll use Sheila's Supercharged Prado to tow the Patrol on its trailer the 1800km to Hail over two days. As an added adventure, we hope to make a side-trip after the rally to Madain Saleh, 400km west of Hail, to visit the spectacular Nabataean tombs.

For now, nothing much to do but wait and see. Once I have news from Hail, you'll be the first to know!