We got invited for a full day of supercar fun on Jebel Jais, the highest peak in the UAE. You can probably guess what our reply was…
A big part of the Nocturnal Bandit is adapting to certain situations. Sometimes, things don’t work out photography-wise, or a car doesn’t start at the last minute or schedules don’t work out. On the flip side though, sometimes, opportunities sometimes arise from places that one would not have dreamt of. Why am I beating about the bush and not getting to the point? Good question.
I found myself thinking about this, on the road to Ras Al Khaimah (a northern emirate of the UAE) at 7 a.m. on a misty Monday morning. I had gotten in touch with the gents behind The Land Rover Diaries (TLRD) – a Landie lifestyle blog – and they had very kindly invited me for a behind the scenes look at the production of a video for the launch of their supercar lifestyle brand, PureDrive Automotive. They had also mentioned that they had closed off a mountain road for the day and it would be a lot of fun.
I reached our meeting point, the Hilton and met them for breakfast. A bit of light toast and conversation later, we were on our way to Jebel Jais, the tallest peak in the United Arab Emirates. The fact that this mountain has a road cut into it which is also known as the ‘Nurburgring of the UAE’ was the icing on the cake.
We stopped for fuel a short while later and I looked at our crew. Among others, Matt and Theo from TLRD, vlogger James Walker, racing driver Ollie Webb, photographer Riad and a couple of people from RAK Tourism. A W Motors Lykan Hypersport, a McLaren 650S Spyder, a Ferrari 488 Spider, a Range Rover Sport SVR and a Mitsubishi Pajero were the primary vehicles.
Picture the scene: a tight mountain road with sharp curves and hairpins, snaking its way into the clouds, with sheer drops to the side, being driven in high-powered supercars all day long. Oh, and the road was closed by the police, just for us.
A lot of fun they said? Just a small understatement right there.
The sun was high in the sky by the time we reached the foot of the Jais. After ensuring that the road was well and truly locked down, it didn’t take long for us to reach the peak, courtesy of some spirited driving by all. Greeted by beautiful scenery and lower temperatures, we planned out the whole day. The Lykan would stay at the peak, while the 650S and the 488 would be driven up and down the roads leading to the peak. The SVR would undertake primary filming duties, with a videographer hanging out the back. The Pajero would try and keep up with the high-speed convoy, armed with supplies and assorted gear. Time to get the show on the road, literally.
Back and forth the cars went. The valley reverberated to the sounds of high-powered V8 engines belting out the note of sheer power. The sounds of the Ferrari and McLaren contributed to the treble, while the bass department was ably held up by the roar emitted by the SVR. Add to this the high-pitched whine from the camera drone flying overhead, and we had a full-blown mobile philharmonic orchestra.
Every few minutes we’d stop to find out what the next step was, which depended on whether the videographers had got their desired shots. This process continued as we made our way up the mountain, occasionally interrupted by the odd mountain goat or construction truck.
On one occasion, the Lykan at the peak needed a screwdriver. Theo was tasked with getting it to the top and I volunteered to ride shotgun with him in the SVR.
I had not been expecting what came next. While I have heard very good things about the Range Rover SVR, I’ve never been in one, until now.
With a deep roar the SVR bolted up the mountain. An SUV is not supposed to have this much power and yet somehow the SVR keeps it manageable. Hurtling between corners, the car isn’t light but the power and the suspension make up for that, along with very good brakes. Theo, a skilled hand behind the wheel, made short work of the distance and within a few minutes we made our crucial delivery. Then it was time to go back down. Process: repeat!
Talking to Theo on the way down, I asked him how they had come up with the idea for TLRD and PureDrive. He explained that they had always been into cars and once they’d come to the UAE, the abundant availability of desert terrain and supercar culture had sparked the two brands. Then he told me about Matt.
Matthew Croucher GC, is one of the most highly decorated British servicemen in existence. Awarded the George Cross in 2008 for bravery on the battlefield, he survived extreme injuries, recovered and went back to serve in an active warzone. Did Matt tell me all this? No, I found it on Wikipedia. Matt didn’t say a word about any of it the whole day, a shining example of modesty, something you don’t see every day.
It was about 3 in the afternoon when we stopped to grab a quick bite to eat. There were a number of shots still required and the videographers were anxious to press on.
The next shot involved the Ferrari drifting around a curve, with the McLaren close behind. Scaling a part of the Jais in order to get a better view, I suddenly came to a point where I had 360 degree views. I watched as the cars set off and Ollie, at the wheel of the Ferrari, deftly swung the car sideways. The sun glinted off the red supercar, as its rear tyres screamed, leaving a plume of white smoke to be dispersed by the McLaren. That particular shot had four takes, and each one was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
The hours flew by and soon it was sunset. All the shots had been completed and we stood in silence at the peak, admiring the beautiful mountain vistas, as the sky changed from blue to gold to orange. As darkness fell, the mountain was illuminated by red and blue strobes, mounted on the RAK police cars that had kept the road clear all day. We said our goodbyes and I set off on my way back to Dubai, giving me time to reflect on the day.
A cracking mountain road. Supercars and a super SUV. High speed driving action. Mr. JWW and Ollie Webb, both celebrities in their own right. An opportunity to see how a video production takes place behind the scenes.
I could have never dreamt that I’d be part of something like this, which brings me back to my earlier point. Sometimes, opportunities arise from nowhere, creating highly enjoyable experiences that I’ll forever be grateful for.
Matt and Theo were right. It had been an absolute ball.
Cheers to Matt and Theo for inviting me for a thoroughly enjoyable day of supercar madness, mountain style. You can watch the video below.