Hummer driving in Dubai is a sport of its own. We chat to one enthusiast
Time Out Bahrain staff
Summer and Hummer make the perfect match, and not just because they rhyme. Hop into one of these off-roading giants, turn up the air con, and you can still enjoy some driving thrills despite the heat outside. At Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) you can jump behind the wheel of both H2 (325 bhp) and H3 (220 bhp) models, and thanks to a number of special offers this summer there is more incentive to do so.
If you’ve ever been to the venue for the F1, you’ll have probably noticed the rising sand dunes of the off-roading course in the distance. It’s here that instructors like Narmeen Salim put those keen to learn through their paces behind the wheel. ‘There is nothing to be afraid of,’ assures Salim. ‘The first thing I do is boost the person’s self confidence, to make them feel comfortable. All they have to do is follow my instruction.’
An introduction and safety briefing take place before the actual driving, and a lot of the basics for off-roading are covered – from making sure the vehicle is ready to take on the course to sitting in the driver’s seat correctly (‘Adopt a relaxed, upright driving position with loose grip on the steering wheel,’ says Salim). The idea is to instil confidence in the driver.
It’s a briefing you will be appreciative of when you hit the course – with an estimated 32 separate driving challenges. By this we mean inclines and declines of 85 per cent, deep water obstacles, soft sand, uneven surfaces, rocks and the Hummer Steps (a ‘staircase’ carved into the sand, with steps each 16 inches high).
Following Salim’s instructions, by overcoming each challenge the driver will develop a better awareness of ground clearance, or approach and departure angles (therefore negotiating obstacles more efficiently, with minimal damage to the vehicle), and also speed up their reaction times, knowing how to deal with a situation as soon as it arises. Salim also believes the skills learned on the course are transferable to everyday driving. ‘People can become better drivers on the road because they are more careful and attentive,’ she says.
But most of all, the experience is just good fun. And the instructors don’t take it too seriously if you don’t get things right straight away. ‘Once, one of my trainees was driving in the soft sand uphill area, and this needs a lot of special techniques because the car slips and the driver must have more control on the steering wheel,’ Salim reveals. ‘When the car started to slide, he left the steering and was stepping on the selaiter, which made the car slip more. Next he held the seat belt with both hands, and was shivering and shouting “What happened?” I was trying to calm him, and at the same time control the vehicle. I couldn’t stop giggling, it was hilarious.’
The odd hiccup aside, the course and the BIC’s Hummer Academy associated with it turn out many a confident off-road driver, and there is plenty of further education available for those with a serious taste for adventure. ‘Our Hummer Academy is the second in the world,’ Salim reveals. ‘Beyond the course itself, we teach techniques for driving in a natural environment – we drive in the Sakheer area a lot – and also desert survival, learning how to use a navigator, a winch and basic first aid.’
Perhaps you could become as experienced as Salim herself, who has always had an interest in off-roading (and is also an instructior for quad bikes and Apache vehicles), and trained at the Hummer Academy in Indiana. She is the first female Arab instructor in the region, and was recently promoted to senior level. The Hummers themselves are not modified at all, and exactly as you would pick up in a showroom (such as the National Motor Company dealership, who supply the 16 cars and ongoing back-up and repair service for BIC).
So how can you get involved? One way is through the Ultimate Hummer Experience – a special promotion for the summer. For BD99, those who book will be picked up by a chauffeur-driven Hummer anywhere in Bahrain, and brought to the course where they can drive a H2 and H3. After being presented with a certificate, the guest is then taken to the Royal Golf Club to play nine holes on the Wee Monty Course (all equipment supplied).
‘And in keeping with the theme of the day, the guest can use a Mini Hummer to drive around the course in,’ adds Salim. But there are other options too. Without the golf and Hummer pick-up, you can try a 4x4 Extreme session, taking place on July 10 and August 4, and costing BD65 (advance booking advised). Or there are passenger rides instead, which take place every Thursday. Whichever option you go for, we guarantee that this summer you’ll be Hummer lovin’.
To book an Ultimate Hummer Experience, call 17 450 000, cost is BD99. The 4x4 Extreme sessions take place on July 10 and August 4, cost BD65. Passenger rides available every Thursday from 9am-4.30pm, cost BD12. Hummer Academy courses cost BD695-1,500. For more info, see www.bahraingp.com.