The second regularity of the day was easily on of the best of the trip so far, a rollercoaster of a route that took us into a wasteland that seemingly offered nothing, but that suddenly dropped into and then over a rocky escarpment, on a mixture of soft sand and gravel that was tricky to maintain a pace on. Added to that the many opportunities to wrong slot and head in the right direction, the handful of locals that were present in and around the rocks would no doubt have wondered quite what was going on. It finished with a downhill slalom between scrub and stunted trees, and at one point there was even the obstacle of some camels thrown into the mix to add to the difficulty levels.
The camels seemed to gravitate to our German Mercedes driving contingent in particular, the four cars of the Pohl fraternity, the various Williams, all needing to dodge the four-legged animals as the Bedouin shepherd looked on in disbelief. He needn’t have worried, these Mercedes-mounted adventurers are here for exactly that, the thrill of the journey rather than chasing time, and certainly won’t have been too upset at losing seconds to the wildlife.
If the day’s regularities had caused cartographical consternation, the navigational fraternity was going to have their composure seriously tested by the day’s desert time control section. The section ran in a sort of U-shape, in an area of desert that had more pathways to follow than your average central nervous system, and I daresay a few synapses snapped as drivers were lured into hitting the loud pedal by the sandy playground laid out before them. It’s fair to say that cars were going everywhere. Fred and Anne Fuchs, in the 911 Carrera Coupe, went sailing towards the horizon when they should have turned left, and once back on track promptly sailed over the next horizon when they should have turned right, whilst a myriad of cars made similar mistakes in parallel to or at odds with, in a sort of Red Arrows inspired display of near misses.
Once out of the sand though, pulses on both sides of the car would soon be reduced to normal levels with a long drive into Jeddah along the motorway, with sandstorms on the right and large oil refineries in the desert to the right of the road. The reward for yet another lengthy concentration run was a finish to the day at the Corniche circuit in Jeddah, home of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, and the promise of a couple of laps – albeit behind a pace car.