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Range Rover Tackles The Empty Quarter: Should We Be Impressed?

…Boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

P.B. Shelley, “Ozymandias”

The Empty Quarter, also known as Rub al’Khali, stretches across a large extent of the Arabian Peninsula. It’s the desert of legend, all sand dunes and shifting sands and the Khamsin sandstorms.  It’s a land of scorpions, nomads and mirages.  There might even be a lost city or two hidden deep beneath the sands.  Here, the stars look down on an empty landscape, like they have done for millennia, the only constant in a harsh and unforgiving world…

It’s also the part of the world which has the richest oil reserves, and has kept the petrol dollars pouring into Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Yemen and Oman.

camels-magi-star-christmas-storyIt’s in this environment that the Land Rover/Jaguar group wants to set a new record.  Using a standard production Range Rover Sport, they’re going to try crossing this desert in record time. It’s going to be 1000 km of hot dry driving in terrain that’s usually tackled by specialist sand machines. Behind the wheel will be a Spanish veteran of the Dakar Rally by the name of Moi Torrallardona who’s used to tackling this sort of terrain.

The record attempt is nicely timed so that, if all goes planned, the new Range Rover Sport that did the crossing will turn up as the Dubai Motor Show starts, all ready for interviews, photos and general oohing and aahing.

To motorists in the UK, where Jaguar/Land Rover is based, this desert crossing sounds very romantic, adventurous and exciting, along the lines of the first few paragraphs of this article (which were quite fun to write). Will they do it or won’t they? Can they cross a desert that’s the size of France?  To them, it’s an epic struggle of man and machine versus towering sand dunes, trackless wastes and scorching heat.

However, I’m not so sure if we ought to be quite as impressed over in our part of the world. We’ve got a larger sand dune desert in the form of the Simpson and the largest sand dune to boot, and they’re just as trackless as the Empty Quarter. And we’ve got them all in one country rather than four.  We’ve even got the camels.  And a few of our park rangers probably have more experience in driving through sandy desert conditions than Señor Torrallardona. OK, top marks to Jag/Landrover for an attempt to cross the Empty Quarter in record time in a production vehicle rather than some customised thingummy.  It’s a good road test to see if the new Range Rover will be suitable for these conditions.  Those interested in getting a vehicle for Outback operations may be interested in the media releases from Jag/Land Rover on November 4th.

Or you could just take a look at the results from what could be called the “Down Under Dakar”: the Australasian Safari. This is an annual 4×4 (and dirt bike) race that’s usually double the distance that Range Rover’s attempt, and has been running for the last 28 years. A quick peek at this year’s results reveals not a single Range Rover or Land Rover in the finalists, but plenty of Toyota Hilux, Nissan Patrol, Isuzu D-Max and Mitsubishi Pajero examples, with a few other vehicles thrown in for good measure.

OK, Range Rover, there’s your new challenge!