1. WORDS
    MOI TORRALLARDONA
    PHOTOGRAPHY
    CORBIS
    PUBLISHED ONLINE
    5 MARCH 2015
    • Off-road racer Moi Torrallardona remembers his record-breaking crossing of the treacherous Arabian Empty Quarter in a supercharged V8 Range Rover Sport.

      The Empty Quarter, or Rub’ al Khali, is the world’s biggest sand desert, a huge forbidding expanse of weather-beaten land that occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula.

      MOI TORRALLARDONA TAKES ON THE EMPTY QUARTER IN A SUPERCHARGED RANGE ROVER SPORT

      Centuries ago, camel trains plied the vast sand mountains and gravelly terrain, bringing frankincense and myrrh to the markets of the Mediterranean, many weeks’ ride away. But nowadays the desert is empty. Even the Bedouin, who once lived nomadically in this barren land, have now all moved to coastal towns in search of work.

      I’d long wanted to cross this vast, empty landscape, one of the most forbidding and treacherous terrains on Earth, where temperatures typically exceed 50ºC. But this just wasn’t enough. My Omani co-driver and myself decided not only to cross the Quarter, but to do so faster than anyone had ever done it before. Great driving performance and agility, after all, are key characters of the Range Rover Sport.

      Desert driving requires a unique combination of speed, finesse, great care and technical skill.

      There are no recognised routes across the Quarter because there are no roads or paths. For our run, we chose a course from Wadi Adda Wasir in Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates border. Our choice of route was determined by many factors. High among them was security, making Yemen off limits. We also wanted to avoid crossing international borders, which would slow us down. As Saudi Arabia occupies most of the land mass, it made sense to start and finish our journey in this vast kingdom.

      A full recce was impossible. The route was chosen by studying satellite images of the terrain, what research we could find, and by trying to make our path as direct as possible. Yet the terrain changes daily, as the winds blow the sand and the shapes of the dunes endlessly alter.

    • The vehicle was standard, including tyres and even tyre pressures. We didn’t even fit an auxiliary fuel tank. We carried cans to refuel and there was a pre-arranged fuel stop halfway across the route. The supercharged V8 model was chosen for one simple reason: it is the fastest version. That power can also be useful clawing your way up these vast dunes of sand, up to 300m high. We set off at dawn on Sunday, 3 November 2013 and the goal was to finish before dark. You do not want to cross the Empty Quarter in the dark. It’s impossible to judge the surface of the sand at night, with hazards like ditches and gullies hidden from view.

      GPS navigation guided us on our chosen path, but regularly – in the middle of this vast emptiness – we would have to choose which dune to climb and which to bypass. You have to read the sand to choose the correct path to avoid the softest surfaces. The Range Rover Sport is incredibly good in sand, helped by its light body and great power.

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      Top Right
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      Range Rover Sport - Peerless performance and agility

      On the whole trip we saw only one truck, travelling from an oil rig. Otherwise, we met no one. We encountered a constantly challenging landscape including vast sand flats, soft dunes, sands with sharp rocks and epic canyons. Desert driving requires a unique combination of speed, finesse, great care and technical skill. It is crucial that you tackle the dunes with precision. Knowing the right time to go full throttle and the right time to slow down takes experience and clear judgement.

      Hidden in the drift sand, we’d occasionally hit unseen ditches hard and unexpectedly. Once or twice I thought the impact would fatally damage our car, yet the Range Rover Sport never faltered. Our trickiest challenge was working through a particularly difficult series of small dunes with sharp edges. It felt like a lifetime, and my co-driver and I had to use sand ladders and a trolley jack to extract the big 20-inch wheels from the sand that consumed them.

      Finally, 10 hours and 22 minutes after leaving Wadi Adda Wasir – having covered 849km at an average speed of 81.87km/h – we arrived at our finish line. Was I tired? Not really, the adrenaline kept me fresh. Hot and fatigued? No, the air conditioning kept us cool. This is a supremely comfortable vehicle.

  2. WORDS
    MOI TORRALLARDONA
    PHOTOGRAPHY
    CORBIS
    PUBLISHED ONLINE
    5 MARCH 2015

Jaguar Land Rover Limited: Registered office: Abbey Road, Whitley, Coventry CV3 4LF. Registered in England No: 1672070

The figures provided are as a result of official manufacturer's tests in accordance with EU legislation. A vehicle's actual fuel consumption may differ from that achieved in such tests and these figures are for comparative purposes only.