Today was a good day. I had previously discovered this amazing piece of road embedded into the side of what I believe to be the tallest peak in the U.A.E by accident. The road is not finished yet but what they’ve built so far is utterly fantastic.
So far it remains largely undiscovered, so the only traffic we encountered came in the form of a McLaren 12C Spyder, Toyota 86 and some kind of MINI, I have no idea which model since it seems there’s been more MINI launches recently than sunrises.
I began the drive from Dubai about 8am on the boring road to the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah with nothing for company apart from a black Cayman R in my rear view mirror, my embarrassing choice of music and the usual unpleasant desert climate.
Once we reached the start of ‘the road‘ I immediately disabled the stability control and thanks to the initial section of road being thoroughly worn and extremely slippery I was able exploit the Camaro’s rear drive with LSD setup and catch some drifts, some of which, I’m told, looked pretty impressive backed up by my equally impressive grin. I’ve never known a road like this, it is absolutely bone dry but feels like driving on a wet skid pan.
The next section of road is a faster, more open road with plenty of traction and chasing the Cayman R becomes a challenge. Thankfully as the road tightens as we enter the valley my previous knowledge of this road comes into play and I’m able to keep pace ahead of the more agile Porsche.
In the twisty section of the valley, the brakes soon lose their sharpness and I need to allow more time to slow down for each corner. I’m sure Chevrolet could have fitted better brakes, but it’s a budget sports car so it has been built accordingly. As the road climbs, and it really does climb, the torque of the 6.2 V8 really comes into play and enables good progress in third or fourth gear, only using second gear for some of the tighter slower corners.
I glance down at the temperature read outs; it doesn’t look good. The engine oil temperature has shot up to about 130c, the gearbox temperature is higher than usual but still okay, oddly enough the water temperature is still not even at the half way point. We push on stopping occasional for a little cool down and to take photos, but with the outside air temperature being 42c the cooling process doesn’t happen quickly.
We eventually reach the end of the tarmac. I didn’t note the mileage from top to bottom nor the altitude but it’s a fantastic drive. We stop at the top and give our cars plenty of time to cool down whilst taking in the awesome view and enjoying the breeze, a whole 8c cooler at the top than at the bottom, this place will be fantastic in Winter.
As we stood and chatted a military Nissan Patrol drove past, gave us a wave and continued on the unmade section of road up the mountain, which got us thinking to come back here with a 4×4 and explore the rest of the area. Judging by how the Patrol dipped and dived out of view I’d say the remainder of the route is very rough indeed but I enjoy offroad driving as much as onroad driving so I’ll happily give it a crack.
Once our cars had cooled and we stopped feeling sorry for them, we began a slow descent down the mountain as I didn’t want to cook the brakes any more. As we rounded one corner, a yellow McLaren 12C shot past us at what only can be described as supersonic speeds, shortly after the MINI and Toyota 86 I mentioned earlier went past, albeit at a slower pace.
We immediately turned ourselves around and set off in pursuit. In my haste to catch the Toyota, I almost binned the Camaro! I straight lined through a long and fairly steep S bend and caught a patch of gravel which sent the rears spinning and jumped the car sideways; thankfully through sheer luck more than anything, I managed to regain control and continue up the mountain. Pleasingly we managed to catch and pass the 86 before too long, but the MINI and the 12C were not in sight. This hard drive played havoc with the temperatures, as the engine oil soared to almost 150c. Happily however I was greeted at the top of the mountain by a hot smelling MINI and a brightly coloured McLaren. We chatted to the guys for a bit and took some photos before our relaxed drive back down the mountain and our 140kph cruise back to Dubai.
I left feeling quite impressed with the SS; it really is faster in the real world than you might think and by ‘American car’ standards it really isn’t that bad in terms of handling. While it might not be the fastest budget sports car on the market, it really is a lot of fun. The only downside on this drive was the brakes getting hot quickly and giving no real confidence.
I’d like to come back to this road armed with a some GoPros and record some of the antics. But for now, the next trip for the Camaro will be to a service centre. I think an oil change, ATF flush, brake pads/fluid change would do it good. I recently replaced the tyres: Pirellis on the front and some cheap Chinese ‘Nankang Ditchfinders‘ on the back. I reasoned that if I buy cheap tyres on the rear I won’t care about wearing them down at an accelerated rate through ‘spirited’ driving; a decision that so far, judging by the amount of melted rubber sprayed over my rear wheel arches seems to have been very wise.