Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Beast is Unleashed!

Finally on Friday we were able to take The Beast out for a long-overdue shakedown, and Malcolm Anderson kindly agreed to run as ‘chase car’ for us. Although it wasn’t the hottest of days, we needed to test out the new cooling system so we repeatedly ran the car up and down Fossil Rock – high revs and low forward speed usually show up a problem. The results were encouraging – we couldn’t get the water temperature over 100°c, and as soon as we returned from the top, the gauge dropped to 85. So we appear to be well within the 115°c limit at which the ECU goes into ‘safe mode’.

I was also able to explore its performance and handling, which are simply awesome. Ohlins shocks - twin at the front and singles at the rear – do their job admirably. I thought the old car was pretty good, but this is on a whole different level – the steering is light and responsive, it flies level over the jumps and soaks up even hard landings. And as for the performance – well, the only limiting factor is going to be the size of my reproductory equipment! Peak torque arrives at 2500rpm, and it responds to the throttle in any gear, at seemingly any speed.

Back at the garage, we’ve rearranged the cockpit, moving the seat positions and fabricating a new co-driver’s panel in matt-black chequer-plate to house the ERTF GPS bracket and two Monit trip computers. A nine-litre water cooler stands against the bulkhead, replacing the manual firex which is now between the seats, and we’ve plumbed in the air-tank for the diff-locks. Now we anxiously await a new viscous fan coupling, a special unit which is on its way from Australia, and will hopefully arrive by Sunday!

The support crew is now finalized. Rick Carless (who helped out in the Liwa a few weeks back) is arriving on Saturday from the UK. Cesar is driving the service truck and two of Glen’s mechanics at Icon who helped build The Beast are spannering. Dave Pryce is running my parents around on Monday, so they’ll get to see some of the action.

At this point, careful planning and preparation descends into the usual last minute panic, as we try to fathom the logistics of ‘what goes where and when and with whom’. By Monday we’ll know what (if anything) we’ve forgotten. And maybe this year (with some help from Tim!) we’ll be able to update the blog from the bivouac.

Wish us luck!