Monday, March 29, 2010

Dune Roamin'

Having spoken to Ian a few minutes ago, I’m happy to say that he’s in MUCH better spirits than he was yesterday. The modifications to the bonnet (there’s that word again) combined with the goat deflecting chicken wire (no animals were hurt in the making of today’s rally stage) have helped reduce the engine bay temperature, leading to far fewer occasions when the ECU picked up the ball, cut out 4 cylinders and refused to play.

Unfortunately on one of the few occasions when it DID decide to pack up, even though the car was on level ground at the time, Ian described the sand there as being “as soft as silt”. At least, I think that’s what he said - there was a bit of a crackle on the line at the time. Consequently the car immediately sank into the ‘soft silt’, necessitating the use of sand ladders under the front wheels, and a further reduction in tyre pressures. This cost Ian and Sheila 5 to 10 minutes delay but Ian felt the car drove a lot better from then on thanks to the lower pressures, so they soon made up the lost time, and then some.

Sheila unfortunately was feeling a bit under the weather for much of the first half of the day. Speaking from personal experience I know that the particular dunes they were driving early on had a strange effect on my stomach too when I was co-driving. There must be something about the pitch of the dunes in that section because it was from the same area that I was airlifted out in 2006 due to dehydration as a result of constant vomiting. Sorry but that’s the glamorous life of a co-driver for you. Sheila too ‘fed the fish’ a few times today but being a great trooper (as opposed to a State Trooper – different hats) she Percy Veered. No giving up and taking a helicopter ride for her, oh no. I shall never be able to look her in the eye again. I out wimped her.

At one point Ian stopped the car next to long time friend and off roading companion Alan Passmore in one of the Sweep cars, hoping that he might have a medic on board. You’d have thought that with his wife in the car feeling unwell, Ian would be able to resist chatting up the nurses for just ONE morning, but apparently not! Unfortunately there was no pretty nurse on board, but John Tan, bless his little cotton socks, was carrying some travel sickness tablets (he’d obviously traveled with Alan before) and he was able to administer life saving medication to Sheila. Rumours that John was in fact wearing a nurse’s uniform at the time remain unconfirmed at this juncture. That’ll be Dh 500 then John - Thanks.

So with no further ado, Newtrix bid Alan and his Ward Sister adieu, and sped off again. Soon they were in faster sections with some steep climbs and Ian had time to enjoy the massive torque of the 5.7 litre V8 Chevrolet engine pulling the Patrol along at full speed. When you consider the amount of money he’s spent on an engine rebuild and additional components for the block, if he ever tries to tell you that torque is cheap, don’t believe a word of it.

At the service point they stopped to fix a broken exhaust hanger which was causing the rear exhaust can to thrash around violently under the vehicle. After waiting for hours in the glaring sunshine, Rick was delighted to be able crawl under the shade of the car, cover himself in dust and oil, burn his hands on the exhaust pipe and wish Ian and Sheila “a pleasant onward journey”. What a nice bloke. Did he get a tip? Did he heck.

And so their Dognesses pounded on through the desert, occasionally overtaking vehicles which one might have reasonably expected to able to run faster than Newtrix, but with Ian’s ebullient attitude and incomparable driving skills matched only by Sheila’s faultless navigation, they strove forth in search of glory. Damn. This is good stuff!

However their goal of racing across the finish at PC 5 was not to be – for safety’s sake the organisers will sometimes insist that cars which reach earlier PCs after a certain time limit, must return directly to the bivouac by a more direct route, usually on a combination of gatch and tarmac roads. It means that tired drivers do not end up lost in the middle of no-where late into the evening, thus reducing the load on the Sweep and Rescue teams. Unfortunately Ian and Sheila, along with the vast majority of the field, were subject to such instructions at PC4, meaning that they drove back to the bivouac under the veil of receiving maximum penalties on the day. At the time of writing this blog I know that many drivers who were ‘time barred’ today feel that they have been dealt a rough hand in view of the fact that crews who arrived at PC4 in say, 5 hours, will receive the same ‘maximum’ time (typically 9 hours) on their time sheets as those who made it to PC4 in 7 hours for example. This has been put to the FIA adjudicators and it may be that tomorrow we receive some good news in that respect. Fingers crossed.

So a good day for all – smiles all round.

News on other local racers: Team Saluki put on an impressive display today and are currently in second place overall. Their highest ever race position. Mabrook guys. Dave Mabbs managed to somehow plant the FJ Cruiser on its nose so heavily that he rearranged every component on the front end of the vehicle yet amazingly, not damage the radiator. So whilst he drove it back to the bivouac, it’s currently undergoing major rhinoplasty. Nurse, more swabs please. Where is John Tan when you need him?

Emile and Patrick in Emile’s hand crafted err, vehicle, managed to pitch pole it onto the roof. No-one was hurt thankfully, but by pulling the vehicle onto its side using an on board winch, they flattened the battery so were unable to winch it onto its wheels. It has now been recovered and is back at base camp. Malcolm and Mark in their “Ansell chassis Dune Raider” had another strong day and are running well. I’ll take credit for that thanks.

Until tomorrow. “Walkies”

1 comment:

Grumpy Goat said...

I'm glad to learn that the overheating issues are under control. Beats the pants off being undercontrolled.

I'm watching you...! (Ain't Iritrak great?)