Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's been a wrrruuuufff day...

Day 1 and Newtrix Racing expanded from two desert bound members to six, two of whom were heroic in their endeavours, two of whom were frustrated racers, and Rick and Cesar were just stuck. This then, is the story of too much heat, too few cylinders, and no volts whatsoever.

Starting in fourth place on Day 1 brought with it the responsibility of working with many of the world’s media, all desperate for an update on Ian’s relationship with Kate Winslet (he doesn’t know her) and Sheila’s with Tiger Woods (she's never met him) before the dandy duo blatted off into the wild yellow yonder in a trail of dust. Fortunately, the organisers had given Sheila some coordinates for yonder, cutting out much of the guess work. Unfortunately, yonder proved to be quite a long way away through nasty sand dunes (in the ‘Desert Challenge’ – who’d have thunk it?) and after just a few kilometres (that’s the equivalent of a few miles for those of you who drive imperially) the first disaster of the day struck when a tyre was ripped from its rim. This tends to happen when the tyres have been deflated in order to maximise grip in the sand dunes, but on a firmer ‘gatch’ track, the load on the tyre’s sidewall means that occasionally it’s pulled sideways off the rim, usually when cornering. A few minutes of slick teamwork had the car jacked up and the tyre reseated, so Ian and Sheila were hot under the flea collar but on their way.

However, their short lived rapid progress was then halted when they got caught in a ‘nasty stuck’. The more experienced off roading readers will know that there are two kinds of stuck. Those from which you are able to remove yourself within 4 minutes through judicious use of forward and reverse gears, and which are referred to as ‘not very stucks’ . Then there are those which require extensive digging, driving, digging, swearing, digging, dehydrating, swearing, digging and praying. Those are referred to as ‘nasty stucks’ and it was one of those which reached out and caught Newtrix by the paws. A long time later, today’s superheros, John ‘Commander’ Mitchell Ross and Steve “Self Loading Freight" Dessurne of the forward Sweep Team stumbled across our tired and emotional couple and towed them free of the sand, for which Ian and Sheila were ‘two cold cans each tonight’ grateful.

Forced to make up for lost time, our intrepid racers sped off into the rolling dunescapes, but after battling against the forces of nature, friction and gravity for a while, the ongoing problem of an overheating engine raised its ugly and thermally challenged head. Now on the Chevrolet LS engine, as fitted to Ian’s Patrol, when its ECU (Engine Crippling Unit) detects the strange odour of over-ripened exhaust headers, there is unfortunately a ‘safety feature’ which switches off four of the engine’s eight cylinders, which is all very well when you are driving on tarmac in your Corvette, but a right royal pain in the rectum when you are climbing the near vertical side of a sand dune in a Nissan Patrol. Consequently Ian was forced repeatedly to stop the car, switch off the engine and wait for it to cool down, before restarting it and driving on again. Having repeated this exercise a half a dozen times, unfortunately the battery became terminally ill. Battery. Terminal. Get it! (Thanks, I’m here every Sunday, the bar closes at midnight.) Bereft of volts, it sparked no more. In fact, this battery wouldn’t woosh if you put 40,000 volts through it. Mind you, they would have come in handy.

So parked at the side of the road and with apparently no way of starting the engine, Ian and Sheila called for help. Quick as a flash, Rick and Cesar sped into action, leapt into their support 4x4, raced off into the desert. And got stuck. You know, one of those nasty stucks you’ve heard about. So whilst Cannon and Ball attempted to dig themselves free, Batman and Robin, in the shape of JMR and Steve, once again came to the rescue of his and her Dogness. One illicit exchange of battery juices later and Newtrix were on their way. Again. So that’s half a dozen cold cans each owed now.

Rick and Cesar eventually freed themselves (with a spot of assistance from some friendly passers by) and drove back to the finish to await the Patrol. But of course, there’s more.

Once again it overheated, once again Ian had to stop, once again it wouldn’t restart and once again, our caped crusaders, Sweep Team One, Messrs Mitchell Ross and Dessurne, swooped in from upon high, gave the Patrol a kick up the jacking points, and off it jolly well dashed. With Ian and Sheila chasing it furiously. Having regained control, they then shot off to the finish where they made it with just five minutes to spare before they’d have been penalised by several hours for not finishing within limit time. So that’s a case of beer each now owed to the soon to be inebriated super heroes.

Tonight the guys are trying to get more air to flow through the radiators by removing the pretty but restrictive grille and replacing it with chicken wire. Yes chicken wire. Air will go through it, but hopefully twigs, stones, camel droppings and small goats will not. Suitable for kids of all ages. Small goats. Kids. (Thanks, I’m here every Sunday, the bar closes at midnight.)

Then they are raising the bonnet by a few millimetres (bits of inches) which will hopefully allow more heat to dissipate. Now there’s a word I don’t use very often. Bonnet.

In other news, Mark Powell and Paul Richards of Team Saluki are in 4th place, Dave Mabbs and Xavier Caminada (Desert FJ) are about 18th I think (no updates currently on the race website) and Malcolm Anderson and Mark Schofield, in a race car built on the chassis of a Range Rover I wrote off 4 years ago(!!), are roughly 15th.

For live updates each day you can follow Newtrix Racing here.

Tomorrow, "Things can only get better".

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