Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another day, another disaster

We're up at the crack of dawn for our 100+km liaison to the start of Stage 2, which is completely different from last year's stage. A new railway blocks access to the part of the desert we used in the last two years, so it's terra incognita as far as most competitors are concerned.

We start fairly cautiously, aware of the possibility that we may have more belt-related problems. All goes well for the fisrt 10km - then, yes you guessed it, the belt comes off. And the power steering pulley. A short walk back into the stage and I retrieve both - but how to press the pulley back onto the shaft, to at least get us out of the desesrt? The Sweep Team come, look, and continue, and then the police arrive, look and hang around.

A plan evolves. I drain the p/s reservoir into a handy water bottle (the reservoir conveniently holds 500ml of ATF) and dismantle the pump from the block. Then we sandwich the pulley and the pump between the hydraulic jack and the rear tow-hitch and press it back together. This is not the standard workshop method and in fact knackers the pump (we find later), but we're pretty pleased with our bush engineering. We can't get the pulley on far enough to line up, but with the belt 2/3 on the puiley it's enough to get us out of the desert. We trundle back to the start, nursing the engine at 2200rpm, followed by our police escort.

Our journey back to Hail is slow and uneventful, and we divert to the Sinaiya to find a workshop to solve our problems. It's run by Khalid, and Arnold, a pony-tailed Filipino, is the foreman. They seem happy to stop whatever they are doing to help us out, Arnold sources a new pump and then beats the old pulley back into shape (yes, we knackered that too, and he couldn't find one the same). As well as pressing it back on, Arnold welds it to the shaft for good measure to prevent it slipping off again. We head back to rally control, just in time to put the car into parc ferme. Everyone is happy to see us and offers sympathy and encouragement.

Another 8 hours of penalties are added to our one hour from day 1, but we are assured a start on day 3. We're last (of course) but we're back in the race!

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