Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mushkeela Kabir!

Oh dear. It was all going so well. We made it over the start ramp, shook hands with Someone Important, and shot off to the start of the Prologue for some more Waiting Around. Then suddenly, it was the turn of number 22 - us.

For the first 30 seconds the car went really well. Then I felt the awful weight on the steering wheel telling me that we had no power steering - i.e. the serpentine belt had come off. Since this meant we also had no alternator or water pump, it seemed wise to stop before the engine cooked itself, or the battery ran flat.

We got off the track, opened the bonnet and sure enough, the belt had gone - but the entire inside of the engine compartment was covered in oil. This doesn't usually happen when the belt goes and clearly Something Bad had happened. Anyway, we had a spare belt, nice spectators helped us fit it, and we set off again. 30 seconds later it happened again, accompanied by copious amounts of smoke. Opened the bonnet again, no belt again, but a small fire was just getting going on the left-hand headers, fueled by the oil which had been spread around. A quick squirt with the hand-held fire-extinguisher put paid to that, but we'd run out of belts. And oil. So we begged a tow off some other nice spectators and got dragged ignominiously into the service park. I was ready to throw in the towel.

It turned out we had two unrelated problems, which seem to have occured more or less simultaneously. The pulley on the power steer pump had moved out of line (away from the block) and the oil return line from the cooler to the pump had sprung a leak. Working feverishly against the clock in the gathering gloom and cold, we pulled off the damaged pipe and Richard blagged a lift from some other nice spectators to the local Sinaiya (car parts souk) where a new one was made up in record time. Meanwhile I pulled off the p/s pump, removed the spacers A2B had put behind it to get the alignment right, and by great good fortune the pulley now lined up correctly.

Sheila meanwhile was attending the Stage Briefing for Day 2 (which we should have been at) and collecting the Day 2 roadbook and the GPS unlock code.

Refitting the oil line proved to be an absolute bitch of a job, because by now it really was damned cold. But you would not believe how many people rallied round to help us. Finally we got it on, filled up with oil (thanks to the Desert Knights rally team) and started the engine. Several litres of oil which had soaked into the wrap of the headers gradually boiled off in clouds of white smoke, while we watched with the firex at the ready. Then I took it for a quick blat round the service park and left it there, just outside the parc ferme (which we should have been inside - but the organisers have let us off that one).

So what of the rally? Well, we'll be starting last (obviously) with a one hour penalty for not completing the prologue within limit time (30 mins). We have over 100km of road liaison to the start of the special stage, which we'll use as a shakedown - if we survive that without further disasters we'll try our luck in the stage.

The people of Hail have been our saviours. The guys who helped put the belt on (and then sought us out to return our tools!), the impromptu recovery crew, Abdullah and Abdullah, our fellow competitors and everyone else who got us through this nightmare - Shukraan Jazilan to you all! You are the best. Almost as good, in fact, as my noble co-driver Richard and Team Manager(ess) Sheila, who have been running around like mad things to get us back on track.

Now let's see what tomorrow will bring...

Quick postscript: the results are here.

1 comment:

Grumpy Goat said...


But at least it didn't all go wrong in the boondocks.

Best of luck for the special stages; hopefully everything is now sorted.