360 kilometres of endless monotonous tracks through the desert, racing at speeds of up to 180kmh, swerving in and out of traffic with just one objective – meeting Rick Carless halfway between the bivouac and my office, to give him the front wheel hub studs I’d brought down from Dubai this afternoon, to fit to Ian’s car this evening. Of course it would have helped if I’d paid more attention to the part number Ian carefully repeated twice when he called me last night. I could have saved myself the four hour round trip if I’d realised that I had the wrong parts with me. (Now look. As everyone knows, many studs look very similar. I mean, I bear more than a passing resemblance to Brad Pitt). And I could have saved Rick four additional hours of driving too. Sorry Rick. Sorry Ian. Sorry Sheila. Sorry Fred.
It doesn’t help that Nissan (you know, that little car company) actually carried only two of the correct wheel studs in all of the United Arab Emirates (you know, that little country where 15% of all the vehicles on the road are Nissan Patrols) Of course 67% of all quoted statistics have just been made up. And Rick had bought those two the day before, so now Nissan is fresh out of them. But anyway, I digress. Ian and Sheila finished today in seven hours and eight minutes, a long haul journey by any standards and much harder when you’re sweating inside a race car. But a steady finish each day is the best way to a top ten finish overall, so it’s another good day.
Early on in the day Newtrix passed a race vehicle, possibly a pick-up, which had shot straight over the top of a dune and pitch poled onto its nose and then its back on the other side. Mark Powell / Evans Quin and the crew of the other Predator buggy had both stopped to help so Ian and Sheila pressed on, and were soon passing many vehicles, including local racer Fadi Melky. Their two cars would trade places several times during the day, with Fadi eventually gaining the upper hand. At one point their dognesses were dicing with a black Land Cruiser when the two drivers decided to approach a bowl from two different angles, the Cruiser being the first to enter. However the car became stuck at the bottom, and Ian had to take avoiding action to avoid smashing into it. After all, he’s not French (see the 2010 DC blog). Eventually the Cruiser worked its way out but the crew kindly stopped and helped Ian and Sheila to recover their vehicle too. Obviously the Cruiser team weren’t French either. Remember Agincourt. Yes, so does my Grandad.
Shortly before the service PC the Dog Patrol dropped over a seemingly innocuous (63 points scrabble score, although that statistic may also be made up) drop and the impact was enough to bend the drag link on the steering.(And now, over to Danny La Rue; another fine example of a drag link). Consequently the Patrols wheels were never pointing in quite the same direction for the rest of the day and this may have had some bearing on its bearings. Then after the service PC, Ian and Sheila had another brief stuck. Now if you’ve ever had a brief stuck you’ll know how uncomfortable it is, but this one was worse because they were briefly stuck just exactly where a photographer was standing. So now, somewhere on the ethernet, there are no doubts photos of Ian and Sheila’s brief stuck.Free from their brief dilemma, the doggy duo were a mere 10 kilometres from the finish line when Ian’s belt broke. I appreciate that this blog is now taking on the overtone of an advert for a gentleman’s outfitters but honestly, his belt broke. His serpentine belt to be exact, you know, the one which drives the water pump and power steering. To make matters worse , the belt had decided to give Ian’s bottom hose a good whipping. (This blog now carries a ‘over 18s only’ rated certificate). You know, the bottom hose on the radiator. The belt had cut clean through the hose as it “left the building”, so now the dynamic duo were without power steering, without a water pump and, more to the point, without coolant in the radiator. “Never fear” thought Ian “for I have cunningly packed a spare hose and serpentine belt with me in this here box of critical spares”. Which is good. But try as he might, and, perhaps, distracted by thoughts of briefs and belts, poor Ian could not make the hose fit. Which is bad. It seems it was a smidgen* too small a diameter. Ian was not about to take such a setback lying down, because the sand was too hot for that, so he took the original damaged hose, cut a tad** off, and managed to just about fit it back onto the radiator. With most of the water they were carrying now in the radiator, and the second belt fitted, off raced Newtrix.
Now I’m going to let you guess what happened next. You’ve got 30 seconds. Tick tock, tick tock. Have you guessed yet? Nope? Well it involves a serpentine belt and a bottom hose whipping. For a second time. Incredibly with just 5 kms to go, history repeated itself (does the time taken to cover 5 kms of sand dunes count as history?), the second belt broke, the hose was split again, and the radiator drained. By now, Ian and Sheila were a bit miffed, to say the least. I could say more but our ‘18s only’ certificate doesn’t allow it. With no more belt, and no chance to cut the pipe any shorter, Ian patched up the remains of the pipe with gaffer tape (well, he’s the gaffer after all), took the radiator cap off to ensure there was no pressure to strain the gaffer tape (which is not known for its resistance to high pressure water), put the last dregs of their drinking water into the rad. (there was only 5kms to go after all) and sped off. Slowly. And they made it to the finish that way, on a wing and a prayer, but they made it. So congratulations Mr. and Mrs BriefStuck BeltWhippers.
As we go to press the final results are not yet published on the internet but if I had to guess I’d say they are probably placed around 13th or 14th overall at the moment. Mark Powell and Evans Quin finished 5th on the day in their fire damaged Predator buggy, Fadi Melky / Dane Novarlic finished well (but as yet – no published results) Malcolm Anderson / Patrick McMurren appeared to retire at PC 1 with an as yet unknown problem (but the car is back at the bivvy) and Dave Mabbs / Andy Robinson’s FJ Cruiser is still stuck in the desert, a long way from anywhere, with (apparently) a blown engine.
Local biker and my mate James West is doing very well on his Yamaha bike, lying in 2nd overall just 2 minutes 22 seconds behind multi time world champion Marc Coma. Way to go James. And our Aussie friend Allan “Robbo” Roberts is back over from Oz to have another go at the Challenge and is currently in 21st place. Hang in there Robbo and we’ll throw another shrimp on yer Barbie.
Information for our European friends. And the French.
*Smidgen. An imperial term meaning 7/12ths of a bit **Tad. 11 & 8/19ths of a Smidgen