Thursday, April 7, 2011
Short Cut to a Home Run
(The Blog-napper has left the building...)
Having spent most of yesterday faffing about withe the various stuff which the alternator drives, we arrived at the conclusion that the alternator was the culprit. Like the crowd at Fibbers on a Friday night, it was tight and noisy. We drowned it in WD40 and that seemed to help, and we managed a quick blat round the dunes before dinner during which the belt stayed put. Based on this, we decided to start the fifth and final day, but with a view to finishing rather than being heroic.
We managed to keep the Patrol moving along at 'bimbling speed', keeping the revs below 3000 as far as possible, and had only one hairy moment in the early part. We attempted a steep climb, bailed out of it and landed in a soft patch of level sand. Some quick work with the sand ladders got us out, but not before two of the Kamaz trucks had joined us - and the driver of one came within a gnats tadger of putting it on its side. Anyway, we escaped and found an alternate route which ended in a rather hard landing, knackering one of the bonnet pins. Tiewraps to the rescue!
We came into service as planned, topped up with oil and carried on. The plan was to avoid part of the next section where we'd come to grief last year, by taking a gatch track westwards instead of rally route. This would only cost us a few waypoints at 15 minutes each, and get us to the Hameem Road and PC2. However, we couldn't spot the gatch track, and after a fruitless attempt to find it we blew a belt - and another hose. So we abandoned Plan B and moved on to Plan C - which is straight up Deadcoach Gatch to where rally route rejoins - cutting off the entire westward loop. Just as well, because shortly after that we blew another belt, strange banging noises were coming from somewhere down below, and the suspension seemed non-existant. By this time we only had a short section across the dunes before the finish, which we made well inside the 6-hour limit time.
So we finished 20th (and last) on the final stage of a rally that started with 37 cars, which does rather show how tough this event is. Overall we were 18th, which considering all our mechanical issues was not too bad.
The left rear shock mount has sheared off the chassis - this is a pin maybe 30mm diameter - and the shock is just hanging there, having ripped out the hose to the remote can. The s/s exhaust is completely broken in two places - one branch of the final 'Y' junction, and again just ahead of the silencer box. The comms on Sheila's helmet packed up as well, and we had to swap helmets so I could hear her. The alternator bearing, despite lashings of WD40, is still noisy, so we'll have to replace that again. The engine is down on power and needs an overhaul. There's some damage to the front end and the right wing. And we still need to fit studs all round to both front hubs.
Despite the fact that the stages were very similar to previous years, and until the final day the weather was relatively cool, it has been an increadibly brutal rally. The sand has been very soft, and the overcast conditions make reading the sand even more difficult due to the lack of shadow. There have been numerous rollovers and pitch-poles - I believe the G-Force team had their two pickups on their roof a total of three times. Raed Baker pitch-poled his L200 and is in hospital with a broken back, his co-driver Nabil broke his neck and narrowly escaped being a paraplegic. Alan 'Robbo' Roberts from Oz had his KTM come down on him and suffered a massive haematoma to his right buttock, but fortunately not (as originally thought) a broken coccyx.
Major thanks are due to Rick Carless, the team's Technical Director (!) and Fred Santiago, who I'm sure had no idea what he was letting himself in for! And of course my wife, partner and co-driver, Sheila who has been amazing all week.
12 months left before we do it all again!