Yesterday my friends at Nanjgel Garage changed the lubes on the race car and fixed an oil leak from a front hub, but had a drama during their test drive. The engine just stopped. Fuel? No. Fuel pump? Hmm, neither pump was working. So it had to be the battery isolator. Turned out that one of the external cut-offs had cut-off for no obvious reason, but wouldn't re-set. Further investigation showed that the two firex switches were also u/s, so we've replaced all four external switches with new Schneider units. A consignment of metal tyre valves turned up on my desk, to replace all the old rubber ones - the four on the car and four spares. Arabian Automobiles called, and my sale-or-return parts are all ready for collection. Things feel like they are coming together.
We had a Team Meeting today, which sounds rather grand. It was three-quarters of the team - Sheila, Richard and myself. Fred had been dragged away to do some actual work for a customer. (Customers, eh? No consideration.) Richard is well ahead of us in terms of lists and plans. (He admits to being 'a bit O.C.D.', but I've reassured him that it doesn't make you a bad person.) But it'll be his first time in Liwa, and we're bringing him up to speed with the geography of the area and the process of the rally.
I was sat at the traffic lights the other day, and just imagined being at the start. Airing down the tyres. Chatting slightly nervously to the other teams. Having a final wee. Sheila and I, fastening each other's helmet straps. Checking the time, joining the queue for time control. Watching the car in front disappear into the dust, into the distance. Then forward to the start, checking we're in 4WD. The cameras, the 'good-luck' wishes from friends we only see once a year. The start light column, my heart racing, pounding, as its red sectors count off the final seconds in synch with the starter's hand signals.....
That's the rush. Just imagining it sent my pulse rate soaring. Once we're moving, I can settle into a rhythm and start to relax a little. But it's a continual tightrope act - keeping up enough speed to be in the chase, but not pushing too hard at wrong moment, chosing the right risks to take and the ones to back away from. This may be our last year of competitive rallying and I badly want to do well. All the prep, all the expense, all Richard's hard work boils down to the next 2000km. One wrong decision, and it's all down the drain.
As Streaky would say, it's going to be emotional.