Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Emirates Desert Championship R1

The first round of the 2015-16 Emirates Desert Championship kicked off at Lusaili on Friday.  Being the first race of the season, the EMSF sensibly decided to bring the start forward to 0830hrs to make the most of the cooler morning.  Some 115 competitors – bikes, quads, buggies and 4x4s – set off in waves at 30 second intervals, bikes and quads taking the longer outer circuit while the rest of us took a shorter loop.  It consisted mainly of short, choppy dunes with very few places where you could get any speed up – I spent most of the event in 2nd gear.

I was still moving at this point...
I started to hear some worrying noises from the front axle early on, but pressed on regardless – until I found that the acceleration of the engine was no longer matched by a corresponding increase in forward speed.  At first I thought that the clutch had given up, but then it dawned that I had no drive to the front axle – the diff had died.  And I was stuck just past PC5.  Eventually the sweep team came to the rescue, and after a bit of faffing about I was free.  With the tyres down to emergency pressure (about 8psi) I was able to get going, and almost made it to the finish.  Suddenly the car just stopped as though I’d pulled on the handbrake (although actually, the handbrake isn’t that good).  So clearly something that had died in the diff was now trapped between moving parts.
Chasing a buggy
We tried towing it.  Forwards, backwards – no chance.  Maybe with a bulldozer, but not with a 4x4. We headed back home to pick up more tools, drinks, shade and returned along with Tim Ansell and Tom Bell to dismantle the front axle to make it mobile.  As it turned out, it needed rather less dismantling than we expected. 

After jacking up both front wheels, you could rotate one and the other would rotate in the opposite direction.  This means the crown wheel and pinion are working.  So removing drive to one hub will get the vehicle working in 2WD, and that’s surprisingly easy.  After taking off a wheel, there is a press-on cap which covers the end of the stub shaft.  Once this is off, there are 6 bolts holding the end plate to the hub, and a circlip holding it onto the splined stub shaft.  With these removed, the plate comes off and there is no longer any drive from the shaft to the hub.  This done, Tom easily towed the Beast out of the desert, so that I could drive it onto the trailer.

Due to some error in the system, EMSF decided I was 3rd in T1, when really I should have had a DNF.  So I got a nice trophy which I didn’t deserve, and they haven’t asked for it back.  However, it’s ‘nul points’ in the T1 championship, and a new front diff required.

Undeserved trophy
Having thought about possibly replacing the ARB rear diff locker (for which I no longer have a working compressor), I have finally decided to give the Lokka a try.  This is a rather clever Aussie invention which by default locks the diff, and only unlocks when one wheel is required to go faster than the other, when cornering on a hard surface.  They are promising a 2 year warranty with no exceptions about race use, so one for the front axle is winging its way over from Australia, hopefully to be fitted before the next round of the EDC on 23rd.

Big thanks to Tim and Tom for help with the recovery, Tim again for photos, and to EMSF and ATC for putting on another great event!

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