After a very successful Klipdale rally we started early with getting the car ready, seeing that we had no issues at Klipdale the preparation works was limited to a few small items.
After pulling the car from the trailer the day after Klipdale I realised we had a charging issue, luckily the diagnosis concluded that sense and supply wires to the alternator broke in the connector, Luckily Henk from Tygerberg Auto Electric made quick work of supplying a new unit.
Finally my USB charger arrived, this one is long overlooked as my focus was always on keeping the GoPro powered and as of late the remotes died on my and I had to swop them at mid-day service, easier said than done, you have to pair each camera to the new remote, this is quite a crappy job, but then again there is worst jobs to do.
Car Boat & Truck also started work on the air vent for the roof, something that we would like to have for the National in September as it is normally quit dusty in September, they also repainted the two wheels we damaged at last year’s National.
The rest of the preparations went as per normal, check every bolt on the suspension, look for cracks and anything out of the norm, blow the dust out with the air hose, vacuum, wash the interior and exterior, pack all the spares and tools and finally load the car on the trailer after a test drive.
As normal driving to Ceres this time of the year, the road between Wellington and Gouda was quite misty, making overtaking quite difficult, on arrival at Ceres Toyota the final preparations were completed before the car could go thru scrutineering, this normally include, checking tyre pressures, filling the fuel tank, cleaning the windows, setup the cameras and making sure all the safety equipment is in the car. As normal the car passed scrutineering with flying colours. Once in Parc Ferme it was just a matter of getting the racing suit on and wait for starting orders.
In a blink of the eye my mood went from excellent to very disappointed. Well as we started the rally from Ceres Toyota we made our way to the first stage, barely out of Ceres it became quite apparent that the motor was down on power, with two stages before us and the service park we just had to keep our hopes up, not that easy. Ruan realised he forgot his balaclava in his bag and the service crew had to bring it down to us, we met them just before the stage, Ruan’s melon now safe if it burns we proceeded to get the helmets on and enter the time control.
The stage started off with a very fast section going into a a technical section before opening a little just before going over the hills and dam wall, after the dam wall it is very rough, we made it, but the motor was down on power.
Only 1 to go before the service park, but this was the long one with which we have history, midway thru the stage is the spot where the front stub axle broke 2 years ago, this section is so special we even dedicated sometime in the pace notes to convey our respect if we pass the spot. One thing is for sure, I do need to work on the more technical stuff as I misjudged the entry speed on a very sharp right hander, luckily nothing major. In these technical bits it was quite difficult in driving the car as we struggled a lot with power low down, half of the mistakes was due to me trying to drive thru it and the rest was trying to crawl back the time that I just lost.
We passed our little spot of previous breakdown in style and then the fast bits came, what an enjoyable part of the stage, fast flowing stages between farms ending the stage with a section going up the hill, the car sounded terrible as the exhaust cracked somewhere.
We almost did not make it back to service, one of the hills we had to go to 1st gear to keep the car going, in service the crew started fitting new plugs, looking for obvious things like vacuum pipes, lose wires etc., nothing. In the meantime I was going thru the ECU logs, all seemed in order, fuel pressure, spark etc., besides the Air/Fuel readings, this seemed off all over the show. But we reckon it was a dead plug or two causing the AFRs to show lean.
Stage 3 and Service 2
When putting my helmet on I realised my spectacles were gone, damn I as dumbed struck, since I couldn’t even remember putting them on the morning, neither doing stages 1 and 2 with them, can the day get any worst.
As we excited the service area we knew the problem did not go away with a set of new plugs, we turned around, switched the ECU logging on and gathered some data.
Seeing that we had a lot of time as the mid-day service was after stage 3, we started digging deeper, unplugging connectors, removing the distributor cap in search of some water, nothing, again the data suggested perfect fuel pressures, but still very lean afr readings. I got the bright spark idea of adding some fuel in the cells used for idling and immediately the AFRs came down, suggesting a fuel problem not ignition. We kept adding fuel over the entire maps until it was safe to race the motor.
We went out to test on the road a couple of times and it made a big difference.
Back in service we had lunch while and the boys gave the rest of the car a once over. Since we had a lot of time we searched high and low for the spectacles, but no luck.
As we set off the car felt new as we had some more power, not 100%, but at least you could get yourself out of trouble thru the corners. The first part was fast and flowing going over a few rough spots, before going past the spectators next to the road, it was nice to see the whole 1000m odd sections lined with spectators, we did our best to great all after the stage on our way back to service. After the spectators point the stage turns into a terror for a few hundred meter as it is very difficult judging the dips at speed, afterwards it opens and flows again, it is as if the dog shows you some teeth just in order to demand some respect.
We had a motor with more power and happy with that, I can’t even remember if we did anything besides setting tyre pressures as we decided to stick to our current tyres for the remainder of the day, as we had nothing to prove, we decided to just finish the rest of the stages and enjoy the rally even more.
On our way to the stage Ruan asked me what the plan was, well I have not seen the stage other than on the DVD, but we quickly came to the conclusion that we are going to be safe and just have fun. This was the one stage we were warned about, this thing apparently had big teeth in the first section, that as quite a concern, well what is a man to do than just getting on with it, we tip toed thru the first section as it was quit slippy. Once the scenario opens before you the stage is devilish fast and flowing and true commitment is needed, something we were lacking, and passing the rolled car in the stage did not help, neither did Ruan with some of the notes that was very slow, our new found speed got to him.
We ended the stage with a 2nd fastest time for the day, something we are very happy about, would love to redo this stage one day and try to improve, but this is the type of stage that can turn into a high speed disaster very quickly.
Straight to stage 6, the way I like it
We arrived at stage 6 and I can remember looking into the distance and seeing the 4 little square road signs indicating a very sharp bend, I just had to check the notes with Ruan just to make sure it is really as sharp as indicated, actually a nice to have road signs on a stage, if Ruan nod off I can actually continue.
We exited the sharp left hander and immediately you could see this is big man’s country this and you should be packing if you want your name at the top, we did our best on this new roads but one or two crests I just had to lift as we approached as my chest compressed even though the notes said flat, I just not had enough in me for them, but the last one my inner chimp stepped forward once he heard the flying finish is behind it, as he remembered it is straight and we should prove a point to the brain that the chimp is the strongest and we can flat foot it.
Ok so let’s just stop here for a second. Driving to your next door town going up and over crests is one thing we all are faced at least once a month, but doing it once a month on gravel roads while doing speeds above the normal 120km/h not knowing what is on the other side is a completely different ball game. Before I started rallying I never gave any thought to the word crest, a crest was a good spot for a photo, but in rallying the word crest will test your inner to the max.
Back to the crest at hand we approached this thing and the chimp took over and pinned the throttle to the floor, we went over this thing at close to 160km/h wheels lifting slightly, on the other side we managed to add another 7km/h to the total and flew over the flying finish at 167km/h slamming on the brakes as the time control came closer at an alarming rate, what a rush, I think we were giggling like little girls all the way back to the road service, inner chimp happy with the fix until the next one.
3rd fastest time for the day, inner happiness
A new concept to us, but seeing that we were humbled by the last stage and glad to be safe we had a blast washing the car at the road service.
Stage 7 a repeat of 2
Seeing that we did the stage earlier with a sick motor, I was happy to try my luck at it again. We went for it, and probably over did it as we made the same mistake at the right hander as in stage 2 then 30m later we almost ended in the fence, we recovered just to make another two corners later, then we got into it and everything started flowing, we paid our respect to the spot and proceeded to help the farmer plant some seedlings as we left the road and did some farming at speeds I might add but I got it under control and then onto the roads linking the farms, damn this is a nice part of the stage and we really enjoyed it as I had enough confidence to chuck the car into corners knowing there is power to get us thru it.
Stage 8 a repeat of 1
Just had to finish this one in order to record our only finish to the Ceres rally, well we did super rally but the first time we completed more than 3 stages.
We took it steady over the jump, while it seems to me everyone else was out for their photo of the year as they went for serious air, as we entered the technical bit a made a few mistakes from trying too hard, after that I just went into a steady pace to get safely to the end, and we managed another 2nd fastest time.
All in all we are very happy with the progress we are making in every aspect, 7 rallies done, not 1 Ceres finish, but I think this is Ceres way of telling us that we need to come back and finish it.
Jacques Bartie Photography
More Pictures – 2016 WBMK Ceres Rally – The Good and the Bad
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