Three weeks before our first rally we secured a venue to test the car on gravel, Friday 14th March we loaded the car and enough tools to rebuild the car if the need arose. Saturday early morning, Ruan (co-driver) and I, poured ourselves another cup of coffee and headed out for Porterville for some testing. Stopped at the fuel station next to the road and filled the fuel containers, one thing that we wanted out of this session as to gauge the fuel usage of the car.
We knew the route was short and extremely rough as we inspected the venue end of last year, but at least this could count in our favour, the one thing we did not take into account was the surface as it turned out to be extremely lose, more of this later.
As we turned off the main tarmac roads and started travelling on the gravel we immediately started making a list of thing to do and remember as we realized that in the future we need to over the nose of the car with some blankets as the entire engine bay was being filled with dust, not even to mention the stray rocks that hit whatever in came in their path.
Turned off the main gravel road onto the narrow road leading to the farm house, we were concern that the trailer being very low would get stuck going through the holes and dips, to our amusement the back only scrapped once. It took us quite a while to get the car off the trailer and ready to tackle the road. Seeing that the whole process is new, we made quite a few notes to improve the process.
Once all the car was ready, we proceeded to make some pace notes of the route. Let me just say for a team without any knowledge regarding pace notes, this turned out to be quite some fun with Ruan writing whatever I told him while paging back and forth looking for the short cuts. We made some notes going up and down the route and returned to put our helmets on. I don’t know what we were afraid of the most, damaging the car two weeks before an event or trusting our own notes.
As we counted ourselves down, pulled away and shifted to second to keep wheel spin to a minimum, a quick thought went through my mind that this is why I have spent the last 4 years building the car, a very big moment. This thought soon disappeared as we hit 5200rpm and the cams activated and immediately the rear stepped out, shifted to third and the same thing, wow and oh shit was all I could process for the moment. The first part of the route went OK with Ruan making all sorts of noises over the intercom, but in my mind he was speaking to himself as I was trying to keep this car on the road. As we approached a very bumpy hairpin I shifted down and all of a sudden the rear stepped out and it took more than 10 brain cells to keep the car on the road while trying to recover, after this all I could process was “mofo”. As we entered a dip followed by a crest I had no idea what is after the crest and all of a sudden everything went quit in my helmet and then the annoying voice on the intercom broke the silence and repeated a call stating left 3 opens into right 4. All of a sudden I realised what his role next to me is, not just to annoy me, but he is the boss and I just need to drive, he will give me instructions to follow and tell me when I have time to visit the toilet.
The day went on and we did about 35km of testing, I started to relax a little and drive around the violent power curve change of the cams and down shifted a little later to not lock up the rear seeing that the car has a 2 way limited slip differential. All in all we now did enough kilometres to work out an average fuel consumption and the only problems besides dust was the loss of one mud flap and the rear wheels rubbing.
The following days the car was cleaned and the dust problem isolated to one of the rear shock covers, someone forgot to close it up. We did a complete bolt check on the car and found the outer cv bolts loose and the steering rack. These were all replaced with new bolts and heavy duty spring washers. The rear shocks were removed and another bump stop rubber added.
Only days from our first event and I think Ruan and myself went into shock seeing that we had a lot to do, still had to attend Rally School, pack, plan etc. Luckily for me I was so busy planning and packing, reality still had to kick in.
More Pictures – March 2014 – Rally Practise
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