Ceres Rally, it seems that this event became my nemesis, always causing me some sort of issue, last year we broke the stub axle, well this year it did go a slight bit better, but if things go as it is currently, it will take us a few years to finish all stages on this event, all I know is that this is most definitely no rally to mess about.
The weeks leading up to this event were crazy, with spending more time awake in the night hours than day due to some work that could only be done between 11pm and 6am, this alone really throws one of your normal routine. That was followed with a little break from work and rally with the only worries being the apes and cold of the Cederberge in autumn, hell the one morning we got on our bikes at 7pm without realising it was -1.2C outside, no wonder it took me about 45min of cycling thru the mountains before the tingling feeling in my toes disappeared, they must have been frozen, mental note, do not get out of the tent and walk in your slops without socks as you would do at home, stuff sticking out will freeze. Cederberge, for those that is not accustomed to it, make a plan, it is a magical spot, for MTB, hikes and beauty.
Luckily the week before the Ceres Rally I was on holiday, but seeing that there were still so much to do, to get the last done for the Ceres event, the stress levels were at an all-time high. Poly windows had to be fitted, new front suspension had to be assembled, fitted and tested, steering rack fitted after a complete rebuild, final prep and a dozen other small issues.
The funniest thing regarding this whole saga were probably the power steering rack, well at the time it really was not funny, more like heart breaking, seeing that it could have ended the idea of starting the rally. The rack went in for a complete rebuild, once it came back, I had to build new mountings seeing that I had to cut the old ones off, never ever use counter sink Allen caps on a rally car or any other part you want to remove again, especially if it will operate in water, mud and dust. Needles to say the rack were installed, the new steering quickener fitted. Placed the car on its new rubber, started it up, turned the wheel left, and the wheels move on its own to the right, same goes for steering right, wheels will move on its own to the left. After some furious swearing, my brother suggested turning the pipes around, easier said than done, about two hours later, the rack were back in its location and all working.
Polycarbonate aka Lexan windows were finished at about 9pm the night before the rally, the steering quickener were removed from the system the Thursday night as it made the steering to heavy, pretty damn fast, but just too heavy, a plan were executed to keep the dust caps in place etc, needless to say, that evening at about 10-11pm we went thru the pace notes, well it was my first time going thru them, by this time I was so mentally drained, I do not think it helped a lot.
Saturday morning after arrival at Ceres Toyota, the last pre event prep work were done, documentation and scrutineering completed. All of a sudden microphone were forced onto me and I had to give a interview that they actually wanted to use at a later stage, not that nice, luckily for the audience as far as I know this footage is still unseen.
GoPro, if you haven’t heard of these okes, it is seriously time to jump in your grave and retire. The most known, used and claimed action camera on the market, they do have their issues, even after 3-4 different iterations. I had my issues with them, but the biggest one to date is the fact that it is an action camera and never designed to work on permanent 12V while operating them by Wi-Fi remote, these things lose sync with the remote and never starts when pressing the record button at the start of a stage, by this time you are so strapped down by all sorts of belts, restrained with more straps than in a modern torture dungeon that there is just not enough time to loosen everything to turn your back and start the camera, what a pity not enough people need this features in order for the developers to work on it.
Seeing that time were against us, we had to start the rally with only RPM, Fuel level and Speed displayed on the screen, due to some sort of issue. No time = no time to find issue. Luckily we are using a LinkECU, these electronic management units comes with more safeties build in than necessary.
On our way to stage one, the most important things to do were bed the brakes, seeing that we were using the old damaged units we really worked them hard, the new front suspension were the last of our worries after we weaved a few times from left to right and it did what we wanted, even thou it was only tested for about 5km on tar the previous day.
At the start the main Gopro did not switch on, I’m still hating it for that, besides that everything went good thru the first few turns, took me while to place my trust in Ruan again after a year of not rallying on his navigating. Everything felt damn good, it even felt as we were more commit and actually keeping some pace thru the corners. 7km into the 14km stage I heard a rattling sound coming from the front left, not sure what it could be I dismissed it as Ruan would have said something seeing it is coming from his feet. About 2km later I just had to ask him seeing that the brakes felt weird, every time we went over a bumpy part with the weight removed from the left corner a mega rattle emerged, Ruan was just like “Nothing to worry about, probably just the shock bottoming out”, well at that time that words were reassuring that all was fine and I should just anticipate the car moving to the right on braking and just keep on it. Coming to think of it, a shock bottoming out is not reassuring words, it is words for serious concern, but at that time it was so nice just to be back that it made sense. As we finished the stage on our way to the end control, the two of us were quite impressed with the run we had thru the stage after a year of absence.
As we approached, the marshals indicated our left wheel had severe camber, snap, I knew something was wrong, but the speed was good. We stopped in the road section and noticed a little camber, probably 5deg. It did not take a rocket scientist to realise the spherical bearing at the top of the shock ripped the sir clip out and was the cause for 1, shock bottoming out according the mister calm next to me or 2, the moer of a big rattle when unloaded, seeing that there were no way to re-install the spherical next to the road we phoned the service crew to bring the trailer and recover us. We lowered the jack,(by the way, a modified BMW 3 series jack does work nice on a rally car) placed the tools in the car and decided to drive the car to a better location seeing that the crew would not be able to turn with a trailer in that narrow road.
Scenes of Bredasdorp 2014 flashed past me with Ruan’s invention of the IPhone hands free device for the navigator. As we drove we struggled with signal and had to relay all information via family to the service crew, As we moved we realised that we just completed 7km in a stage on this shock strut, another 10-15km open section would not heard on tarmac if we kept the speed down. At this stage our crew, family and friends were on their way to assist loading the car. I’m also pretty damn sure my brother executed the first Scandinavian flick with a car trailer attach to the bakkie, as that road was not big enough to find a spot, that fast for a u turn with a trailer and still be able to reach service seconds behind us.
As soon as we pulled into our service area the crew had the car on the sill stands and in an almost poetic rush of madness the shock was out, I grabbed a bucked with water and a few clean rags and headed over to Allen Martin service fan, his crew volunteered to weld the bearing to the top retainer, at least that way we could continue. At the end of the day we managed to not meld the inner lining of the bearing, a huge thanks to Allen Martin and his friendly crew that know their way around an Arc welder. While all of this was going on the rest of our crew went over the car, they quickly installed and assembled the suspension and we were cleared to leave service, we missed stage 2 but were in time for stage 3. A huge thanks to the team and to the new suspension as everything were designed to be worked on with ease.
Stage 3 were delayed, once we got going, we were in suspension testing mode and only tried to get more kilometres on the suspension, but obviously the driving were very cautious, the start of the stage were slow and it got better as we went on, the suspension took some serious hits and but all were good, that said the sump guard suffered a huge hit somewhere in the stage, were I do not know. We did hit a rock on the left side but that left a small mark, something else hit the guard harder and more to the middle. As we stopped for the time control at the service park, a friend indicated to the front of the car, we got out and realised we were leaking oil, Ruan quickly rushed inside and retrieved our environmental blanket to contain the oil spill. Once in service the team removed the sump guard and it was quite obvious I’m not willing to take the change to continue this way, a sad ending to the day, but better than risking a motor.
Back home I removed the sump and it was quite obvious that we hit something so hard that the poor 3mm mild steel sump guard smashed into the sump cracking the welding. All in all the event turned out to be just another test of patience, as we discovered that we need to design a skid plate not a sump guard, stay tuned for the upgrade.
Thanks to Patrick Vermaak, Patick Johnson and Selina Botes for the photos.
RPT Sprint @ Apollo Bricks
Seeing that we needed more time in the seat testing the new front suspension, the RPT Sprint turned out to be the ideal playing field, one stage over and over, more or less like a big testing session. The suspension seemed to be much stronger than I’m willing to do to it, which is a big bonus and a huge sigh of relief. Seeing that we can still improve on the Ackerman, but that is a project for the future, I’m very impressed with what Mike managed to design, thanks brother, I know working with me is a battle on its own.
The huge benefit for me about the RPT events is the fact that we can take family, friends and general public around the course and this way we can actually give something back to all the supporters and crew sacrificing their own time to help us live a dream.
Ruan trying to stay interested
Bjorn Venter trying to focus on the notes, it did not last long, he at least got past the first line
More Pictures – May 2015 – Ceres Rally & RPT Sprint
Return to Datsun 1200