Five days of constant sandstorms -- all during the race days - most unpleasant - and now we've had five days of constant rain in Dubai! Weather-wise we always knew what to expect when the UAE Desert Challenge took place in November. The date ...
Five days of constant sandstorms -- all during the race days - most unpleasant - and now we've had five days of constant rain in Dubai! Weather-wise we always knew what to expect when the UAE Desert Challenge took place in November.
The date change for the new-look Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (ADDC) caught many out by surprise -- not least the Dakar teams who couldn't get their vehicles to the Emirates on time for the kick-off. This resulted in only 35 cars entering -- the majority being made up of local vehicles. This is a real turning point for the local rally scene as more and more cars start to comply with the FIA regulations.
For me this was a strange experience -- having to watch the race from the side-lines as Glen Reid and Paul Richards put the Castrol EDGE branded Saluki (as it how now become known) through its paces. Glen had always shown an interest in the buggy and when prior work commitments took precedence, I approached Glen with the idea that he compete in the Saluki with the very experienced Paul as his navigator.
Glen jumped at the chance and prior to the ADDC we managed to put in a couple of days of practice. The first day I was petrified as this was a new experience for me -- letting someone else drive the buggy and I must admit to wondering whether this was a good idea or not. Don't get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with Glens driving, it was just that I was sitting on the wrong side in my own car. The second day out I was much more relaxed and coached Glen with regards to crossing dune ranges in the 2WD buggy.
As the event unfolded, I watched the progress on the live tracking system and have to say that it was a harrowing experience. This was the first time to see the event from afar as opposed to sitting in the Saluki - I don't know which was more stressful!
James Thomas headed off to the Liwa bivouac to set up the base camp assisted by two of his friends Lee Ashley and Martin Double who flew in from the UK. Once the camp was set up they then teamed up with Rick Galman and Girish Kumar from Carwise, and ran the service.
Since the engine self-destructed during last years Challenge, Mark Adams from Tornado Systems had completely remapped the engine and complemented the service team. It is testament to Mark's work and the Castrol EDGE oil that the engine never missed a beat over the five days.
Craig McAteer also joined us from the UK for the 6th year running and drove the Honda Pilot 4x4 kindly provided by Trading Enterprises. Craig, as our media man, was responsible for all the photography and the daily updates, ably assisted by our web-master, Laurie Bridger. Laurie has been looking after our site for a number of years now and this was the first time he experienced a rally / raid. Dave Lowe shivered away in the UK and took care of the forum updates.
Gulf Agency Company (GAC) transported the gearbox to Sellholm Tuning in Sweden for a rebuild and brought it back again. Both Rick and Girish had the unenviable task of working late into the night to install it prior to the scrutineering. MBMix, Icon Precast and Serck Services also supported our entry into the ADDC.
With the 24 hour penalty we had incurred not completing Day 2 we had blown all our chances of a decent finish, so discussions were centred on achieving daily results in order to put Team Saluki on the map.
Glen and Paul put in a sterling effort on Day 3 -- starting in 20th position, they raced up the leader board and finished the days stage in 3rd position, 44 minutes behind X-Raids' BMW X3 driven by Guerlain Checherit and Tina Thorner.
Not satisfied with this result, they pushed harder on Day 4 and closed in on the BMW X3, finishing in 2nd position, a mere 12 minutes and 4 seconds behind them
On the final day, Glen and Paul had pulled a 4 minute lead on the BMW X3 by the time they had reached PC1.
I had driven down to the bivouac the night before and was waiting at PC2 which was the designated service point. To see the Saluki arrive first, not having to stop for service and roaring off into the distance was a real highlight. Oh, that and the fact that they now had a lead of 10 minutes 48 seconds was particularly satisfying!
The entire crew packed up the service vehicles and rushed off to the next viewing point on the main Hameem road and waited in anticipation to see the Saluki come through. This was the first time I had the dubious pleasure of standing in the desert waiting and not knowing what has happening -- if only we had internet!
The first car was spotted after an inordinate length of time... it wasn't the Saluki, but the now leading BMW X3. Glen and Paul were stuck in a nasty area which blew our chances for a stage win.
They finally arrived at PC3 in 8th position 48 minutes and 5 seconds behind the BMW X3. Soldiering on to the finish they maintained the 8th position for the day finishing exactly 48 minutes after the stage winning BMW X3. This resulted in a 10th overall finish at the podium and a class win.
So what happens after an event like this?
Guerlain Chicherit stated "Last week I was taking part in a World Cup competition in extreme skiing and this week I am winning a World Cup rally in the Middle East! All in the space of 10 days - from one extreme to the other!" Not one to be outdone, Paul has just departed for a 5 day break snowmobiling in Lapland and Glen will be RV'ing around the USA for 3 to 6 months.
And for the rest of us? Well, it's back to our day jobs....
Thanks to the team, sponsors and all our supporters - in the words of Big Chris (played by Vinnie Jones) from Guy Ritchie's 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' ... "It's been emotional"!
See you next year!