UAE Desert Challenge Round Up
Left or right...
Sitting down for lunch on the Saturday after the final day with a very subdued Bowler team, Drew Bowler asked if it was always like this -- the feeling of 'flatness'. We had all just spent a hectic 5 days in the desert (not to mention the weeks of build up) and we were all left with what felt like a gaping chasm in our lives.
The fact that the buggy was out in the first day compounded the feeling for Team Saluki and all the members were showing their disappointment in various ways. This year was to have been a chance for the dogs to be able to show a clean set of paws as the works teams had decided not to enter the event. Only X-Raid's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah had showed up and stole the show with his superb driving skills.
Team Saluki had set their sights on a podium position and to this end the preparation was in full swing four weeks prior to the event.
Castrol EDGE, Serck Services, Trading Enterprises Honda and Gulf Agency Company where still committed to the Team by providing the sponsorship and the products that we needed to be able to compete in an event such as this.
We decided that this year we would set up and share the camp with Glen Reid from Team Icon and to this end we approached Byrne Rental who very kindly provided the three 32' porta-cabins, our very own VIP shower block, generators and lighting systems. This allowed us to focus on the job in hand and to spend the week in the desert in comfort. Also invited were Ian & Sheila Barker of NewTrix Racing (an ex-team member) and the Bowler team from the UK. This way we would be able to share resources and extend the camaraderie amongst the small group.
In the past we have been fortunate to obtain TV coverage via the production company who films for the UAE Desert Challenge, however this is not always guaranteed. Therefore with the help of Tracie Mitchell from MediaFlo, we negotiated a package for the filming and editing of a Team Saluki documentary. Thomson Grass Valley was also approached and they provided three of their latest Infinity HD cameras (not yet released) plus an edit suite using Edius 5. Not only did they supply the kit, but they supplied three persons to maintain and operate their equipment. Their intention was to test the equipment in the desert under harsh conditions and also to make a mini documentary of their cameras for their own use.
We also signed an agreement with City7 TV, a Dubai based English language channel that produces a programme called 'InGear'. The footage would also go out on the 'Sports Round-Up' programme.
This meant that we had a total of 5 camera crew of which we had to look after; Trading Enterprises Honda stepped in and provided two brand new Honda Pilots to ferry the crew over the long distances between the viewing points.
Tracie set up a media plan and shot list which would help the camera teams with locations, timings and what to expect during the course of the day.
On the printed media side, Simon Ward-Hastelow from Difflock.com flew in from the UK as did Bob Morrison to join the Team and write articles accordingly.
Craig McAteer once again volunteered to run the communications and updates and joined us from the UK for the fifth year running. It was his updates and excellent photographs that you have been receiving over the last few days.
The only person on the Team who did not join us in the desert was Keith Hopgood who remained in the UK and manned his PC. He received the updates from Craig and then proceeded to post the news on all the internet forums that he had registered with. Keith, in his supporting role, was up late in the evening responding to various comments that were made on the forums.
James Thomas and I had many discussions with regards to the running of the Team months prior to the event and he was always there to provide guidance and act as a sounding board. James went to the bivouac a day early with Martin Double (who had also flown out from the UK) to assist Byrne Rental with bivouac set up. James and Martin would then join up with Rick and Lino at the service point of Day 1 and from then on in, they would run the service each and every day.
On the vehicle side, the Chevrolet service truck was prepared with additional fuel tanks, compressors and a Honda generator. By the time it was finished, the truck was entirely self sufficient to support the buggy in an event of this magnitude.
With regards to the buggy, the engine was rebuilt and topped up with Castrol EDGE 10W60 oil. The two gearboxes were also completely overhauled. The shocks were air-freighted to Milner Offroad in the UK for rebuilding courtesy of Gulf Agency Company. A new radiator and oil cooler were provided by Serck Services as was the WaterWetter. As far as we knew we were good to go and the Team approached the event in a very relaxed mode as we felt we were well prepared.
What we did not know was that the engine mapping did not suit the conditions -- we had the same issue in the past and had put it down to overheating -- and stopped beyond PC1 after making up 27 places. Examination of the engine back at the bivouac told us that it was running lean. We did discuss the fact of changing out the engine for the spare but were advised by the organisers that this was not allowed. We subsequently found that as per the regulations, we could have done this but would have been awarded a 6 hour penalty. However, even if we had changed the engine, the problem would have occurred again, thereby destroying the second one.
The engine is out now and the new one is being installed as I type this. We have also spoken to Mark Adams of Tornado Systems in the UK who has offered to join us next week to remap the DTA ECU on a local dyno. This should then get rid of the problem as the Honda engine is normally supremely reliable.
In the grand scheme of things, our issues were minor -- Tim Ansell, our previous co-driver, was airlifted out with serious back problems and I am pleased to say that after an operation, is walking about again, albeit gingerly and will have to wear a back brace for the next three months.
The rate of attrition this year was immense, with Day 2 presenting all sorts of problems due to the terrain and the heat. Very few cars got out unscathed this year.
In closing, I would like to thank the Team members and all the folks who sent messages of encouragement and commiserations during the event itself. These were posted up on our notice board for everyone to read.
The final thanks go to our Sponsors who have stood by us through thick and thin. This is not an event one can approach lightly -- it takes determination, hard work and above all, a will to succeed.
You can't keep a good dog down!
Mark Powell Team Saluki