Armin Schwarz newsletter 2007-08-15

Dust: Zero viz and high tension Dust: It's so much more than just the annoying stuff that coats our model cars. In desert racing dust very often means zero visibility and it always means that you've got to be very, very careful. To dive into a...

Dust: Zero viz and high tension

Dust: It's so much more than just the annoying stuff that coats our model cars. In desert racing dust very often means zero visibility and it always means that you've got to be very, very careful. To dive into a dust trail behind a competitor at 100 mph and have faith that there isn‘t something nasty hidden in it - that's absolutely not for people with weak nerves.

Dust can be very deep, and everyone's been horribly stuck in it at some stage or another. Digging a car out of deep dust is hard work. And its not for chickens. Because as you dig your heart out, your competitors zoom by at full throttle. And there's for sure one who can't see you.

Dust can be like thick, thick fog. It's just that the colours can be more interesting. It actually depends on the stone that was ground down over thousands of years into a fine powder: it can be brown, red, yellow, gray or black. And when it gets really bad the visibility, even inside our cockpit, can become so poor that the navigator is hardly able to see his GPS monitor on the dashboard. And you should really think twice before stopping for orientation: the car may sink in, or maybe there's a swift competitor right behind you.

For our engine the dust is no problem. The air filter has the format of a truck filter. It is mounted in a very high point on our buggy - just in case we have to cross deep water. Because if you mix dust with water it turns into a kind of concrete and this can have very bad consequences for the airflow to the engine.

But I think compared to the service crews along the pit areas we drivers enjoy an easy life when it comes to dust. We approach our pit slowly and carefully in order not to fill our car with the powder under braking. But all other competitors, literally hundreds, just thunder by and fill the air with the suffocating stuff as they try to reach their crews as quickly as possible.

The drivers themselves have found ways to avoid eating too much dust. My Stand 21 helmet is dust proof, and I get clean air into it from a small compressor. There's a slight overpressure in the helmet. It's not to fill my lungs with turbo boost but simply to keep the dust out. On the inside of the cockpit there are air tight bags with wet wipes. If the visor of my helmet gets too dirty I tear up one of these bags and clean it. I can use one wipe a few times and keep it between the seat and my thigh.

By the way: this desert dust is a nuisance even on the eastern side of the Atlantic. My wife Petra is always worried that our washing machine might choke and die when she tries to get my overalls clean ...

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    Armin Schwarz

-credit: armin-schwarz.com

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About this article
Series Offroad , Score
Drivers Armin Schwarz