Robb Pritchard, Offroad correspondent
Seeing monster 4x4s race in places it's hard to even walk is impressive enough, but last night the campsite was busy with another type of race. Sparks flew, welders flashed and hammers were wielded as teams worked through the night to fix their cars. Yorkshire guys Karl Frost and David Needham were helping their Norwegian friends to repair their winch (I've never seen a Gigglepin beaten with hammers before)
You might not want to stand just there.
Most impressive though was Peter Whitman's crew who as I came in were poised around the engine bay with fire extinguishers at the ready. “You might not want to stand just there,” Whitman suggested. Their engine problems had been traced to something in the fuel and they'd stripped the head off the big LS engine to expose the injectors to be able to check the flow. Running ahead with the winch rope is one thing but listening to the three guys all suggesting ideas and recalling relevant past experiences to get to the root of the problem was tea work at its best.
And team work was what Sunday's Trophy day was all about. Crews were divided into teams of 4 according to the leaderboard and sent into a muddy pool at the bottom of an abandoned quarry. They had to winch each other down the sheer bank and then two cars raced around the side while the others waded through the water and got winched back up the other side. It was more a display for the spectators than anything else but all the teams did themselves proud so there wasn't any mishaps to applaud, just a group of men (and one woman) making what looks like the impossible possible.
But the fun and games ended abruptly at dusk as everyone gathered for the night stage briefing. If extreme off-roading is hard in the full light of day the darkness adds yet another element to test the teams. Over breakfast this morning I spoke to a few of the teams.
“It was hard to find the way,” Germany's Jurgen Meier said. “And we had a few little problems with bolts and things... but actually, it's a bit early in the morning to be asking questions!” he smiled.
A little more active was Whitman who was bashing his wheel rim with a large hammer. “We started 16th and came in 10th so we did OK,” he said. “But with all the lights we have it's no different than driving in the day, actually.” his co-driver Adrian Turner said, “But at night you can't see all the little whippy branches and they keep catching me in exactly the same place on my lip!”
With the back of their car in pieces it looked like Stefan Mallia and Alistair Caruna from Malta were in the middle of some major repair work, but actually changing the brake disks was just routine service. “At night the co-driver has to pay a lot more attention to the route,” Mallia explained. “But the off-road wasn't that hard. Moderate, I would say.”
And busy with little details like drilling the right diameter holes in the dodgy thermostat was Jim Marsden. “With all the stop and starting I didn't drive so well in the Trophy day,” he said, “The collective times from the group sections and then the individual stage get added together to give your start position for the night stage so we only started 7th... and then we got lost at just the second junction. But but the time we got to the big mud hole we were first on the road which we were pleasantly surprised with. From there we pushed on really hard and I think we won the stage... but we're not too sure yet.”
As I mentioned before there are not up to date results here, but the relaxed atmosphere is actually part of the appeal of the event. Two days ago Jim Marsden was leading and I would say that after the night stage he has increased his advantage. The important thing is that everyone is enjoying themselves, laughter rings out over the breakfast tables, the coffee is unlimited and the sun is shining.
Later today is another hard roadbook stage and I hope to get a better idea of the overall positions.