UAE Desert Challenge: Team Saluki stage five report

Day 5 - Dash to the finish. We're still here and we haven't been blown away by the strong winds that destroyed our camp yesterday. The whole Team Saluki crew certainly got their priorities correct yesterday evening - the car was serviced and...

Day 5 - Dash to the finish.

We're still here and we haven't been blown away by the strong winds that destroyed our camp yesterday. The whole Team Saluki crew certainly got their priorities correct yesterday evening - the car was serviced and the detached bodywork from yesterdays nose dive was re-attached in a temporary/permanent fashion. Once the car was ready to roll - we then set about re-establishing base camp Saluki and sorting our where we were going to sleep. Plan A was to restore one of the tents that had collapsed due to the yesterdays wind and plan B was to use of several of the now vacant tents of other competitors who had not stayed the distance and had dropped out of the challenge. We chose plan A and glad to say that the tent was still erect in the morning despite Mother Natures attempts.

We were joined in the camp last night by Mark Powell (Team Principal), Tracie and Matt who have driven down from Dubai. Now if you want to know anything about Tracie - she needs her morning coffee. So at the alloted time (7am) we're wheels rolling with the idea that we'd stop at the nearest petrol station - pick up the much needed cappuccino and then head up to Passage Control (PC) One. In the 25Km from our camp to the nearest road (there's only one road in/out), Tracie manages to get lost. Attempts via the phone to get her to head in the right direction using the sun as a marker failed and we later find out that she's about 30Km North of where she should be. She was not a happy bunny having to do without her much needed coffee fix - we're glad that Tracie's not navigating the Saluki.

Paul however is and the guys start the race today where they finished yesterday, in 2nd place. The weather is yet again marginal with the sand storms reducing visibility leaving even the locals to adopt some alternative styles of dress to reduce the effects of the sand.

Standing at PC1 we await the arrival of the 1st place car hoping that the vehicle would be shortly followed by the Saluki. We were astonished when out of the sand and dust came the very distinctive sound and shape of the Castrol EDGE buggy. The guys had overtaken the first placed BMW (driven by Guerlain Chicherit and Tina Thorner) and had pulled out a two minute lead in the first 53Km of the race arriving in first place at PC, one meaning it had made up four minutes in this time (two minute start intervals). 1st place at PC One - an outstanding start.

The charge continued and by the time the car had reached PC 2 we had pulled out an 11 minute lead on the now trailing BMW. Another section that we had come in 1st. The guys were certainly letting the dog stretch it's legs and seemed to be enjoying it's time in the dunes.

Between PC2 and PC3 was un-charted territory for the Challenge and the high winds and sand storms that we've had over the last couple of days had played havoc with the course and sadly the Saluki became bogged down in white soft sand in a bowl.

Mark who had joined us out on the course today rather than in the driving seat now experienced what the other team members experience whilst waiting out on the stage for the Castrol EDGE buggy to pass - long periods when the car is due, but doesn't appear. Firstly there were rumours of people checking online on the tracking system and seeing that the Saluki isn't moving - but we hadn't had a call from the team to say any problem they were having was terminal - which means that the guys were working on it. All we could do is wait for the dreaded call.

This did allow the group of Saluki supporters who were waiting just past PC3 to explore the delights of the desert and came across this little creature.

After working hard and deploying all the tactics of desert extraction the guys got themselves free but had lost approximately 48 minutes by the time they got to the next PC point. Bikers, quads and vehicles alike were all having serious problems with this section of the course.

They were so fast that even by the time the supporters had set off on the road and driven the 70 Km to the finish line - the guys had completed the stage and were parked up cooling off - a testament to the speed they were travelling. By the finish line they had lost no further time but had managed to lose the front wing section the crew had so carefully reconstructed yesterday evening.

We finished the race in 10th place and also won First in Class for the two wheel drive category - an excellent result given the problems we experienced. We might just have to compromise on getting the guys an ice-cream maker installed but they're certainly not getting a PA system for the ice-cream van music.

We do hope you've enjoyed following the exploits of Team Saluki during their participation of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. We'll get Mark / Glen / Paul to pull together a final summary note in the next couple of days when we've got time to reflect.

Regards Team Saluki

-credit: ts

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About this article
Series Cross-Country Rally
Drivers Tina Thorner , Guerlain Chicherit , Mark Powell