Team Saluki History - 2002 Back | History Index | Forward

Champions Rally - 23-24th May

Words by Dave Pryce....

Just under 5 weeks after the conclusion of the Federation Rally and Team Saluki were once again preparing to enter the fray. To be fair, preparation in some way or another is always being done but it just gets somewhat more frenetic as the actual event draws near and all those small, unfinished jobs begin clamouring for attention.

The major job of preparing the car was all but complete and the Land Rover was basically fit to race (or so the team thought), the new front axle was fitted, the damage to the right rear quarter of the vehicle had been repaired and by the weekend of 16/17 May Mark and Dave were ready to begin route practice. The actual route books had only been given out a couple of days before that so this was the first opportunity for the Saluki’s to view the terrain.

Setting off in Mark’s Prado, they soon reached the rally site in Umm Al Quwain and drove straight to the Emirates Racing Club ground to establish Parc Ferme position and to make sure that the main sponsors would be allowed to display the Power Horse banners at this location. A brief stop at the Bin Majid Resort to make sure that all 15 rooms were booked (supporters from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and even Nepal were due for the weekend) and then it was straight on to rally route to begin familiarisation.

Instantly it was abundantly clear that this event was going to be the fastest yet with long, low straights and tight, flat corners. Two of the routes were run on coastal plains and both of these had beach sections while a third was inland and largely loose sandy tracks with minimal dune work. These three routes were each to be run twice to make up the first six stages; the seventh and final stage started off following a pylon track for three kilometres before leading the cars through flat but roughish sabkha areas which appear to be used as the local rubbish tip, such was the level of garbage strewn carelessly about. At least the first part was interesting as it resembled something like a roller coaster with plenty of opportunity to get airborne every two to three hundred metres and therefore ample opportunity for error!

On the second stage practice run Mark decided to hang right of the track in the sabkha in an effort to avoid some very nasty bumps……. Oops!!!…. It seemed like a good idea at the time but within seconds the quicksand effect had taken hold and the Prado was stuck fast and deep. Luckily for Dave and Mark a passing car stopped and 7 or 8 UAE Nationals alighted to offer assistance, gratefully accepted. Using a seriously inadequate tow rope and lots of human grunt at the front, the Prado was soon free and the pair set off once again.

Later that evening at a party given to celebrate Gayle’s birthday, Dave had the opportunity to talk at length to John Spiller who is Mohammed Bin Sulayem’s co-driver and therefore a man with considerable experience. It was here that Dave was to learn an interesting fact; the route notes as given were purely designed to get you onto the track and around it and thereafter you were supposed to totally rewrite the notes and not refer back to the original book! For the last 10 years Mark and Dave had been using Tulip type diagram notes (mostly for the Desert Challenge) and really hadn’t been involved in these faster paced events until this year. This was all new territory which Dave was certain would take some time to learn about and now was not really the time, so the decision was made to run with the existing route books. However, so fast was the track that a lot more information was required to be pencilled in, so that every hazard, bump and bend was marked. The following day (Friday) saw Team Saluki back on the route again but in the Land Rover this time and beginning to step up the pace a little. Notes were written and rewritten, corners taken again and again, distances checked and then the entire route was done again. The speed was awesome in some cases and not a little nerve wracking for Dave who had the responsibility to make sure that Mark knew exactly where he was heading next and what hazards to expect.

Supported throughout the day by Ian and Streaky, the team continued to practice despite a disconcerting knocking noise coming from the front end somewhere. The sound was sufficiently disturbing to warrant a check of the suspension system but nothing amiss was found. By the end of the day everyone was quite exhausted and the vehicles headed for home, a quick shower and then a longer drive for Dave back to Abu Dhabi.

Scrutineering took place on Wednesday evening (22nd) but there was a problem starting the car due to what turned out to be a HT lead shorting on the rocker cover. Thankfully, the rally organisers allowed the team the luxury of last minute scrutineering at the Parc Ferme the next day as they couldn’t get to the garage in time on this occasion.

The next morning Mark and Dave set off again for Umm Al Quwain to get in a few last minute practice laps before the start. Stage one was run three times again and then stage two was taken in stride but the knocking noise heard the day before was persistent, the car was pulled over to hard standing and Mark asked Streaky to get his Al-Tayer team of mechanics under the car to pinpoint the noise. After some 15 minutes of prodding, poking and peering Streaky emerged with the shattering news that the left engine mount was smashed and that two of the mounting bolts had sheared as well. As this was a captive mount there was no possibility of a quick fix, the engine would have to come out and a new mounting would need to be fabricated. This time at least, the Saluki’s were out of the running.

Disappointed, hopes ragged, Mark was nonetheless pleased to have detected the problem at this early point in time before some serious damage was done to the car. The Desert Challenge was looming large on the horizon and they both had that goal firmly in their targets.

Racing aside, there was plenty to do for the rest of the weekend including assisting the Power Horse reps to get everything set up, organise the hotel, meet guests and prepare for the evening. This also gave the pair an opportunity to get out on the circuit and see some of the action from the other side, something they haven’t been able to do for a long time. The day was still exciting although it was inevitable that thoughts would keep returning to “in-car” reflections.

The day’s racing over, it was time to head back to the hotel and party on until the next time! A BBQ was prepared and the food was generously supplied for the team and supporters by Angliss Dubai and Al Seer Trading Agencies.

The Champions Rally - 4 hours and 29 minutes (Target Time) comprising 7 special stages linked with road stages to a total of 203.05 kilometres. Team Saluki did not start.

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