Team Saluki History - 2002 Back | History Index | Forward

Federation Rally - 18th April

Words by Dave Pryce....

No sooner was the sand and sweat of the 1000 Dunes washed away than the Federation Rally was upon the team. What happened to three weeks?

This time at least Mark and Dave had a chance to practice the event fully and were instantly not happy with the circuits. It was not as if there was a problem with the circuit, but more to do with the fact that it really wasn’t the sort of terrain the pair like to race on - they much preferred the long and deep sand sections in the real desert to this loose shale and gravel and tortuous tracks; clearly this was designed as a saloon car event.

Personal preferences aside, Team Saluki set about going over the routes time and time again, attempting to identify all the trouble spots and make sure that the navigation was as good as was possible. Once more Ian Barker came out to assist and the team were then joined by Tim Ansell in his Range Rover (you know, the one where all the bits fall off!). Towards the end of the day Dave Mabbs one of the other competitors, also turned up to practice, without his diminutive co-driver Jane, but had to go home with his tail between his legs after rolling his wife’s Range Rover! He must have been trying to keep up with the Saluki’s!

Arriving early at the rally start point, Mark and Dave parked the car and had a quick look around the location. The Hatta Fort Hotel nestled surreally in the Hajjar Mountains like a shining emerald cupped lovingly in a calloused hand and it was from here that the competitors would set off for the day’s racing and return to in the evening, after the fun and excitement had abated.

Joel and Nelson (from Power Horse Energy Drink) arrived and started to set up all the banners, sampling points and their giant balloon in the shape of a can. The support crew all turned up on time. This included John, George and Lito in the Al Tayer Land Rover pick-up as well as Streaky and Ian Barker in their own cars. Bearing the number 18, the Rally Defender rolled into Parc Ferme and everyone awaited the event to begin. The final briefing was given (it was emphasised that rules would be STRICTLY enforced, i.e. ALL competitors MUST pass between the PC boards!), motors were revved up and by 13:00 hours everyone departed for the first stage start some 15 kms distant.

The entire rally was to be run in the triangle - the corners being defined by the Hatta Fort Hotel and the Madam and Dhaid roundabouts. It comprised of 3 legs each run twice for a total of six special stages with a service break halfway through the day. At 14:00 hours the lead cars were off on the first 22.2 kms Al Roudha stage (SS1), Team Saluki rolling up to the start a short while later and then, snarling and spraying shale and dust, hearts thumping, they were off.

The pace was frantic, the day was hot, nerves dissipated but apprehension was high. Despite not much liking the terrain, the drivers were feeling greater confidence in themselves and the 110, although it was ever present in their minds that the need of the day was to get to the finish in one piece, show the sponsors what they can do, what they are capable of and, above all, to present Team Saluki as a professionally run amateur team.

Skittering round corners, flying over small (and some not so small) bumps, raising clouds of dust as they swept through bends, the pair sped on, hazards flashing by and Dave breathing a sigh of relief with each point of danger behind them. Well over halfway through the first stage, 200 metres 90 right into wadi, 300 sweeping right, 150 90 deg left out of wadi into sand, 100 left fork, 250 another 90 left, pause for respite (for Dave!) as they hit a 4 km section with no notes but adrenalin running high as they top 160 kph on a rough and uneven gravel track then bring the speed down rapidly, 80 deg right, 300 metres and 90 left (go wide), end of track turn 90 right (rough!) and through the flying finish in just over 12 minutes. The average speed for that stage coming in at 111 kph, fast enough considering all the twists and turns.

No time to stop, saw the crew and raced past them heading to the start of the next stage (Al Gharif - SS2) some 7 kms distant. Just time for a short break there before the start, bonnet open, quick once over, nothing leaking, fluids OK, wheel nuts tight, nothing dangling off anywhere, slurp of cool water and into start control. This stage was only 14.05 kilometres long; the layout looked like the outline of a bird, wings spread, then a long stretch to parallel the main road before turning away from that road for a long u-shaped section to the finish. An excellent stage for spectators, especially the first 6 kms with it’s many twists and turns and the billowing dust clouds ripped up by each driver. Team Saluki hammering through the turns, 1st rough U to the left coming up, tight chicane left and right, 50 left in 200, 300 right in 200 metres and ever onwards, round a pump house, all the way round in a tight 180 deg turn to the left, dust swirling into the cockpit, instruments difficult to read, next turn to the right 330 deg and then a 2 km straight in which to build up even more speed. Bleed the speed, 110 deg right into the long U, out and back, final 1.8 kms flat out and flashing through the flying finish again with a stage speed average of 91 kph.

Pick up the other team members and drive 18.3 kms to the 21.2 k long Al Shabhana stage (SS3). Once more a brief pause, quick check, more water and then roll into SS3 time control. Trip zeroed, GPS set, time card stowed, check the harness, counting down….60 seconds…..30 seconds…..20 seconds….10….5..4..3..2..1.. and bolting forward like a wild Mustang escaping peril. Notes and hazards passing in a blur, through snake pass where Dave Mabbs destroyed his wife's car, double caution at the wadi, rough turn to the left onto gravel, sweeping left after tree, numerous hazards and warnings on this leg, some of them car wreckers for sure, the stage passing in front of Dave’s eyes in a kaleidoscope of images of PC’s, notes, instruments, GPS, trips, perils, sweat and dust. Thundering through to the end, final 1000 metres loose and rough, rear end sliding out two or three times, slight over steer, finish flags in sight and then the first half was over. Quick stop to collect all crew members and then off to the service area for a break and regrouping.

By now Team Saluki were joined by various supporters including Ian’s wife Sheila (with Montgomery, Team Saluki's mascot), Mark’s wife Gayle, Ian and Maxine Cooper (Maxi and Mini) and everyone was gulping Power Horse and talking. A few minutes later and the national radio station, Radio 2, called for an interview, which Mark handled for the next twelve minutes or so with his usual aplomb. All too soon new time cards were issued and the pair were off again to repeat the same stages but in reverse order. Coming into the finish of SS4 the back end once again broke free and, with a little too much over steer, the Land Rover hurtled through the flying finish sideways spitting clouds of sand and stones, shocking the finish officials into instant flight, careened past them and side swiped a fence conveniently placed, just as well since it slewed the team back on course and straight into time control! Stylish finish!

SS5 done and dusted (how apt, the dust was incredible) and on to the final stage back near the Hatta Fort Hotel. In some way Dave’s apprehension was worse than before, so near to the end, so much room for error from either of them, just want to finish this one and it’s all over. Roar away from the start, revs in the 5000 band, skidding through corners, juddering over tracks, the end rapidly drawing near, concentration high, car speeding on, final turn coming up, 90 right and very rough by now, past the flag and the team were done again, still upright, grinning with pleasure, the relief flooding through Dave at the task jointly completed.

Back at the hotel the results were posted. Out of a record 23 entrants only 10 completed the event. Some competitors, like Chris Cargill in his Mitsubishi Pajero, retired with mechanical failures but many were victims of their own failure to obey the rules, so rigidly did the officials enforce them (marking a pleasant change). Team Saluki came home 7th again, dented, dusty, weary but on a high! Our thanks to Streaky and Ian Barker of Al Thika Packaging for their unstinting support and organisation as on the previous occasion also.

The Federation Rally - 5 ½ hours comprising 6 special stages linked with road stages to a total of 248.8 kilometres and a final special stage time of 1 hour and 10 minutes for Team Saluki, just 3 minutes and three seconds away from the top three with an average speed of 98.5 kph!


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