Team Saluki History - 2004 Back | History Index | Forward

2004 Federation Rally - 14th-15th April

The Federation Rally is held in the Emirate of Sharjah. There were 30 eligible starters for this event, and as the Oman Rally was to take place the next week, we were up against a few WRC cars! The Federation Rally is a combined car / 4x4 rally which does not have 'groups' - so the fastest cars have every chance of taking the prize money!

A prologue was held on the Sharjah Corniche which determined the start position for the following day. This certainly took it's toll as two of the contenders for the crown rolled their cars on the third bend! We finished at a sedate pace and ended up 18th.

There were a total of three stages on the actual day of the rally, each run twice. The total distance of the event was 299.15 km, of which 88.6 were 'special stages'.

22 vehicles completed the rally, which meant that 8 where went out for various reasons. More of a drag race really, than a rally!

Team Saluki finished in 10th position with a total time of 0:56:16 hrs.

By Tim Ansell

The Sharjah government’s decision to give backing to the Federation Rally meant that there was additional prize money at stake, and with the Oman International Rally being held the following week, we found ourselves up against a large number of WRC prepared saloon cars in this event. During practice the previous weekend it was clear that the 3 stages, each of which were driven twice, would favour the saloon cars, as they included some very long fast straights and very little challenging terrain. Since our Defender 110 is built for endurance in the desert, rather than sprints along graded tracks, we went into the race thinking that a top 10 finish would be a creditable achievement given the nature of the event.

The floodlit prologue was in Sharjah, and there was a crowd of close to 1000 people on hand to watch the racing. They were certainly entertained, when the second competitor rolled his Chevrolet Tahoe over twice, just 30 seconds into the stage, closely followed by local favourite Khalid Al Qassimi who made the same mistake in the same spot just a few minutes later. Fortunately no-one was seriously hurt in either accident. We took it fairly easy after watching the damaged cars being towed past us, and finished 18th of the 30 starters.

We didn’t get off to a good start the following day, with the car feeling very ‘twitchy” as we raced around a quarry on firm but gravel strewn roads. Prior to stage 2 we checked the tyre pressures, expecting to find them a little too low, but in fact we found the long drive from the official start had warmed them to the point where they were 3 or 4 psi over pressure. Dropping them down meant we had much more control for the rest of the rally!

Stage 2 was basically two sprints connected by a chicane cut through the side of a hill. As a co-driver they were almost “non-events” as there was very little I could tell Mark other than “put your foot down”. When we ran it again as stage 4 though, things livened up a bit. We were told that a Pajero (Shogun), which had stopped on the stage the first time round, still hadn’t been removed from the route. The exact location was given incorrectly though, so it came as quite a surprise to us to come across it on the trickiest part of the stage and we almost hurtled into it coming around a blind bend. At least one other competitor was forced to take drastic avoiding action, leading him to do a neat pirouette on the loose gravel surface and come to a halt just inches from a rock wall. Needless to say ‘words were exchanged’ with both the organisers and the owners of the vehicle at the end of the event!!

Stage 3 was going well until, incredibly, we once again had to slow down because a camel had decided to lie down in the centre of the track. We’d suffered exactly the same fate last month in the Spring Desert Rally, and we’re beginning to wonder if one of our competitors is bringing the same one to each race and has trained it to get in our way! Then a dust storm caught us on the same stage, and with visibility almost zero, we were forced to slow down to crawling pace a couple of times until we could see the track ahead more clearly.

Stage 5 passed uneventfully – obviously “our” camel had wandered off this time, and we ran it practically flat out all the way. Finally back to the quarry section, which felt much safer on the lower tyre pressures, but just seconds from the end of this final stage one of our own supporters, keen to get a good action shot, nearly became a bonnet ornament when he stood in the middle of the track on the entry to a right hand hairpin. We managed to avoid hitting him but it screwed up our entry to the bend, and I can tell you we were less than amused. That was to cost him a few pints later……

As it happened we did finish 10th, with 4 saloon cars and 5 4x4s ahead of us, including two Landies, so we’ve still got some improving to do. But the car was running very well and we suffered no damage or mechanical failures, so with no unscheduled bills to pay, we’re looking forward to the Champion’s Rally to be held mid May, before we break for the summer.

Photographs courtesy of Henk Bos...


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