Team Saluki History - 2008 Back | History Index | Forward



D-Day -1 : Look out, Look out there's a Saluki about.

Yes folks, It's been a year since you last heard about the ups, downs and roll-overs of Team Saluki in last years Desert Challenge. Well the time has come again to keep you informed on how the team performs in this years, our eleventh UAE Desert Challenge which is the final round of the FIA World Cup for cross country rallies.

For those that don't know; We're competing in a two wheel drive, 3.5 Litre V6 VTEC Honda powered buggy built by Fast & Speed based in Holland.

Castrol EDGE, Serck Services, Gulf Agency Company (GAC) and Trading Enterprises (Honda) have made this years challenge possible for Team Saluki - Our grateful thanks go out to our sponsors.

The dogs loose

Yesterday was documentation where we sign on, pay the money to enter and in return we get some stickers and some equipment to install. You would have thought with the fast paced action of the challenge that this would have been a rather simple task. It seems fast paced doesn't apply when you add bureaucracy and administration. 4, yes 4 hours were wasted standing about waiting like someone at the deli-counter for your number to be called. Not a good start to the rally, lets hope this isn't a sign of things to come.

Pick a dirham, any dirham

Today we've been down to scrutineering where the Saluki got a clean bill of health from a safety and readiness basis. Our allocated slot of 2pm again turned into an administration fiasco yet again. Realistically we should have been in and out in about an hour, 2-1/2 hours later we finally get out ready to race.

Looks like Paul and his chauffeur Mark had better get used to having cameras in their face if the scrutineering is anything to go by.
No comment !

This year supporting Team Saluki we have a compact but focused crew.

James - Service Manager
Martin - Service
Rick - Spanner monkey
Leno - Spanner monkey
Tracie - Media Witch-(Whipping the TV crews into shape)
Craig - Technical communications
Keith - International updates

Oh yes - and there's a couple of guys along for the ride - Paul the co-pilot and Mark the driver who's job it is to chauffeur Paul about in the dunes for the next six days.

Also joining us this year we have Simon who is out to cover the team for a magazine and we also have two TV crews (Thomson Grass Valley and City7) who are out covering Team Saluki so our coverage this year should be exceptional.

It's the prologue tomorrow which is being held at a Motocross circuit which should be interesting. We're all looking forward to it.

 

October 26th - Back in Black

It's the day of the prologue which this year instead of some scrub land is taking place on the Jebel Ali Moto-Cross track.

Tight twisty turns and lots of bumps meant an interesting course - especially for something like the Saluki and it's slightly wider wheel base. Lots of people were having problems with a particular corner in-between a couple of the jumps and the Saluki was no exception. Finding themselves running wide, the guys opted to run over the mound that was causing them problem and decided to run through a section of the course they had already completed. Coming into the same corner the second time around it was straight through this time no problems. The rest of the run was completed without problems.

No comment !
This additional section of the course that the guys completed twice meant that they travelled further than anyone else in the prologue taking them to 36th place out of 37 cars. Not really a problem as tomorrow will be a cracking day as the guys have 35 other entrants to set their sights on to hunt down and pass. If ever there was a target - tomorrow's the day.

The sun has obviously been playing tricks with some of the supporting crew from the Challenge and especially a member of the forward sweep team - Streaky (for that is his name) has taken to protecting his skin with some novel attachments for his sunglasses. Elvis is alive and well and working in Dubai.


uh uh uh.

To keep the team motivated before we leave for the desert tomorrow morning we've tried a multitude of things with varying success but you should have seen the effort put in when we had some "rev-head" Australian visitors to the Kennel last night. They came bearing gifts in the manner of home made chocolate fudge. Absolutely divine it was. We had a second shipment dropped off this morning to keep us going - Many thanks Lynn and Brian.

No comment !

The team have just came back from the prologue, it's late at night here and it's an "Oh my God what time is it" start tomorrow morning. Wheels will be moving by 5:15 for some of us who have to pick up camera crews etc and off to the Emirates Palace Hotel for the ceremonial start.

We will of course keep you posted on our progress but I fear enthusiasm may drop because the fudge will be finished by then.

 

October 27th - It's Deja Vu all over again.

Well the "Oh my god" early morning was not as bad as expected with everyone up and about by 5am and on the road by 5:15. Last minute additions as always made it into the cars - some reheated coffee and a pile of scooby-snacks were considered essential to the upkeep of the teams enthusiasm.

A shortish drive to Abu Dhabi to the Emirates Palace Hotel where the ceremonial start was to take place. Leaving the start line almost last meant that the guys had targets to pick off during the day.

Getting waved over the start

It's obvious that we don't like Mondays - our plan to have people dispersed throughout the route failed at the first hurdle - a minor problem that we easily overcame and we were soon on our way to the correct locations throughout the route.

By the time the Saluki had made it to PC1 it was flying and the guys had been picking off their targets as they scythed their way through the competitors.


Heading towards PC1

However at PC1 the guys were to become bogged down in deep sand that was created by a couple of trucks that had came through the PC just prior to the Saluki's arrival. This cost approximately 10 minutes delay whilst they extracted themselves from their predicament.

Annoyingly just prior to their arrival at the next PC it seems that the engine thought that it would throw a spanner in the works and started misfiring. The guys got out and put their spanner monkey heads on - and diagnosed that one of the spark plugs wasn't quite right - the contacts had joined. A quick fettle with the plug - a start of the car and it's confirmed that alls well again. A short while later - a large puff of blue smoke in the cabin and sudden loss of power meant that the Saluki wasn't going anywhere fast. Calls went out to the team (who by now had congregated at two pre-scheduled locations as per our plan) and the Saluki arrived at the Service Area to be trailered back to the bivouvac for further investigation. Current thoughts are being discussed whilst the main spanner monkeys get their food as we believe it will be a late night.

Of course, once we find out what the root cause is we'll tell you. Until then - we're settling in to our portakabin accommodation which is the Saluki equivalent of the Emirates Palace hotel - certainly compared to last year when we all slept on the floor. Any resemblance the bunks have to a good war prison camp is purely coincidental (well that's what they tell us anyway).

You can follow the action as it happens on this link.

 

 

October 28th. The dogs been to the vets for an injection and it's not good news.

We don't know how to say this so we'll just say it as it is. The dog is dead.

Following on from yesterdays problem, the investigation last night by the spanner monkeys revealed that a piston had decided to melt which caused a catastrophic failure of the engine. The end result is that Team Saluki are out of the challenge for this year since we can't change the engine according to the rules of the FIA.

If you don't understand the workings of the internal combustion engine let Team Saluki explain faulty pistons to you and why they can dash your hopes in this years challenge. The piston goes up and there's a bang, the piston goes down again causing your wheels to go round. The centre piston in the picture below obviously didn't like doing this repetitive task which has caused the disintegration and breakdown of the normally smooth piston face. The result - one dead car.

To paraphrase Monty Python - This one is an ex-piston, it has gone to meet it's maker, it has parted this world.
Dead as a dodo

The mood last night in the camp was strange - we knew we couldn't continue - we knew a lot of effort had been put into this once a year event - what could we do. We didn't want to upsticks and leave the bivouvac so we've opted to remain in the desert and follow the race. Mark, now that his duties as a chauffeur have been curtailed has been asked to provide commentary on the race to the film crews who were following Team Saluki.

As mentioned briefly last night - the campsite compared to previous years is an oasis in the middle of the desert. We've got air-conditioning in our 4 to a room cabins as well as the comfort of our own dedicated shower and toilet block. All of this has kindly been supplied by Byrne. You can see in the background of the photo's the type of tents we were used to in previous years.

Camp Saluki

Even though we're down and out from the race it doesn't stop us assisting other competitors to remain in it. People know the Saluki and they know what it's capable of. With the high amount of dropouts today through high temperatures in the engine coolant or through oil temperatures getting too high we've been asked to provide both Water Wetter which has been supplied to us by Serck and Castrol EDGE oil to assist other competitors to remain in the race and cope with the high temperatures.

Paul, the co-driver, today assisted another competitor who's own co-pilot suffered a nasty accident yesterday. They wanted to complete a shakedown of the car following the rally route for today. Not long into the stage that cars engine blew up, providing a worse problem than the Saluki suffered yesterday - the car's dead and is still located in the desert. Anyone would think that Paul had a jinx when it comes to enginers! - We wonder if he'll be riding with anyone tomorrow ?

 

29th October : All Change

Remember the car that was still located in the desert last night after having blown it's engine, well there was a plan involving recovering a truck that was also stuck in the dunes and then using that to recover the car. Well best laid plans of mice and men and all that, things are not going obviously to plan. First thing this morning a couple of members of Team Saluki offered their assistance and went along with a bunch of other cars to extract the truck. It's evening in Camp Saluki and they're not back yet. We wonder if Paul has blown up another engine ?

Camp Saluki is definitely an oasis in the desert - we've got glass washbasins in our dedicated toilet/shower block and we've been sampling food fit for kings in the form of Pies by Pieman and steak by Kibson. Our stomachs are very grateful. For those of you who have visited Camp Saluki in the past won't recognise it. We know there will be doubters but a couple of pictures should put the non-believers in the wrong.

PiesOoohhh

Today we've been out and about getting the various camera crews that are out here testing that the new Infinity HD cameras are capable of surviving in the heat and dust that we've all got to suffer out here. We've been taking them out into the dunes to capture the action of two teams that we've adopted since we're out of the running. Team Icon and Team Bowler.

Team Bowler are out testing their Nemesis vehicle much like the camera crews are. It's been subjected to warm temperatures previously but not the extremes of the Rub al Khali. It's their first time with the Nemesis in the Middle East and they've brought two of them for testing.
Nemesis

Team Icon(Glen Reid/Hayden Walker) are running 2008 Nissan Patrol with a LS2 Corvette engine. Yesterday they had an incident resulting in front body damage which their team spent yesterday evening repairing. Today, they buried it into a sand mound resulting in the front of the vehicle obtaining another substantial impact.

Team Icon

You can of course follow these two teams in real time (Click Here) but remember the race starts early in the morning UAE time so depending on where you are you may already find the race finished for the day.

If we hear from Paul and James that they're stuck in the desert overnight having blown up another engine you can be sure we'll tell you tomorrow.

 

 

October 30th : If at first you don't succeed.

Following on from yesterdays communication it seems that Paul doesn't have a jinx after all. There were no blown engines when the Saluki guys returned to camp in the dark last night. There was at least progress on the recovery, however not all news is good news. They found the truck easy enough and with the use of sand ladders, had the truck out and moving in 10 minutes. Going cross country to locate the stuck car (remember - the one with the blown engine) they hooked the truck up and pulled. However, due to the dunes, it wasn't pulling straight. Instead it ended up pulling at 90 degrees. The result was that the tyres were pulled off their rims on the front of the car just before the recovery point snapped. Which is not a good thing to happen when you're trying to recover the car. The tyres were relatively simple to put back on, the recovery rope attached to the chassis and they easily extract the car this time.

However (and you knew there was a however coming didn't you), on a tricky section, the truck that's now pulling the car through the dunes went over a crest and ended up on two wheels, sliding down to the right it proceeded to pull one of their truck tyres off the rim. The truck is now at 45 degrees, a tyre is missing from its wheel and that means that the recovered car is also stuck. Can things get worse - of course they can - it's the desert. It seems that the bottle-jacks that truck carries aren't quite tall enough to reach the axles so we've got no possibility of changing the wheel. The recovery guys decide to call it a night and return in the morning with the required tools - and a bigger jack.

truck stuck

The other members of Team Saluki have been busy today following the race but also making sure that camera crews who are filming the team are getting to the right locations they need to be. They were filming in the camp yesterday evening and covered yours truly. I'll be the first to admit - I've got a face for radio and I hope that the footage ends up on the cutting room floor.

For the racing - both the Team Bowler and Icon cars have been running well and completed the course successfully although the support crew from Bowler provided assistance to Team Icons vehicle after the stage which had run out of fuel on the way back to the bivouac. It was soon on its way with a couple of gallons of go go juice.

Even in the evening Team Saluki seem to be busy even though we don't have a vehicle running now - We've been providing assistance in a couple of ways. Again other competitors have been seeking assistance about Castrol EDGE lubricants and we installed an in-car camera for a TV production for Team Bowler.
Nemesis

Icon

Provisional times for Team Bowler are Car 206 - 37h 47'50sec, Car 212 - 44h 33'28 sec and for Team Icon - 34h 12'03sec.

Tomorrows update will as always be late. We've got an early start to leave Liwa whilst the race heads back to Dubai. It's a late day so expect the next update covering the last day of the challenge to be winging your way on Saturday morning Dubai time.

 

October 31st Back to civilisation.

Update on the truck / car recovery that the Team Saluki guys have been assisting on. Both vehicles are now out of the desert successfully - it seems that having the correct jack that's required to change the wheel on your truck helps a lot when you're stuck. We've seen the truck on the road near the bivouac so we know the guys are not telling fibs.

The camera crews that have been following Team Saluki have been completing some in-desert editing of the footage they've been shooting. Who would happen to visit but our friend from the prologue - Elvis.

Uh uh uh

 

This morning, as it is every year, we pack everything up early and return to Dubai with the hope to catch up with the race cars on their way back cross country to the finish line. With our Honda support vehicles fully packed with equipment and video-camera guys (not including Elvis) we start a four car convoy from Liwa to Dubai via the start of SS6 where we just make it to see the first of the cars leave the start line.

It's there that we receive the bad news that the second of the Bowlers has had to retire from the race with Richard, the driver, injuring his back and awaiting the arrival of the medical team to check him out.

For us, it's back into the cars again and make our way on an even tighter schedule to beat the cars to the flying finish. We make it, but some of us almost didn't, a couple of the vehicles were about 18Km short of running out of fuel not having had time to stop to fill up with fuel en-route. Not something you want to do in the desert.

Upon arrival at the finish we see a cracking duel between one of the large Kamaz trucks who's blasting down the finish straight and one of our adopted race teams Team Icon. It seems the red mist had come down on Driver Glen and he wasn't going to be beaten to the finish by a truck - foot to the floor he got past the Kamaz and made a dramatic finish to the end.
Icon on the move

Team Bowler, now one car down made it successfully to the end of the race but their problems weren't over there. Richard and his co-driver Alex who had earlier retired from the race and been checked out by the medical staff were making their way to the ceremonial finish at the Dubai Marina when they got pulled over by the UAE police. They were arrested not far from the Marina for driving a rally car on the road and were taken to the local police station for processing. Not that quite a few other rally cars had probably passed that police officer that day had no bearing on the matter - perhaps he just wanted a closer look at the Nemesis. A couple of phone calls later and they were both released from the police station and arrived at the Marina with a police escort. They do know how to make an entrance.

Nemesis enroute to finish

The final results are in and Team Bowler - Drew Bowler and Simon Mumby crossed the finish line in 16th place.
16th place

Whilst Team Icon - Glen Reid and Hayden Walker finished in 13th place - with 4 hours and 11 minutes separating the three places between the teams.

Glenn and Hayden cross the finish

So folks, that's it for another year. The Team as a whole are frustrated that we were taken out of the challenge so early in the race but we've picked ourselves up, assisted other teams, provided guidance on sponsors products, and adopted two fellow teams for this years challenge. If anything it's reconfirmed how demanding the challenge is. The car may be dead for the time being but at least all our team members made it through unscathed.

In the next couple of days we'll get Mark to summarise his ponderings on this years Desert Challenge and we'll get a final update out to you.

As Elvis would say - "Thankyouverymuch".

 

November 4th : UAE Desert Challenge Round Up

Left or right

Sitting down for lunch on the Saturday after the final day with a very subdued Bowler team, Drew Bowler asked if it was always like this – the feeling of ‘flatness’. We had all just spent a hectic 5 days in the desert (not to mention the weeks of build up) and we were all left with what felt like a gaping chasm in our lives.

The fact that the buggy was out in the first day compounded the feeling for Team Saluki and all the members were showing their disappointment in various ways. This year was to have been a chance for the dogs to be able to show a clean set of paws as the works teams had decided not to enter the event. Only X-Raid’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah had showed up and stole the show with his superb driving skills.

Team Saluki had set their sights on a podium position and to this end the preparation was in full swing four weeks prior to the event.

Castrol EDGE, Serck Services, Trading Enterprises Honda and Gulf Agency Company where still committed to the Team by providing the sponsorship and the products that we needed to be able to compete in an event such as this.

We decided that this year we would set up and share the camp with Glen Reid from Team Icon and to this end we approached Byrne Rental who very kindly provided the three 32’ porta-cabins, our very own VIP shower block, generators and lighting systems. This allowed us to focus on the job in hand and to spend the week in the desert in comfort. Also invited were Ian & Sheila Barker of NewTrix Racing (an ex-team member) and the Bowler team from the UK. This way we would be able to share resources and extend the camaraderie amongst the small group.

In the past we have been fortunate to obtain TV coverage via the production company who films for the UAE Desert Challenge, however this is not always guaranteed. Therefore with the help of Tracie Mitchell from MediaFlo, we negotiated a package for the filming and editing of a Team Saluki documentary. Thomson Grass Valley was also approached and they provided three of their latest Infinity HD cameras (not yet released) plus an edit suite using Edius 5. Not only did they supply the kit, but they supplied three persons to maintain and operate their equipment. Their intention was to test the equipment in the desert under harsh conditions and also to make a mini documentary of their cameras for their own use.

We also signed an agreement with City7 TV, a Dubai based English language channel that produces a programme called ‘InGear’. The footage would also go out on the ‘Sports Round-Up’ programme.

This meant that we had a total of 5 camera crew of which we had to look after; Trading Enterprises Honda stepped in and provided two brand new Honda Pilots to ferry the crew over the long distances between the viewing points.

Tracie set up a media plan and shot list which would help the camera teams with locations, timings and what to expect during the course of the day.

On the printed media side, Simon Ward-Hastelow from Difflock.com flew in from the UK as did Bob Morrison to join the Team and write articles accordingly.

Craig McAteer once again volunteered to run the communications and updates and joined us from the UK for the fifth year running. It was his updates and excellent photographs that you have been receiving over the last few days.

The only person on the Team who did not join us in the desert was Keith Hopgood who remained in the UK and manned his PC. He received the updates from Craig and then proceeded to post the news on all the internet forums that he had registered with. Keith, in his supporting role, was up late in the evening responding to various comments that were made on the forums.

James Thomas and I had many discussions with regards to the running of the Team months prior to the event and he was always there to provide guidance and act as a sounding board. James went to the bivouac a day early with Martin Double (who had also flown out from the UK) to assist Byrne Rental with bivouac set up. James and Martin would then join up with Rick and Lino at the service point of Day 1 and from then on in, they would run the service each and every day.

On the vehicle side, the Chevrolet service truck was prepared with additional fuel tanks, compressors and a Honda generator. By the time it was finished, the truck was entirely self sufficient to support the buggy in an event of this magnitude.

 

Left or right

 

With regards to the buggy, the engine was rebuilt and topped up with Castrol EDGE 10W60 oil. The two gearboxes were also completely overhauled. The shocks were air-freighted to Milner Offroad in the UK for rebuilding courtesy of Gulf Agency Company. A new radiator and oil cooler were provided by Serck Services as was the WaterWetter. As far as we knew we were good to go and the Team approached the event in a very relaxed mode as we felt we were well prepared.

 

What we did not know was that the engine mapping did not suit the conditions – we had the same issue in the past and had put it down to overheating – and stopped beyond PC1 after making up 27 places. Examination of the engine back at the bivouac told us that it was running lean. We did discuss the fact of changing out the engine for the spare but

were advised by the organisers that this was not allowed. We subsequently found that as per the regulations, we could have done this but would have been awarded a 6 hour penalty. However, even if we had changed the engine, the problem would have occurred again, thereby destroying the second one.

The engine is out now and the new one is being installed as I type this. We have also spoken to Mark Adams of Tornado Systems in the UK who has offered to join us next week to remap the DTA ECU on a local dyno. This should then get rid of the problem as the Honda engine is normally supremely reliable.

In the grand scheme of things, our issues were minor – Tim Ansell, our previous co-driver, was airlifted out with serious back problems and I am pleased to say that after an operation, is walking about again, albeit gingerly and will have to wear a back brace for the next three months.

The rate of attrition this year was immense, with Day 2 presenting all sorts of problems due to the terrain and the heat. Very few cars got out unscathed this year.

Left or right

In closing, I would like to thank the Team members and all the folks who sent messages of encouragement and commiserations during the event itself. These were posted up on our notice board for everyone to read.

The final thanks go to our Sponsors who have stood by us through thick and thin. This is not an event one can approach lightly – it takes determination, hard work and above all, a will to succeed.

You can’t keep a good dog down!

Regards

Mark Powell



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