Geolanders Claw Their Way To Victory.
You may remember last year's effort, where 15 minutes into the race we rolled the Patrol and that was that. End of Game...
This year it was a whole different story. Imagine this for a minute...One lap is 85 kilometre and 4 laps equals the race distance. The track is constantly changing; a mix of sand, clay, mud, dust, gravel and grass.
This year the event was what I would describe as a Drivers Circuit. A few months ago we had the rains and the big flood in Victoria and Sea Lake was no exception. Local Club Members had said the damage to the track was massive. In a couple of places they had put 100 tonnes of soil back into the channels that nature had eroded.
During Reconnaissance we saw the track to be peppered with hard edged ruts, wash outs and what I would describe as ‘gotcha's', which could bring you undone really easily. Race Day was going to be the day of Drivers, a day for the thinkers amongst us, where finishing was about conserving the vehicle and not being the fastest on Lap 1
Last year we qualified 56th out of 67 entrants and this year we went much better, 43 out of 68 entrants. Overall we were 8 seconds over 8km faster than last year and 20 seconds faster than our closest competitor in our Class.
We beat the other guys off the line and started to work into a rhythm for the day. We knew the track was rough as and that it would get worse during the day. The strategy being to work hard at making a margin just in case we had an issue along the way and build some insurance to enable us to control the race, rather than go flat out and break the truck.
Lap 1 was littered with vehicles getting bogged in the mud and we just drove through. The MT001's hauling ass across the mud like there was no tomorrow. The torque in the engine supplying the tractive force to keep us rolling in the right direction.
A few of the Buggies got past, and to be honest I wasn't really worried about them. Not in our Class and I thought, will we see you at the end of the day.
As expected we started to see the rough track play into our hands. Vehicles were broken everywhere.
In the second half of Lap 1 we were stuck in the dust of a Buggy and couldn't see where we were. I saw the number of the Buggy over the dust and estimated the corner...Lucky that...we dropped about 4 ft down into a hole and went round the corner, crazy we dropped into this hole and bounced out the other side 100% on track. If we had of hit the side of the embankment we could have been spat into the air...Next stop casualty...
I really love Sea Lake, the last 15kms of the track is wide open throttle, we saw 190kmh on the Speedo. The tyre gripping madly and the engine wide open. Driving along a dirt track at that speed certainly gets your attention.
Lap 2 was better, we had more clean air. The plan now, to use the clean air to keep building the margin. In life funny things happen, last year the guys that were involved with our rollover caught up to us in the exact same place we had the roll the year before...Who said something about history...
We let them through and continued working our way around the track. As we worked our way around the track we gained some more ground on the harder ground and began to close in.
As we approached a tight right hander, we were dusted in by the Buggy in front. With no vision we hit a rut and punched a tyre off the rim as we hit the rut. The impact was so hard the Drag Link was bent and the Patrol was thrown into the air. Landing on 2 wheels, I steered into the roll and saved the Patrol from falling over...Not 2 years in a row... NO WAY!!!!
Safely back on four wheels I could feel the steering was stuffed and the tyre was flat in the front. Here's where the margin was going to come in handy.
5 and a half minutes later a new tyre was on the truck and we were back in the ball game.
Have you ever tried to slide a 2.2 tonne truck with a steering wheel that is 90 degrees out of alignment?
So you get the picture...
For the last 2 laps we substituted in another Navigator, Chris and it was time to have some fun.
As we were getting around one of the flowing corners of the track, approximately two thirds of the way around the lap, I handed my glasses to Chris and asked him to give them a wipe. He grabbed the rag and started to clean the dust off my specs, at which stage I asked him for some directions and to help me see the corners... "How long, left or right now mate?"... I think you get the idea.
He was freaking out...
The rest of the race was more about managing the truck and getting home at the best possible pace, given the track was chopping up.