Episode 1 - A brief report from the first, non-championship, event.
It was wet.
The site was a tank proving ground near Farnham, it was obviously tough on tanks as Gary came back with a piece of broken tank track! Encouraging.
The course was 3.5 miles of sand, mud, water, trees. I hit quite a lot of trees. There were large wide sand tracks with very big ponds in which turned to quick sand with all the cars churning them up. Generally these were taken at speed but some of the undulations could launch the car with a bit of a tilt. Then there were the forest sections which varied from hair pin / axle twister type stuff taken in first gear to rally car style sections taken with reasonable gusto.
First run. The mud was sufficient to completely block my vision to the right and I was relying on my new navigator (Gary) to call the corners, as we were both learning on this event, some trees were encountered. About 2.5 miles in the front right tyre got knocked off the rim on a submerged rock on a fast corner but the Amazon tyre stayed on the wheel despite being driven flat out. We came in with a time towards the slower end of the spectrum but still quite respectable, about 14 minutes...
As I only carried one spare, it would be the wrong side that went! So run two commences with a directional tyre in the wrong direction. Still, traction was good but the course was getting impassable in places and we had to be recovered twice (you know you are stuck when the wheels spin in drive even when you are at idle). Another hard tree encounter adjusted the passenger door and trimmed off the mirror, which Gary noted.
Third run went badly when I ran out of tyres. Still the pits were nice. All in all, the vehicle proved very capable, I need to improve the vision to the right and redo the doors more securely but it was a damn good day out.
The course was very challenging, many cars retired with broken bits (half shafts etc) or water logged electrics but it was never the less a very good event and the organizers did a splendid job.
Episode 2 - my first AWDC championship race
The course was over farmland and was mostly fields. There were a few jumps and an interesting slalom through the trees along the boundary of two fields.
Run one went very well, I now have an opening window and can see to the right even when muddy! There were some fast sweeping corners that let me play with under/over steer on the throttle, great fun. Then there was a field of undulations (remnants of strip farming?) which sent the car into a series of wild pitching moments, 23 in a row apparently, with each end of the car going from airborne to crashing onto the bump stops on each one. During this a brake line got free and was minced between the axle and chassis. This section was later bypassed! We came in about 4m30s over the PFTA which was again towards the lower end of the spectrum but only 3m off the fastest out there (bearing in mind that this is only a class 7 and there were some very serious cars out there including an RS200 and an Metro 8R4).
The brakes were in poor shape and I performed an emergency repair sitting in mud whilst it rained then hailed! An hour later I was out again, this time without a navigator. I did the whole run without touching the brakes just incase, fishtailing the car into corners to scrub off speed. This time was 3m54s. Half a minute faster without using the brakes. I was pleased with that. On returning to the pits the engine began a slight misfire, oh joy.
The third run started badly, a good launch off the line then the engine died in the middle of the river, just ten yards from the start line! As I was without a navigator for this run I had the honour of attaching the tow rope which meant wading up to my knees in muddy water. Funny thing people do for a hobby!
Again, the car showed its potential and modifications to improve it will be made to both the car and my driving.
Episode 3 - A race on varied ground.
Well, for a change we got there early! Miracles do happen. We drove down to the site on Saturday and camped overnight, we also went through scrutineering on Saturday plus walked the course. It almost sounds organized.
Gary made some very usefull pace notes which got us off to a good start (mostly the notes reminded me where the steel spikes were sticking out of the ground and other obstacles associated with a former land fill site!). I thought Iwould try mapping it with one of these new fangled GPS thingys, but the batteries went flat half way round and I realized it wasn't as interesting as everyone makes out ;)
The course had a bit of everything, a brisk start straight leads into field which is soft peaty sort of a thing and ended up with very big ruts and sapped the engine power, flat out in first gear just managing walking pace. Then the field hardened up and went through some hedges (well i went through the hedge any way) and lead to a fast straight before plummeting of the edge of a cliff in a trials style section. More rocks and gravel then another cliff and some more boggy bits. Picking the right line into a corner was essential and the ruts were constantly pushing me the wrong way.
It was very hard on the car, full power for long sections at low speed, sharp rocks, concrete reinforcing rods popping up, cliff edges I couldn't see over, dust, water and the such. Jolly good fun though.
Until run six, when
Rick got in to have his first experience in a comp safari, I got about
fifty yards from the start line when something in the path launched the
front of the car just as I needed to turn left a bit. Luckily a passing
tree stopped me going to far the wrong way!
After the crash I was impressed with the helpfulness of all present including some other competitors who stopped to help, don't know who they were as i was busy being concussed but i remember they had blue overalls, cheers lads.
Once home I had the problem of maneuvering the car into the shed which involves a 90 degree turn in a narrow alley with the steering completely locked and the front axle binding, once again friends turned up and saved the day, many thanks yet again.
So, on with the strip down, after the wash down (top trivia, there was about 50 kg of mud still on the car) the bits of body work came off. The head light that had been wrapped round the side of the tree was intact! The Lexan light guards held on to the wing with ally brackets, the brackets had crushed completely but 3mm Lexan protected all the lights. Splendid.
The front axle comes off so now i can see the extent of the damage. Amazingly the damage stops at the front bulkhead, i have measured the chassis and from there back it is straight (better than most landys from the factory! ;). Now the damage is clear:
* Left hand chassis
rail crushed back eight inches.
However, many of the bits I had engineered to survive a crash actually did, which was nice.
* The oil filter
and cooler were mounted on a separate bar at the front and this moved
back as a complete unit and did not suffer any damage.
Most of the modifications
on the chassis are at the back, panhard rod, diagonal cross brace, roll
cage, rear cross member, tank mounts etc... so I decided to replace just
the front section of chassis. In order to make it as strong (if not stronger)
than the original I have put in extra strengthening around the join area.
It is important to remember that this area has to bend if I am unfortunate
to repeat the crash so as to absorb the impact force so the strengthening
plates should not increase its bend resistance by much. I have cut it
in such a way that i can use the original gearbox mounting holes to align
the chassis halves. The whole lot was jigged up and welded, a lot.
This time I have used a servo and brake master from a discovery, this is shorter than the Vogue unit by a couple of inches allowing the pedal box to go a little bit further forward giving a bit more leg room. The bumper mountings are a bit stiffer so nudging fence posts wont bend the chassis any more! The front protection bar is the same as the Tomcat design which works very well.
Episode 4 - A conclusion.
Well, I rebuilt the car, I drove it about the farm but other projects had arrived and after a year of it just sitting there it was time to move on and let somone else experiance the sheer terror. I understand it has subsequently been back to Tomcat Motorsport to be taylored to the new owner and is now competing again. Old Land Rovers never die...