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Old 8th March 2011, 19:00   #16
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Default Re: Desert Storm 2011 - A competitor's log

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Wonderful account so far... you finally found a way to justify your expensive skid plates. You probably had the best underbody protection in the event.

Disappointed there are no photos, but the words are making up for it.
Thanks Samurai. Knew there wouldn't be time for (action) photographs, so was hoping the dash cam would work. It was delivered just a day before we started, so no time to test. Anyway..
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Old 8th March 2011, 19:17   #17
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(VIII)

Dust has settled, I can see better. We're still in the 35kmph zone, but running late, so I am doing 50. And approaching an "intersection". We're still inside this shrub forest, and I can see 4 tracks ahead of me. Wife says "go right". "Which one?". She looks up and says "the first one, the first one". Surface is hard, I can take fast corners. Tap brake, shift down, sharp right, shift up and I'm on my way back to 50. The shrubs are closer than before. I can hear the scratching noises. Shrubs are getting closer every second. I feel like I'm burrowing into the forest. "ARE WE ON TRACK??" Meek answer "no.. we have to turn back. sorry..". "How difficult is to follow a fricking line?? Jesus Christ!" This I did say out loud. I had stopped the car and started a frantic U-turn maneuver. Can't see the track, so no clue if there are ruts lurking around. Reverse into the shrubs. Turn and move forward to push into the shrubs on the other side. Reverse a little, 1st gear and blast off. "Never EVER take your eyes off the GPS! Which way NOW?" "Go straight.. and then right. I'll tell you.. Right. now." "Are we on track?". "Yes".

Mistake she'd done was to look up at the road at the intersection. GPS track showed right, but she chose which right without looking at the GPS.

"I don't ever want to do this again". Oh. "You yelled at me..". Sheeet. "I'm so sorry.. I got caught up. I didn't mean it babes". Silence. "Let's get through the day.. Another couple of hours may be.. I won't yell. Or swear. I swear!" "Go a little left.. A little more. Ok. Straight now". Whew. WE were back on track!

One of the important learnings for us in the first stage was that the navigator had to trust and blindly follow the GPS tracks. And never look at the road. Over the next few stages we also learnt that if one kept to GPS tracks, the likelihood of getting stuck (in sand/marsh) was practically nil.

There were 32 cars in Endure and we had started as car no 25 (or 27? anyway, pretty low in the order). The start order on the first day was determined by seeding - past performance in DS, other rally wins etc. Disadvantage of starting at the end is that you get a lot of cars who probably aren't as good as you in navigation or calculation. Which means they will tend to run late and you will end up behind them with no place to overtake. Especially when you are on a dusty track, with marsh or shrubs full of thorns on either side, you really can't see if you have enough leverage to go around the car ahead of you. We still managed to overtake 7 or 8 cars in that night section. We were generally on time according to our calculations, so I didn't think about why I was overtaking cars (did they miscalculate? did they go off track and lose time?)

Other than the fact that we were leaving so many cars in our wake, the rest of the night section was uneventful. Terrain was similar - dust, pebbles, shrubs. And we never lost our way. Though there was a surreal moment when we were on a straight line and on either side was never ending marsh. It looked still and black, but you could make out that it was soft and ready to suck in anything that treaded it. My wife was still smarting, so calculations weren't being done as often as I would have liked. No complaint from my side though. I was just glad that I didn't have to pay for my little outburst while we were still driving!

There were only 4 or 5 more TCs, much lesser than I expected. The time card had space for 15 TCs. At the 3rd TC, saw a Gypsy pulled over. We did the TC drill, and started crawling out of the control. Once the 2 minutes were up, I was back to the prescribed average speed (45?) and the Gypsy was on my tail. I wasn't going to give way unless he asked me to so I kept to my line. Each time speed change happened, whether I slowed down or went fast, the Gypsy was always behind me. It wasn't bothering me, he wasn't tailgating, so we drove on. At the last TC they said section had ended and that we had to go to camp (a km away) and submit our time cards.

Pulling into the parking lot, saw that the Gypsy was driven by Nekzad and Sunil. They were following us because they didn't have a GPS and lost their way many times, and once they saw us, just wanted to tail us to camp.

We were at Camp Dorodo, a camp in the Rann of Kutch. I took the car to fill fuel while wife went to the rally office to collect food and acco coupons. Filling fuel was a breeze, there were DS officials managing the line of cars. I was in and out in about half an hour. Parked the car in the lot, found my wife, and had dinner. Extreme results were already out, Explore were expected any minute, and since Endure stage finished just an hour back, results were not expected for another hour atleast. We were tired, it was past midnight, so we decided to go back to our tent.

On our way we found people we had met in Ahmedabad, talked about the day and the rally. By the time we got back to tent it was another hour gone, and I was just ready to drop dead. Wife found out from someone that they had put up the start order for the next day. She asked me if we should see, I said not now, but she was curious so she went back to the rally office on her own.

I went into the tent, removed my shoes and collapsed into bed.

--contd.

Last edited by Samurai : 8th March 2011 at 23:10. Reason: Will PM
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Old 8th March 2011, 20:02   #18
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Default Re: Desert Storm 2011 - A competitor's log

(IX)

"2:17".
"Wha..?".
"Two. Seventeen".

I was just dozing off when my wife came back from the rally office. "What's two seventeen?" "Our penalty". "Oh". "We are 6th". "Ohhh..". "I think the Tata cars are 1 to 4". "Ok". "And we have to be at parc ferme at 8 AM tomorrow". "Ok." Ok, good night then". "Good night".

I woke up at 6 AM next day. Wife was already up. She had arranged for hot water and showered and was ready to go. There was no way I was going to shower in this cold! Morning ablutions were performed, and we were out of the tent within an hour.

We should've been excited that we were 6th, but both of us weren't feeling it. I was in complete damage control mode after previous night's outburst, and she I think was generally tense about the day ahead.

We went to the rally office, collected 2nd day's road book and speed chart and generally hung out waiting for the start to happen. Quite a few people came to us and told us that they were surprised to see our performance. We thanked them, said it was "beginner's luck". It probably was. How can we be ahead of so many DS veterans?

Start was at 10 AM and as per 1st leg's standings, so we started 6th. Today was going to be much more of last night's terrain, ending on top of the hill with the temple from where one could see the Arabian Sea and Ind-Pak friendship bridge.

We also figured out that on Day 1 we had uploaded our GPS tracks without 'way points' (thanks Chidu for pointing it out!). Way points are numbers that appear next to the track in a GPS, and these numbers denote the instruction serial numbers in the road book. Wow! Which meant the navigator didn't actually need to look out at the road to figure out determinate points, she just needed to look at the GPS track to figure where we were at w.r.t the road book. I was very unhappy that I didn't know this tidbit before, we probably could have performed better than 2:17..

We started off well, it was much easier to drive in day light. Speeds were high, and I was generally tense trying to keep the car on track and not getting into the deep ruts created by extreme Gypsy's. First TC was just after the 30km mark and we were almost on time. A few seconds late, probably. Wife was slowly mastering the GPS, and she hadn't looked up at the road even once.

2nd TC came at around the 90km mark. Pulled over, marshall looks at the time card and says "you've missed a TC". Whoa! Missing a TC is one of the worst things one can do in a TSD rally. Penalties are huge - I don't remember what the SR says but it's along the lines of scratch time (most penalty by any competitor?) of previous section + scratch time of next section + 10 minutes. Anyway, you're pretty much screwed if you miss a TC. My wife starts arguing with the marshall that there's no way we could have missed a TC. I tell her not to, we only have 2 minutes to start again, just forget it. We know we haven't gone off track or missed any TC, so we will protest when the results come. She calms down, and we're off again.

Most of the DS veterans have a general idea where the TCs are. They are almost never placed in the middle of a special stage and almost always there when a tar road cuts across your course. Usually it is a small climb up to meet the tar road, and a climb down once you cross it. There's usually also a Stop & Go (S&G) sign next to the tar road where all competitors have to come to a complete stop (there are officials parked near by, and any violation = penalty time) before you proceed.

It was at one such intersection that I saw @ramkya1 again. We'd just passed a point where calculations showed that I was 10s late. And I could see a TC approximately 150m ahead. Average speed running was 40ish and I gunned it to make it to the TC on time. The rule is that, marshall notes the time at which the car's front wheels cross the TC sign placed on the road. I didn't see a S&G sign, so I knew I could drive as fast as I could and come to a stop right at the TC. Slowed down as I approached and slammed my brakes just before the TC. And forgot in my haste that I was braking on gravel.. Next thing I know car was skidding (thankfully still on the track), and it stopped only after climbing and with front wheels on the tar road. There was a cloud of dust and am sure the skidding created enough ruckus to make the officials think that we were crazy. Ramky ran to us asking if we were ok. I think I was too stunned and embarassed at my stupidity to say anything and heard my wife apologizing profusely. Sorry Ramky! Anyway, still haven't heard the end of 'unsafe driving habits' from my wife. That has to be punishment enough -

We had a total of 8 TCs that day, and the competitive part of the leg ended on top of the hill with the temple from where one could see the Arabian Sea and Ind-Pak friendship bridge. Discussed the missing TC issue with some competitors, some said there indeed was one at the 60km mark (where? we didn't see any?) while others insisted there was none. Pointless talking about all that, so we had tea, watched the sun set and drove back to camp.

--contd.
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Old 8th March 2011, 20:30   #19
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Default Re: Desert Storm 2011 - A competitor's log

(X)

The hill was far away from camp so it was past 8:30PM when we checked in. I went straight to the fuel tanker where there were already some 20 cars lined up. Wife went to get dinner coupons. From last night's experience I expected to get out of the fuel line in half an hour. Not to be. There were no DS officials manning the fuel pump tonight. And it was pretty much a free for all - cars and people with jerry cans were cutting into line from everywhere. It also didn't help matters that the fuel vendor wasn't able to make different lines for petrol and diesel. Anyway, it was past midnight when I finally got fuel.

Too tired to wait for results, we went to sleep immediately after dinner. Next day's start was going to be at 8AM. Woke up early, packed our stuff, put in the car. Too early for parc ferme, extreme cars' start was delayed. Parked the car in the parking lot and walked to rally office to collect the road book for the day and look at Leg 2 results.

1:10, 3rd best time in the leg. Obviously we hadn't missed any TCs. And it had pushed us to overall 4th. Nice!

Day 3 started an hour late. We were starting 4th. Terrain was again similar to the 1st two days, but straighter tracks, with lesser shrubs. We were leaving Kutch. Sections were fast and I was thoroughly enjoying driving. Wife was enjoying navigating too. We were on time whenever we checked and after 6 TCs, the day part of the leg was over.

We now had a long free zone which was going to take us to 150km before Jaisalmer. During this run, wife calculated penalties for these 6 TCs and came up with 18 seconds. 18 seconds! We were finally beginning to feel that we belonged here..

--contd.
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Old 8th March 2011, 21:49   #20
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Default Re: Desert Storm 2011 - A competitor's log

Man!! That's some serious writing. You are probably one of the few who can tell a story without pictures. I have a presentation morrow and here I am refreshing my page frantically. Rating this thread a well deserved 5-stars. Cheers!

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Old 8th March 2011, 22:17   #21
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Default Re: Desert Storm 2011 - A competitor's log

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Man!! That's some serious writing. You are probably one of the few who can tell a story without pictures. I have a presentation morrow and here I am refreshing my page frantically. Rating this thread a well deserved 5-stars. Cheers!
Thanks Sachin. I have to finish this tonight..
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Old 8th March 2011, 22:36   #22
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AAhhhh the tempers and frayed nerves.

LOL LOL LOL "I need to pee" but still pressing F5

That is amazing account of your rally till now.
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Old 8th March 2011, 22:37   #23
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oldmonk,thats some amazing writeup.I am sure you would have had a amazing experience participating too!.you surely know how to tell a movie in words! glued to your thread.
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Old 8th March 2011, 22:45   #24
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Default Re: Desert Storm 2011 - A competitor's log

This is some good insight into the Dessert Storm. Never knew it was so much fun/so difficult (my perspective). Great going oldmonk.
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Old 8th March 2011, 22:45   #25
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Default Re: Desert Storm 2011 - A competitor's log

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Thanks Sachin. I have to finish this tonight..
That's great news oldmonk. Waiting for all your updates. Looks like, my day in office tomorrow has been pretty much decided.It has been a very interesting and exciting account of your participation.
At the end of it, please try and give a break up of total costs involved in the participation. This could help aspirer's like me to start saving enough. Have to do this once atleast.
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Old 8th March 2011, 22:47   #26
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(XI)

After a long days drive we were again in a familiar situation. Parked on the side of the road, nervous, waiting for the night section to start. Start time was 2023, and since we were parked just half a km before the section began, started 2 minutes in advance and crawled. Average speed was 49 and I was doing 60 as soon as we crossed the start time. A right turn is supposed to come within half a km according to the road book. Why is the GPS track still showing straight? Asked wife to zoom out and saw that the turn off is pretty far away. Atleast a km from where we thought it was. Panic! Sped up, it's still a state highway with not much traffic and I'm 120+ in no time.

Reach the turn off, see that the Terratrip is off by more than a km. Pull over, reset, and take off again. Wife calculates that we are 1.5 minutes late. We have turned off into a village road, still tarmac and fortunately speed required is still 49kmph. There is no time to analyze why the Terratrip is off, just keep going as fast as possible to make up time. In no time we had caught up with and passed the Scorpio that started 5th. That's a good sign. Kept at it, roads are good, speed required is still same, and by the time we reach the 1st TC we are only 11s late. Not too bad. Pulled over, checked in, deep breaths. Only 50km of competitive stage between me and a nice long hot shower in Jaisalmer.

Speed chart showed that most of rest of the stage was at high speeds. I tell my wife that it must be terrain like in the morning, straight, fast, hard tracks.

Couple of kms after the TC we enter the 66.76kmph zone. Highest average speed we've seen so far. It's a right turn off into some bushes. Some twisties and a straight. I speed up to 75, wife shouts left ahead. I don't cut speed, see that the track is turning left and brake late. Wrong! The corner is covered in sand.. Car drifts, I fight to keep it in control. It's just luck and GV's handling that I could correct and get the car back. Speed up and now there's sand on the straights too. I tell myself, 'no more brakes'. I still drift once in a while, keep correcting and slowing down.

More twisties, bushes, sand and deep ruts. How is anyone going to maintain 67kmph here??! Wife shouts "you were 3 minutes late at the last turn!". Now I'm encroaching on the Scorpio (who started behind us) territory. Actually, if he was on time, since cars depart in 2 minute intervals, he should already have been ahead of me. I must have ESP or something, next thing I know there are bright lights in my rearviewmirror, approaching fast. He is flashing, and wants me to get the hell out of the way.

I was flustered with my bad driving in the last 5 minutes and had half a mind to just let him go. But then, I will probably never be able to pass him. Which meant whatever penalty he got, I'd get 2 minutes more than that. There goes the 4th position.

Screw that! I didn't come this far to just roll over! I shift down and am off. Scorpio sensed this and he kept flashing his lights to let him pass. He was in the right of course, he was probably running a minute late himself. I don't care, I keep accelarating. Twisties, ruts, bushes, I drive like I'm possessed. Probably this was the only time the GV took any real beating.

I can still see headlights behind me. Though now he's far enough not to be an overtaking threat. Wife hasn't done any calculations, she has just been focussed on keeping us on track. I know we are late, so see a straight road and keep going fast. I must've been touching 100 when wife yells "leftish ahead". I can see the road curve, shift down and the next thing I know I'm in the middle of sand. But I'm experienced now. No brakes, shift down, keep correcting until we are out of the corner and speed up.

We keep at it for the next 10-12 kms, I am far ahead of the Scorpio now, and wife shouts, "15 seconds late". I can breathe easy. I know the section is going to go on for a while before we hit tarmac, so we have ample time to make up that time. Wife yells, "sharp left coming up". I see that the track on which we are on is going straight. There are some shrubs on the left side ahead, so the left must be around that. I slow down, no need to take fast corners anymore. "Now, now". I try turning, but no response from steering. No power steering! I keep going ahead, to stop away from the track. "What are you doing??? Left, LEFT!". I remember saying "I don't have power steering. We have to stop". "WHAT?" I pull over, tell my wife that the check engine and battery indicator lights are on, and power steering has failed - there must be something seriously wrong with the car, rally is over for us.

--contd.
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Old 8th March 2011, 22:53   #27
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Default Re: Desert Storm 2011 - A competitor's log

Oldmonk,

Superb write up. It felt like I am on the wheels.

Your write up 0f interactions with the female navigator really took me bcak to the mid 1980s to the K 1000 Rally down south. I was driving a rally car which was also the service vehicle for my friends bike (he was one of the leading rally riders those days) with his GF as my Navigator.

I fully second your thoughts on the "pee" incident as I too have been a victim of this

OM, your style is really addictive. May be its the "name" which is causing it (not that I am addicted to that)

Keep it coming

Best Regards & Drive/Ride Safe

Ram

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Old 8th March 2011, 22:55   #28
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Even though I knew where it is going your writing still had me enthralled as if I was there in car with you. Great writing.
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Old 8th March 2011, 23:07   #29
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(XII)

We pull over as far away from the track as possible. We don't talk. I go to get the flash light while wife hunts for the red triangles. No threat of traffic coming from in front of us, so place the triangles one after the other behind the car. 1st is 60m from the car, and 2nd 30m. Wife comes around, I light up a smoke. She asks "are you sure we are done?" "I think so".

Call the CRO, give her our odo reading. She asks if we are ok, whether we need medical help etc. I assure her we are fine. She advises us to wait for the sweep party to come along.

We wait. I want to cry. Actually if I'd let myself go a little, I'd probably have been bawling. I don't. Instead I feel like I have a heavy rock on my chest, and a knot in my stomach tightening... I tell my wife "I'm sorry". She says "Are you kidding me? We made it this far! We should be happy!!". Thanks baby, I don't think I would have been this supportive if roles were reversed!

We see cars coming down the track and taking the left which we were supposed to. Many missed it and came hurtling down and we waved them to the right track. Finally after an hour, we see cars with flashers approaching us. It's the sweep party. They were courteous, helpful. Official rules state that they had to tow the car to the nearest tarmac and get us to the hotel where rally was staying. Towed, and nearest tarmac happened to be just 3km away in the middle of nowhere.

One of the officials opened the hood and looked. He found bits of rubber and groped around to pull out the broken belt. He tells me "it's the fan belt". I am blank. What the hell is a fan belt? "Do you have a spare?". I said no. I have no spares. Other than the 2 spare wheels I'm carrying.

I plead with them to take me to the nearest highway. They don't have to, but they agree. 15km tow to the Barmer-Jaisalmer highway, where they found a shop open, talked to the shopkeeper if my car could be parked overnight. Shopkeeper agrees, I leave the car there and get dropped at the hotel. Thanks guys!

We wake up early next day, call the nearest (and only) MASS. Ask him if he could arrange a jeep to tow my car into Jaisalmer. He asks me to meet him in front of the 'LIC building' at 1030. We are there on time, and I see the rally pass in front of us.

What a gut wrenching moment. We should've been the 4th or may be even the 3rd car!

Anyway, the guy comes, arranges a jeep, and GV is at his garage in about 3 hours. He looks and says "fan belt, we need to get the part". What the hell is a fan belt?

Called my dealer in Bangalore, he says it is the 'water pump belt'. Not that it made any sense to me! Gives the part number. I give the part number to the MASS guy, he calls back in an hour saying not available anywhere in RJ. He asks if he could do jugaad, I say whatever. Evening he brings the car into the hotel and says, 'everything will work except the A/C, and it should get you back to Bangalore'. Great. I just want to get out of this place!

Actually the MASS owner was a very friendly guy, and during the day had given us enough gyan on fan belts. He showed us how it works, how to install one, and let both me and my wife practice removing and installing fan belts. Wife is the more mechanically inclined one, and with the right tools, she now can change the fan belt in a GV in 15 minutes!

We start driving at midnight and reach Bombay, 1000 odd km away, after many sleep breaks, at 5PM. Go to a friends place, stay over, and to the nearest MASS next day. They source the original belt by afternoon, fix it, and aal izz well.

We drove back to Bangalore the next day.

--contd.
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Old 8th March 2011, 23:13   #30
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Default Re: Desert Storm 2011 - A competitor's log

Oh poor boy.....I never imagined this story turning out to be like this. I am sorry for you folks!

Great narration & absolute thriller to read this.

All the best for your next one!
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