Race2Recovery, 2012 Tuareg Rally, Day 2 update

20 March 2012, Missour/Mersouga

Distance340Km total, 160Km competitiveTwo navigational sections, two special stages

WeatherBright and sunny, 26deg C, climbing to 1300m before dropping to 700m at Mersouga

SummaryThe second day began with a familiar feel to the conditions but with dense mist affecting the running before ending with the teams getting their first taste of driving on sand dunes.

Both cars, of Dave Marsh/Tom Neathway and Tony Harris/Ben Gott began the day fresh after a night of work by the Race2Recovery technicians. And while the ground conditions were similar, the weather was not. Thick early morning mist greeted the competitors and while many floundered, both R2R cars used it to their advantage, concentrating more on their own driving and navigating rather than looking to see what other crews were doing.

In the afternoon, the second special stage took them across the edge of the Sahara desert and their first taste of sand dunes. Both crews fell foul of the conditions briefly; close to the start for Tom and Dave and almost at the finish for Ben and Tony. Ben and Tony were able to dig themselves out easily while Dave and Tom were grateful to accept the help of a local tribesman before continuing.

There was also a late piece of good news for Phillip Gillespie, or Barney, who was on the event as a mechanic and not co-driving, as originally planned. A fellow competitor's co-driver had become ill and Barney was asked to stand-in on the event. Despite having no information or equipment, Barney gladly jumped in and enjoyed a superb first day of rally raiding with a Dakar veteran.

Team QuotesDave Marsh, Driver:

"Today was an awesome day. The first stage was amazing - we were the second car out of the first run and I was really pleased with that - it was definitely my kind of territory.

"But the dunes caught us out early on. We came over a crest and I felt the sand start to give way. I turned the car to drive away but the whole thing went sideways and dug itself right in. We're lucky we didn't go over but we were well and truly stuck.

"Luckily there was a local tribesman passing and he helped me to dig the wheels out while Tom operated the on-board jack, to lift and clear the car. Eventually, we managed to work the front end of the car round and down and were able to drive out.

"Tom's been doing a really good job today, particularly in the mist this morning. With no real visibility, we passed four cars in the first two miles, so he was clearly right on the case."

Tony Harris, driver

"Today was brilliant, even this morning when the visibility was maybe 70m. It meant that we had to concentrate on our own run and weren't able to see what others were doing, which was really good to make sure we learned to trust our skills and instincts. Thanks to Ben's co-driving we were up to first on Special Stage 1 for part of it but saw it drop away with some navigational errors.

"Later on, in the dunes, we learned another lesson; that it's not all about speed- sometimes you really need to slow down, check and carry on. We were doing really well in the final special stage and had the water tower at the end of the stage in sight but got caught out by a dune as we slowed too much. We recovered the vehicle quickly using the jack and sand ladders and met the team at the service, without too much trouble.

"One thing I did learn today was how my leg behaves. As the day wears on, the prosthetic loosens up, so I need to carry an additional sock to make sure it keeps a good, tight fit for later in the day."

'Barney' Gillespie, Co-driver

"It was a bit of a shock to be told last night I was going to be co-driving and not working on the Race2Recovery cars but there was no way I could pass up the chance to compete and help another competitor out.

"As I wasn't expecting to be co-driving, I didn't bring any equipment or rally information with me but I'd studied it pretty carefully in the run-up to the event and it wasn't too tricky to find a set of overalls and my spare helmet was with the team anyway.

"In fact, the hardest thing was the language gap - the driver is Lithuanian but his English is really good, so it wasn't a huge issue. The highlight of the day was coming over the mountains - the view as we crested the rise was jaw-dropping and I'm so pleased to be able to compete.

"I was speaking with Tom and we feel that our military training and experience are a real bonus here. We have a high degree of situational-awareness built-in and we're always planning a route, so we always know were we are, from natural features as much as the maps and notes and that's a huge help."

Tomorrow's route

Day three is a circular route around Mersouga, beginning on the edge of a dry lake. According to the Tuareg Rally organisers, the action takes place in the 'garden of the Devil' and is guarded by 'Death Plants'. It's a long day, ending with a huge stage across another dune field on the edge of the Sahara.

Sponsor Spotlight


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Dampers are one of the most key components on terrain as rough as the team is facing on the Tuareg so far and will do in the future. Dave Marsh explains that the Qt Wildcat feels incredibly stable and consistent on its Donerre dampers, something he has always known. The dampers absorb the high-speed bumps and rocks extremely well and when the car leaves the ground, it lands, the suspension settles and it simply springs ahead.

Pierre de Frenne has also assumed the role of R2R Team Principal, imparting extensive experience and expertise to the team on the Tuareg and future rallies.

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