21 March 2012, Mersouga loop
Distance280Km total, all competitive, single special stage
WeatherOvercast, 22deg, windy with drifting sand
SummaryDay three of the 2012 Tuareg Rally was one of mixed fortunes for the Race2Recovery team. The crew of Dave Marsh/Tom Neathway endured a difficult day, which included a differential change part-way through to complete. Tony Harris and Ben Gott however, failed to complete the 280Km run through the dunes of the Sahara desert, as a misfire gradually became worse to the point where the engine would not pull the car through the deep sand and they were forced to retire from the day.
The conditions would catch several cars out early, including the two Race2Recovery entries. Dave and Tom got stuck briefly early on but were able to get going again quickly. However, a failing front differential entailed a change by Dave, R2R Mechanical Manager Dave Reeve and Mechanic Sean Whatley in the stage, amid a minor sand storm. The team was aided in the spirit of the event by fellow competitors MaxTraction and were able to get Dave and Tom back into action within 20 minutes.
Things didn't go so well for Tony and Ben. A misfire which began on the second day gradually got worse to the point where, due to the lack of torque they became stuck in a sandbowl, stuck in the dunes and with the misfire, did not have the engine performance to be able to carry on. However, once back at the team service area, a failed ignition coil pack was diagnosed and once changed, the 'Rat Cat' was back to full health, ready for another day of action.
Barney Gillespie's day also ended prematurely, when the turbocharger on the engine of the car he was competing in failed, leading to he and the driver retiring from the day.
Dave Marsh, Driver:
"We were a bit surprised to see two of the leading cars stuck in the first couple of kilometres of the stage, so we stopped and prepared ourselves a little; we dropped the tyres pressures slightly and planned our route to make sure we didn't get stuck as well. We had a slight hiccup in the second set of dunes but nothing too dramatic - we didn't need to get the sand ladders out or anything, so we got away with that.
"Coming to the end of the penultimate part, over a really fast and bumpy section, we seemed to have chipped a tooth on the front differential. We limped on for around 15 miles before it locked itself solid. We stripped out what we could to get it moving again then met with the Race2Recovery team at the following checkpoint, where we changed the diff and carried on.
"Its been a real rollercoaster ride through the dunes today but a very good one. Tom did a fantastic job of navigating and we had no real issues at all."
Ben Gott, driver
"Today started well, with some small dunes to get us warmed up. The second section took us into a dried lake with some huge drop-offs that we had to be careful of but that's all part of the reason we're here, to learn these kind of conditions.
"The big issue for us today was a misfire, which began lightly yesterday and got gradually worse as today went on and was quite bad by the time we reached the large dunes after lunch. We've learned a huge amount already about how to approach the dunes but without the full engine power, it made things very difficult. We spent the afternoon going pretty slowly, picking our route to avoid large dunes and using the engine's low-end torque and the low range of the transmission.
"But then, I broke rule No. 1, which is 'do not go into sand-bowls'. It shouldn't have been a problem but we didn't have the power to drive out easily and after trying various techniques, we got out, only to get beached on another dune. By the time we got going, we had run out of time and went back to the service area, via the checkpoints. However, we missed two secret checkpoints and I think we now have something like ten hours of penalties. But it's all about learning, we're still in the race and we're still smiling."
Andrew 'Pav' Taylor, Team Manager
"It's been a bit of a frustrating day but I'm pleased with the way the team dealt with the issues. We had the right people in the right place and managed to get the differential changed in Dave and Tom's car in the middle of a desert sandstorm.
"The team is working very well together, in light of the amount of information we are taking on board and the demands of the event, with travelling, setting up and dismantling the service areas and working on the cars. I think over the first 48hours of the event, we worked 20-hour days and part of the experience is to learn how to cope with that degree of fatigue.
"We are also extremely lucky to have Pierre [De Frenne] as Team Principal and he is adding a huge amount into the mix. We knew we would have a huge amount to learn and we're doing just that, moving forward all the time."
Tomorrow's routeThe fourth day of the event is called the 'King Stage' and sees the crews drive 280Km again over dunes as well as faster sections, with the full distance timed. Four separate laps bring the crews through a single service point for the day.
Cooper provides a full line of tyres to meet the needs of virtually all consumers from everyday motorists to the most demanding high performance, off-road and motorsport enthusiasts.
The Cooper STT tyres used by the Race2Recovery team are designed to cope with not only the baked hard earth of the rock-strewn tracks but also the sand dunes that make up the Tuareg Rally route. The area is known as the testing area for the Dakar which many of the teams use and the Cooper tyres performance has been superb. They resist damage well, provide consistently high levels of grip and are flexible enough to allow pressure adjustment to optimize performance in the sand.