Distance280Km total, all competitive, single special stage, four laps of Erg Chaabi dune field
WeatherClear, 28deg, no wind
SummaryThe Race2Recovery team's chances of improving their positions in the 2012 Tuareg Rally seemed 'duned' from the start on the fourth day of the event, which saw the crews tackle a huge, single special stage featuring four laps of the Erg Chebbi dune field close to the event base in Mersouga. Following a Le Mans-style start for all cars, Dave Marsh and Tom Neathway went OTL (Over Time Limit) as they became stuck several times while Ben Gott and Tony Harris rolled their car end-over-end but continued before an engine mount began failing and they were forced to withdraw.
The start of the fourth day saw all cars in the pro class start together, an incredible sight as thousands of horsepower were unleashed all at once. Ben and Tony got the early hole-shot, were the first into the dune-field and had a clear run. However, Dave and Tom were not so lucky and were forced to avoid another competitor cutting across in front of them. This caused their Wildcat to become immediately stuck, yards from the start and they lost 15 minutes clearing the car before continuing.
Things didn't get any better; like the majority of the field, they became stuck several more times during the course of the four laps that made up the day. And while they were able to free their car and continue each time, they eventually ran out of time and were declared out of the day.
Ben and Tony's day also became interesting, as they crested a dune and the front dropped immediately and the car rolled over onto its roof. Once another competitor had helped to right them and they had checked for major damage, they donned their goggles to protect from the wind and sand thanks to no windscreen and continued undaunted.
However, it became clear as the day went on that a failing engine mount, which had already been repaired once, had taken the brunt of the impact and was on the verge of failing altogether. With the risk of damage too great, they elected to finish the day after one round so the Race2Recovery mechanics could effect repairs and make sure they returned to action on day five.
Tom Neathway, co-driver:
"Even though we didn't complete the day, for me, this was the best run of the event so far. We felt really comfortable in the dunes and although we were following the GPS most of the day, my military training was again a massive help. My role was based on reconnaissance and route-finding, so looking for the most effective way forward is almost second-nature - I'm always looking for the best route.
"We got stuck a couple of times during the day but the only reason we didn't complete was because we lost so much time on one occasion, when the cooling fans and the on-board jack didn't work. We had to shut the engine off and find out what the problem was - a bad connection on the electrical relay - before we could continue and that cost us around an hour. A shame but a good day nonetheless."
Tony Harris, driver
"We were going really well from the start this morning - we managed to keep out of trouble at the mass send-off and were gelling really well in the car. By the time we got to the dunes proper, we were running quite far forward in the field and settled into our own routine. Then, after CP3, the nature of the sand changed - there were sharper edges to the dunes and the sand gave better traction - almost too good, in fact.
"Coming up a steep dune, Ben applied a bit more power to get us up and over but gained more traction than expected in the sand. We also made the cardinal error of approaching the top at 90 degrees. We went over onto our nose and the car came to rest on its roof. We were both fine - it wasn't particularly fast - so we switched the engine off, got out and set about our drills.
"Ben marked the top of the dune and we waited for help. This came from fellow Wildcat driver Alwin Oud, who towed our car back onto its wheels and once we'd checked it over, we realised the damage was superficial and we decided to carry on and see how it felt. It's a fantastic testimony to the strength of the Qt Wildcat and the components used on it that except for the broken windscreen, there was no real damage.
"When we arrived at CP4 at the end of the first lap, we decided to have a look at the engine mount that had been repaired previously and came to the conclusion that we would prefer not to risk greater failure that would put us out of the rally altogether. So we returned to service so the crew could repair it and we could come back for more dune action on day five.
"We'd been doing really well up to that point but we realised our mistakes and learned from them and now know that we must maintain our concentration and focus completely at all times."
Dave Reeve, Mechanical Manager
"I'm really impressed with the way that all the mechanical team has responded to the challenges we have had. The first two days were quite tough - travelling then working on the cars but as the event has gone on, everyone has settled into a pattern and it's working extremely well.
"Being based at one location for three days has meant that we can establish a routine and structure that will make things easier when we travel back north, towards the crossing back into Spain but more importantly, for future events and of course, the Dakar."
Friday 's route
Day five sees the crews return to the Erg Chebbi for a further four laps but with a shorter distance, totalling just 80Km over the course of the day. However, the challenge will be far greater than they have experienced so far and the day ends with a climb up the fabled 'House Dune', so-called for its size.
Corbeau Seats & Luke Harnesses
Corbeau was formed in 1963 by Colin Folwell, who embarked on a process of driver-led research and development that has been in the Corbeau DNA for over forty years.
The company has supplied Race2Recovery with seats for its Qt Wildcats, providing not only the highest levels of safety and security but also comfort, essential when the crews spent up to ten hours a day in the car.
The Luke five point harnesses complement the Corbeau seats perfectly, ensuring that the crews are held in place and in safety at all times. The importance of these vital safety features was demonstrated perfectly today by Tony and Ben who were completely unharmed when their Wildcat rolled over and came to rest on its roof.