Friday, April 8, 2011

Chapter 4: BOOM, there goes your rally

Remember the drivers handbook, point n°3?
"If no other way, pay for a drive in a professional team."

This point specifically requires your car to be reliable.  Obviously if the professional team you have hired supplies you with something else, think again.

Case and point: Here is my happy list of reliability issues...


Cyprus, retired:
Fuel pump failure.  I could have continued, in a "certain" way.  There will be an RSI on that one.

Deutschland, time lost:
Multiple punctures. Reason: The Baumholder high speeds and extreme compressions provoked the tires to rub against the top of the wheel arch, where there is a hook which is used for hanging the upright when servicing. Why: Because no suspension testing data from works team was communicated to our car engineer (who works for them, by the way).  Seemed at the time like they prefer to let you have your tires blow up rather than share their finds.

Catalunya, retired in last stage:
Monsoon rain, wind screen wiper motor failure.  Got a phone call from the official team boss asking me to stop for safety reasons.  French press RALLYE MAG reported me to be a coward.  Always a nice thing to read.


New Zealand, lost time:
Throttle fly-by-wire motor broke.  Engine subsequently stopped.  Took over 10 minutes to fix it. 

Turkey, lost a lot of time:
Hydraulic system failure. 

Argentina, lost a lot of time:
Hydraulic system failure.

Finland, retired:
Lower suspension arm snapped in two.  After investigation by the technicians, it was concluded I had not hit anything as there was no impact on the part.  Cause was most likely due to stress. 
Editor's note on that one: "Stress???" That's right we got some titanium suspension parts by that time, only problem was I found out later those parts had already had their fair share of kilometers...

Sardinia, lost a lot of time:
Hydraulic system failure.

Corsica, lost a lot of time:
power steering failed on road section to the first stage, and again on second loop!  I drove the complete 1st day, 200km of SS, without power steering.  Least thing the boss could offer me was a massage from team masseur.  So I got my massage.  I was fresh for day 2, but down by 20 minutes.   

Australia, retired: 
5th when turbo blew up.  The turbo was so old, the impeller broke and shot a hole through the turbo, and the bonnet.  I don't know where that impeller ended, but I wish I could have used it for somebody's behind, cause that 5th place would have been the best thing that could have happened to me.
Seriously, good thing nobody got this thing in the face...


New Zealand, lost a lot of time:
Power steering failure on the first stage.  After analysis, the technicians determined there was no impact.  The rack was new, it should not have failed. "New??" Right, it was new to my car...

Cyprus, retired:
Engine inhaled some dust and red light came on.  Nothing anyone could do.  There will be a nice little RSI about the aftermath of this event.

Finland, retired:
Throttle fly-by-wire motor failure.  Stood in the stage for minutes until I managed to limp back to service.  Retired later when I went in the ditch, trying too much.

Japan, lost time:
Front differential electronic problem.  car was snake driving on the road  Nobody believed me.  Had to actually show the official laptop guy, on his own computer, where he could see it in the data.  He looked and said: "Huh......................."
There will be a detailed account of this story I have to tell.  

Corsica, lost a lot of time:
Hydraulic failure.  No diffs and gear change.

Catalunya, lost time:
Broken anti-roll bar. 

So the list is long, but distinguished.  So how come all this stuff keeps on braking?  Here is the key to the mystery: 

Have you ever heard the term "rebuilt car"?  I am sure some have.  In lehman's terms this means the car has been rebuilt with used parts, that have been reconditionned to look like new. 

So you want to rent a rally car, for a WRC event? Good for you.  It looks nice doesn't it? Like new, right? Right!  It is like new but is probably not new, so be careful.  If you rent a WRC car it is highly likely that, except for seats and accesories, all the important (and therefore expensive) stuff is recycled.

It all starts like this:

A works car does a rally with new parts.  Upon arrival back to the workshop, they strip it, completely.  All the critical parts then go to reconditioning where people look at them for cracks etc, etc.  Then, they are cleaned.  The metal parts, like my titanium lower-arm from Finland, go into a machine which works with some sort of oil/sanding combination and washes it.  And this thing, when it comes out, looks like new!  The parts are all numbered and they keep track of the stage kilometers they run.  So they knew exactly that my lower arm, had done x amount of stage kms, so there is no way that that thing would find it's way on the world cars, ever again, or even some privileged privates.

As I see it today the system on most private deals is that a part like my throttle motor, which should normally be new for every rally as a safety precaution, is replaced only when it brakes. 

A throttle motor costs a 1.000Euros.  Who likes to throw away a race costing you 200.000Euros for saving that?  I'd rather keep my money in the bank.




  1. I wonder if Ken Block's car was built on the right side. Granted he's not super fast, but he has had a lot of small issues when he manages not to wreck.

  2. Amar clever comment