Sunday, January 20, 2008

Umm Al Quwain rally

The Umm Al Quwain rally was last weekend. There was a Prologue on Friday afternoon around a dirt circuit. This was somewhere up at the end of the UAQ peninsula. The fifteen starters had to stay on the track and thereby avoid the motorsport fans, photographers and street lighting columns.

Racing against the clock, the times to complete the prologue dictated the starting order for the six special stages on Saturday. The first car was away from the Umm Al Quwain Motorplex at 11am, heading along the road to the start of the off road section. Special stage 2 squiggled around the dunes and ghaf trees between the Emirates Road and Barracuda Beach Resort for 20km or so. Competitors completed the timed section of SS2 and then immediately started SS3 that looped for 17km back around the same area of desert before finishing near the Motorplex for a 20 minute pit stop. Special stages 4 and 5 (and 6 and 7) were repeats of 2 and 3, so there was no excuse for getting a particular bend or dip wrong a second or third time. At least, in theory there wasn't. In practice, from the point of view of the driver and co-driver everything happens far too quickly.

So was I driving or co-driving? Nelly you're on not. I was taking photos. Having obtained the co-ordinates of the special stages and plugged them into my GPS, I joined up with a small group of rally fans from ME4x4 and we drove around the rally route. We identified spots that looked like good photo opportunities and took short cuts between the stages across the desert to get plenty of photos. Obviously we put our cars far enough off rally route so that they'd not be demolished if a competitor got it all horribly wrong.

Some teams drop body panels along the route. Is this a breadcrumb trail or an attempt to go faster by shedding excess weight?

As usual, watching rallying isn't always very exciting. You sit around chatting, and then get disturbed by some unsilenced V8 engine growling towards you. At that point it's all hands to cameras for a few seconds of intense and exciting activity before the silence of the desert is restored. Capturing cars that are airborne is more difficult than it looks. They don't spend much time in the air, and because the landing can cause damage, drivers try to avoid flight. A cluster of photograpers is, in the eyes of a rally driver, a huge neon sign that says "Warning! Flight Risk! Slow! Slow!".

Some magic driving from the Kingdom...

It's always more interesting to follow one or more teams. I was keeping an eye out for Ian and Sheila in their newly purchased Nissan Patrol.

The car has a good pedigree; it was driven by Andrea Mayer in the 2007 Desert Challenge, finishing (which is no mean achievement) sixteenth overall and fourth in the class for production vehicles. One careful owner... never raced or rallied... Unfortunately on this most recent outing there was a problem with the wheel nuts. Despite tightening them all at the service stops, a wheel fell off - twice - on the final special stage. Nevertheless, Ian and Sheila were allocated tenth place and awarded trophies.

Ian and Sheila are new to this game, and are looking for a sponsor. By the next rally (The 1000 Dunes) the wheel nut problem will, I'm assured, be resolved. The intention is to compete in the 2008 Desert Challenge. Make a diary note: DC 2008 is slated for 25th to 31st October.

Another team I was following was the Icon-Auto Unimog.

Chris, Streaky and Animal came in ninth. The 'mog isn't quick, but it'll go over pretty much anything.

There are more rally photos here. And the full results are here on the EMSF website.


Keefieboy said...

I love the flying car pics!

dubaibilly said...

Some very nice pics on there GG - well done

Anonymous said...

Great pics, but oh what a sick tummy some of us would have! Especially, the one with all four wheels in the air that looked like it was hopping! Good job. tmil

hemlock said...

brilliant pictures :D and some great narration to go with it.


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