Thursday 8 August 2013

Tough luck for Spookworks - Jane Cowling Phoenix Stages Report

It had to happen eventually.  Spookworks had a 100% finishing record dating back to 2008. Even Las Vegas high rollers know you simply cannot beat the odds forever.
Regrettably it came when it would do the most damage.  Chasing a 100 point deficit in the RAF Rally Championship a good result was needed to stay in touch going into Round 4.  The car was prepped to the highest level ever and seemed invincible. A thorough pre event check was carried out and everything seemed great.  There was a feel of an upset in the air.....

Twas the night before and all looked - spectacular!
Sadly it all fell apart on Stage 1.  After leaving the line the intercooler pipe which connects to the inlet manifold detached and left us without boost for the first 7.4 mile stage around Fulbeck.  We limped the car through the Stage dropping over 2 and half minutes.  The service crew were right on it and using copious amounts of zip ties the simple problem was resolved and we naively started to talk about how we were going to approach the next 9 stages to try and play catch up.

Stage 1 and already drama.  Cable Tie origami is used to keep the wayward intercooler pipe attached. 
Stage 2 and off the line the launch control decided to add to our woes and we spent the entire stage crawling round at 3000rpm as the launch control refused to disengage.  We dropped another 2 and a half minutes while we cruised around.  As we limped into service, we were at the complete bottom of the leaderboard with minutes between us and the next car.  Despite the best efforts of the boys in service we were unable to track down the fault.  But luckily for us the Oracle was in the next service bay and he graced us with his golden touch and using his black magic plugged his laptop in to the car and simply deleted the launch control.  Problem fixed.  From now on in it was just about fun, as the time difference for any sort of result had now been completely extinguished.

More drama - launch control is not so much "go" as "slow"
Another stage another drama.  The car spent more time on the jack than on the stage.
Stage 3 and the Spookworks Subaru left the line like a banshee and catapulted us into the stage.  Back on full song, the car handled perfectly, devouring the distance and ripping up the stage. Despite being only a small stage (4 miles) we managed to catch the previous car released into stage 30 secs before us (also a Subaru).  But still it appeared our luck was not to be as a fellow competitor had beaten the stage bogey time (the quickest theoretical time for the stage) and as a result the whole field was given a notional time of 4.09 meaning that all our good work was in vain!

Playing catch up at the Jane Cowling Rally.  Plenty of go once she gets going...!
Stage 4 was all about driver error.  Pushing too hard to catch up time, 2 overshoots on slippery gravel chicanes meant a time of 3:51.  Ok but 30 secs behind the fastest time set for Stage 4.  However at least all seemed well and the car was in fantastic form and we were ready to tackle the remaining 6 stages at maximum attack.

With the mechanicals fixed - the pink bit behind the wheel needs some tweaking....
They say bad luck comes in threes, but we must have ordered a double! Off the line on Stage 5 and after 3 corners a misfire robs us of vital power and another cruise around the 4.5 mile stage beckons. Upon crossing the finish we pulled up at the time control and were considering what might be causing the misfire and when our luck would change when it did - for the worse.

Even the Spookworks Media Team worked out that all the action was sadly in the Service Area!

Smoke started appearing from the corners of the bonnet and a strong burning smell meant the day was now at its lowest.  We jumped out of the car and emptied 2 powder extinguishers and 1x 20 litre container of water on to a burning turbo.  After some frantic action the fire was brought under control and eventually extinguished along with our hopes for the event and most of our aspirations for a record 4th RAF Championship.  The cause of the fire perhaps summed up the bad luck of our day as it is unlikely we will ever have a repeat of these circumstances no matter how many more rallies we do.

Blaze of Glory and  Rock Bottom - Here it is......a sad end to a difficult day.
In essence the water pipe came off the side of the turbo and sprayed anti-freeze into and over our turbo blanket.  Then completely unconnected but occurring almost in sequence the turbo up pipe welds cracked causing the turbo pipe to allow flames to escape ignite the antifreeze now on the blanket.  The resulting fire took 5 mins to put out and resulted in significant damage to the engine, wiring and turbo.

We immediately retired and pushed the car back into service.  Game over.

A full investigation is yet to be carried out but with the next event looming over the horizon, Spookworks are gonna need all hands on deck to get the car turned around in time for Round 4.

The boys in service proved to be the stars of the show and without them we would not have got past Stage 1!
The Spookworks Management Team would like to thank the marshals at the end of stage 5 for their help in extinguishing the fire and Jase for actually bringing the fire under control and minimising the damage.  Big thanks go to Dean, Josh and Woody from teh service crew who kept us going as long as we could with some amazing work and of course the Oracle for just being the Oracle.

More details and pics to follow as we begin the rebuild.

Next event is the Woodbridge Stages on 22 September.

Lets hope that we can put all this behind us and that the Spookworks DNF record stays at 1!