Rally Blog – by Dale Moscatt (Part 1)
- 31st July 2008, 3:45pm
Former Australian Rally Champion co-driver, Dale Moscatt, has recently returned from a seven week overseas trip pursuing his ambition as an international rally co-driver.
Moscatt has competed in the Middle East, Russia, Estonia and in the UK in that time, and is now gearing up for the second half of the Production World Rally Championship.
Here, Moscatt brings RallySport Magazine readers his exclusive blog from his trip away. This is part one - part two will follow next week.
VIEW DALE'S EXCLUSIVE RALLY BLOG PHOTOS HERE
Well, since I left home on June 1st it’s been flat out, literally. 38hrs from my door at home (via a Bangkok stopover, then a quick meeting with our team in Dubai) then on to the city of Damascus in Syria. If that wasn’t exhausting enough, I then had to do all paperwork (8pm by now) for the following day’s recce.
Recce went well with Majed (from Abu Dhabi) my new driver for this event. We were confident of being able to gain a lot of experience on these demanding stages in what was only his second ever rally. Unfortunately after a very good start we had an impact with a large rock in the middle of the road (well about big 300 rocks up to that point actually) and the result was a holed sump and very shortly after, a seized engine.
So after a day of spectating there was only time for a couple of quick beers before heading back down to Damascus for our 3:50am flight to Antalya in Turkey (via a stopover in Istanbul). Allan Harryman (from Northern Ireland) is one of my team mates in the Abu Dhabi team and he would be joining me for the trip down to Turkey for the WRC. The rally is based in the beautiful little town of Kemer on the coast in the south of Turkey (I hate my job sometimes). Anyway, on arriving in Kemer I quickly found that the nice little hotel I had booked on the net had no record of me, and the company who had booked it had nothing to do with them. But of course they did already have my money…
So I went with Allen to his hotel and the guy booked us both in there for no extra cost (Allen’s room had been pre-paid by his driver, who had now not been able to compete at the last minute), so all was now looking up, and indeed this hotel was all inclusive, so looking very much up! Allen and I have become good mates and it was great to spend a week out of the cars, and his father Terry Harryman (co-driver to Ari Vatenan and Michelle Mouton, to name a few) also came across and we did share quite a few stories over some local ales.
We did a good spot of spectating and also got time to have dinner and catch up with some people I haven’t seen in a while. We had dinner with Jari-Matti Latvala and his co-driver Mikka (Toni Gardemeister and few of the other always funny Finns joined us as well). Of course there were a few meals with Atko as well, and obviously we talked heaps of rubbish, as we do. After some solid networking in the service park we took in a spot of sailing, as well as making idiots of ourselves at the resort’s fabulous waterslides (I have some good video of that actually).
Now before you all (especially my wife Selina) start thinking ‘holiday’, this was all about balance okay, so on that front I did spend plenty of time talking to people (surprise I know). I had a meeting with the E-Art team that I had been speaking with via emails for some time, and organised to go up to a test with their young Russian driver Evgeniy Novikov. At only 17 years of age he is the youngest competitor in the PWRC, and he is also leading the Russian championship after the first 5 rounds, so is showing remarkable speed for such a young age.
From Turkey, it was then up to the UK for a week. I ducked into London to organise a Russian Visa, then stayed with my Grandma in Yorkshire for a few days before heading back down to my mate Martin Rowe’s place. Whilst in the UK, I sadly received news on the death of my former driver and long time friend, Xu Lang. Obviously this was quite hard to take at the time, but in this sport, sometimes I guess your number just comes up, so as I’ve said elsewhere, I really would like to thank everyone who called, SMS’d or emailed with your respects.
Once again it was great to catch up with Martin and I never thought I would say this, but I do actually miss China, and we did have a few good laughs reminiscing on the good/crazy times we’ve had up there over a few games of snooker. On that note, it’s quite obvious that I played most of my pool/snooker as a sober kid and he played ‘all’ of his down at the local pub. Needless to say my early lead dwindled as the lids kept twisting off…
Anyway, come Monday it was then time to get back to work and my BMI flight to downtown Beirut! Now I know some, or even most of you, might think that sounds like the pits, but you would be extremely surprised. The parts of Lebanon we saw were beautiful and it was very picturesque, both up in the mountains and around the coast of Juniyah where the rally was based.
To the event itself, all I can say is tough, really tough! It was the first tarmac rally for these boys (only their third event ever) and it is very twisty mountainous terrain, and now that the event is over and we survived, I can tell the wife how big some of the drops off the edge were at times (the word deadly in the notes tends to have your driver show the bend a little more respect luckily)! The tarmac surface was also incredibly slippery, especially in what is a relatively underpowered 2WD car. The other dangerous part was the absolute maniac locals on the road sections and during the recce, and by this I mean members of the public.
The rally started well for us. We were car #36 and had two team mates once again. Khalil (my first driver of the year) was back and doing a good job, but after leaving a remote service his bonnet flew up and smashed the windscreen. Unfortunately an over zealous official refused to let them start the next stage, so it would be a leg 2 restart only for him. Mansour (my second driver) was going along ok and improving as the day wore on, without incident (or any resulting in an accident). Full credit to Allan Harryman for co-driving him through those stages - this kid doesn’t really have the natural talent or car control and Allan is a brave man to have committed to belting up beside him in this one. I really did think he was going to be a HANS test dummy this time out, so hats off to him!
Majed and I were progressing well. He has had no motorsport background or experience before this year (and this opportunity), so I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am with the rate in which he is learning and picking things up. He only made one real mistake for the day, which was getting caught out on the last stage when starting to push on a bit. We came down through a flat out 6L loose over gravel, slow 100 Square 3R, but the cars cutting in further on the second pass had dragged a whole lot more gravel onto the road.
The braking zone was now covered in marbles and a big brake lock-up was the result. With the inexperience and panic of heading straight for a pole in the middle of the bonnet, he didn’t get off the brakes, so at the last second I yanked on the handbrake and managed to get the car angled enough that we smashed the right front headlight and bumper, but not much more. It was a very lucky escape, but a good lesson when you can learn that and not have it end your rally (or ability to eat food without the use of a straw).
So at the end of the day Majed and I were about 4 minutes in front of our team mate and we had actually taken the class lead from the local contingent, so all was looking promising. Unfortunately for Mansour, his engine expired as he drove it into the overnight Parc Ferme, so that was the end for them.
Day 2 started well for us BUT, about 2km into a 22km stage we came into a tightening left bend up over a crest and we (the driver always says ‘we’ when there’s a problem) cut the corner a little too tight and aggressively, which tipped the thing over, resulting in it sliding down the road on its lid and backwards into a wall. Luckily for us it was a spectator point so there was plenty of help there.
As soon as we came to a stop (hanging upside down with my side window missing) I yelled out to push the thing back over, but once the dust settled I realized I was shouting at a few soldiers holding machine guns. Oops! They were not willing to put their guns down so we made like bats until eventually the spectators came in and pushed us back over, then luckily she fired back up and away we went.
We made it to the end of that stage but the screen was a long way in and Majed couldn't see much, so I used a couple of size 12s I'd prepared earlier and kicked the screen out between stages, and with a few minor tweaks to a couple of the guards, and bumpers rubbing on the tyres, we were in business again (well so we thought).
When we got to the next stage we moved up towards the start line (and still I don’t know why) but the plumbed in fire extinguisher went off, which basically dumped liquid foam all through the engine bay as well as all over our feet and legs - just what we needed!!! So the officials obviously didn’t want to let us start, but with my incredible diplomatic powers (getting all the locals revved up, chanting and throwing plastic bottles at the officials… SHHHhhhh) they decided they better let us start. So we made it through and back to service ok, replaced the screen as well as the bonnet and a few lights, and away we went again.
The next few stages I really thought he was going to be driving slow and scared to make another mistake, but it was quite the opposite. The penny just dropped somehow and the lines he took and the way he pushed on and linked all the corners together was just awesome. I even pushed him on down the nasty hill because he was in such a good rhythm and we were making real progress.
I had to give a little tug on the handbrake every now and then to help get the back out at the hairpins or if it understeered through some gravel across the road, but it really was all going well. We did have one 180 degree spin down the hill, but all’s well that ends well. On to the finish then and a nice shiny trophy for 1st 2WD and also class N3.
I was so happy for Majed and the team. There has been three rollovers so far this year while teaching these kids and it was great to be able to give the mechanics a reward for all of their hard work.
From the podium I only got back to my room about 10pm to start packing and head back to the airport for my 3:05am flight out. I landed in Prague (with a five hour layover) before getting another plane on to Tallinn in Estonia. I’d ventured up to Tallinn to meet up with the E-Art rally team and take part in this test that would hopefully get me a gig with their driver, young Evgeniy Novikov, that I mentioned earlier.
With a history in European go karts (well as much as you can at that age) his father originally tried to convince him to go towards Formula 1, but Evgeniy did what most young kids would do and decided he knew better and wanted to try rallying instead, and as his results show thus far, this was a big win for rallying (and he must be a smart kid ‘cause we all know circuit racing is for girls)!
Well, by this stage of the trip I needed a break and the way I chat and write I’m sure you do to (they don’t call me ‘Muschat’ for nothing). So I’ll leave you at this point, but be back soon to take the story up from here.
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