Rally Blog – by Dale Moscatt (Part 2)
- 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 two.
Anyway, out to testing in the morning and the main aim of the first day was to back to back performance test the team’s N12 (2006 model) and their N14 (current model) Subarus. This was done on two test roads, one fast and one slow and rough. Most of the co-driving was done with a Russian lad that Evgeniy had used before and then I stepped in for the afternoon. Well, my first impression of his driving was just mind blowing. For a kid of seventeen his level of car control and the lines he took on the road we were using, was just simply uncanny.
For the second day of the test, Evgeniy had decided that he would be using the older N12 for the Vyborg rally the following weekend because he felt a little more comfortable and confident in it, so the new car would be our ride for the day in order to save the old girl for battle. My first impressions of the new car was ‘what a piece of kit’. OK, only the rally people here might understand this, but full WRC car style electronic dash with stage timers that start at each stage start, work out your top and average speeds plus adding everything together for you, ETA’s, trip meters, etc. all incorporated into the one unit, as well as all the data NASA (or maybe the service crew) could possibly need on the car and its logging.
The road we were changing to had been used for a rallysprint before but after about five passes in each direction we decided it was not really suitable anymore. The road condition cut up a lot and we got a puncture in the fast section which, luckily, didn’t result in going off the road as we were doing 196kph! So we packed up shop and also changed my seating position as I was getting pins and needles and couldn’t feel my legs much at the end of those runs!
The next piece of road we used had a whole heap of flat out roller coaster-like crests and was once again fast and flowing, but then you could also turn off half way through and tackle a twisty narrow section so we had the best of both worlds to try out Evgeniy’s notes. The test that day was about us spending time together in the car to see how we got along, but also to have him write and listen to English pace notes for the first time. Evgeniy is a very smart young lad and speaks quite good English, but making the notes in his second language and, even more so, listening to them and comprehending them at speeds of up to 200kph is just something you can’t be sure will work until you try it.
I must say this road and our trips up and down it that day is just about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. It had crests that the car floated over and one jump that you took flat out from left to right (206kph, actually) and the car, once returning to earth, compressed so much on the landing (the G-forces were incredible) that this downward pressure then (luckily) provided the grip in that dip to bounce you off a small mound that ran along the edge of the road and straighten the car to then launch off a second crest!
The first pass through here I confess to pulling the elbows in a touch (the first hint of a brace position) whilst still reading notes so the impending accident could not be hand balled to me. I was really wondering how smart a decision to test in a car like this on a piece of road like this with a 17 year old was!!! But as I’ve said, all’s well that ends well and once he showed me the exact same speed and line through the same bend the next twelve times we went through there, it was obvious not only did he know what he was doing, but that the kid can drive flat out from the first pass and his instinct on the car’s capabilities and his lines and vision of the road ahead, well belies his years and experience.
At the end of the test we sat down and had a small meeting and I’m pleased to say that we were all impressed enough for the decision to be made to compete together in the upcoming Vyborg rally. So with no time to spare, we all darted back down to Tallinn to catch a train bound for St Petersburg, Russia. This was an experience in itself actually. The team had booked us cabins for the journey but with all the old style border crossings, passport controls, visa checks, etc. I really didn’t get much sleep. I also made the mistake of not changing the various cash and currencies I had on me which turned out to be a nightmare. There was no problem with having the money I was told, but because I had been to so many countries recently they said they had to count it all! I was really concerned about something going missing here or some kind of glove search but I am happy to report none of the above (or below).
So, from St Petersburg we took a two hour drive up to Vyborg to prepare for the rally. Vyborg is a former Finnish village and in fact the stages we were to compete on went to within 8 km of the Finnish border and were only 100 odd km from Helsinki itself. Recce on Tuesday and Wednesday and no scratches so far and before we knew it the rally started itself on Thursday morning. The rally was actually both a Russian National round as well as a round of the IRC so the entry list was unbelievably strong in both drivers and machinery. There was something like fifteen S2000 cars as well as the likes of former World Rally Champion Didier Auriol, fast Freddy Loix (winner of the Belgium IRC round a few weeks earlier), as well as Anton Alen and Juho Hanninen to name a few. The first leg actually consisted of four stages before we headed down to St Petersburg for the ceremonial start, and yes in that order??? At the end of the four stages we were settling in nicely and with a steady approach (honestly), we were in 4th outright and 1st Russian crew (well you know what I mean).
Day 2 we would start in position 4 on the road and we decided we should push on a little bit more and with one of the cars in front getting a puncture we should step it up again on the following stage. We won this stage and moved into 2nd place but with PWRC regular Hanninen in a Peugot S2000 about 50sec in front and nearly a minute now to Alen in the Fiat behind, we would drive safe for the afternoon loop. Day done and around a minute now either side of us going into the last day.
We started the loop well and with two to go all was looking rosy...Until! Well it started to rain and unfortunately we were caught out on a left hand tightening bend and with the back end of the car running wide and off the road, we hit a big rock which snapped the rear suspension and spun us round. There was about 6 km to go in the stage so we got going again and pushed on to the finish of the stage where I got out and made repairs as best as I could. Not a bad MacGyver effort with what I had and even if it only got us a few more kms with the wheel on, it could save us s ome time!
Good intentions but 2km into the 20km last stage the wheel and suspension parted company with us, so basically we then tried to just take it easy on left bends as the car would pitch the front up into the air and we pushed on down the straights. This was going to plan so we could still have been on for a 3rd outright when the car chugged to a stop with 2km to go. A quick check on my trip meter confirmed that we had run out of fuel. With its bum dragging on the ground and getting punished by all the stones, it had worn a hole through the tank, end of rally! Very disappointing obviously and with his rivals out Evgeniy would have done enough to wrap up the National Championship for 2008, but I guess we will just have to save that for next rally.
In Russia I had the pleasure of catching up with my old mate Adrian Bukmanis. Most people will remember Bukky from his legendary efforts hurtling the little Honda Civic or his beloved Legacy through the forests back here in Oz. Nowadays though he works for the illustrious Prodrive corporation in their Group N sales and is, in fact, the man who put my name forward for this role. We have caught up a few times over the seven years he has been away (most times over a beer in some remote Chinese village), so it was nice to be able to spend some decent time catching up during the week he was also up working in Russia.
From there it was up to Bangor (near Belfast) in Northern Ireland to Allan Harryman’s place. He did the good deed and showed me around, which of course meant catching a local club rally being held at a disused airfield nearby. It was interesting to see the array of cars used compared with an Aussie event and by God, do they have some Escorts over there?! It was a good day out and also a chance to meet some of the lads who would be running our cars over in Wales the following week.
On the Wednesday morning, Allan and I headed to the workshop of David Greer Motorsport up in the hills of Northern Ireland where we did the final few things inside the cars whilst the truck was packed and then off we headed on a road trip down to a port near Dublin (normal Ireland now, yes I'm confused too) and our trip across the pond. Our driver on this trip would be the infamous 'Muchy' who not only worked for the team in preparing our cars for the event, but had also starred with a class winning performance in the ‘wee’ rally we had visited earlier, and on his first ever event I might add, so we were in good hands.
Anyway the trip across was quite smooth sailing and after arriving we took a small detour to pick up what would be the transport for Allan and I down to Sweet Lamb where we would test the following day. Now you will notice there is no photographic evidence of this vehicle amongst all the photos and that is for good reason. The car we picked up was a Porsche Boxter! Now where I'm from, if there are two blokes in a Boxter enjoying a leisurely drive through the country side, especially when one of them speaks a bit strange (that's you, Allan) then it normally means they are in the hairdressing profession (if you know what I mean!). So, moving right along our little road trip from here down should have taken about two hours but with the help of Muchy's reliable little Nav-Man, we managed to stretch that out to almost three I reckon (professional co-drivers, yeah right).
The next morning I rose from my TINY little bed in a hardly much bigger pub in the middle of Wales somewhere to meet the BGM team as well as Ron Cremen and our Abu Dhabi drivers Majed and Khailil once again. After breakfast we took off to the Sweet Lamb rally complex to start our test. We were joined there by yet another Northern Irish rally driver by the name of Shaun Gallagher who had been hired to come and give the lads a ground up lesson on the best way to get the most out of these little Front Wheel Drive cars and also teach them the ins and outs of driving on slippery Welsh roads. 'Jebus' must have been listening to our plans and supplied a typically cold, miserable Welsh day, but that being what we should expect in the rally, we couldn't really complain. All went well in the test and we managed to leave with two guys feeling a little more confident and at ease with the car and, surprisingly, two straight cars.
So, off down to Swansea Bay on the Friday morning in the suspect old Boxter, where we got the Pace Notes that the organizers supply for the rally (no recce allowed), did documentation and then took the boys aside to watch the DVD they supply with the notes and give them an idea of what to expect. No hitches there - a nice meal with the team and then off to bed.
Rally day dawned and although both the boys were understandably nervous about their first proper forest stages (complete with trees to hit), it was all systems go. It was a good start to the event with both of us making it through the first stage unscathed. The notes they had supplied were very average to say the least and right near the end of that first stage the notes (and what was on the DVD), were actually different to the rally route! Not ideal but we got through! Stage two went better again and we started to push on a bit more as Majed got used to the different notes and of course road conditions, so happily there were no real moments to recall.
SS3 was cancelled as a competitor had gone the wrong way on the stage and created a safety concern so all that was left was one 13 mile stage. We went in here wanting to pick the pace up further and continue the learning curve and, being the last stage, I know Majed wanted to get the most out of the experience. He was a lot more comfortable now so I did push him on quite a bit and we made good time. His lines and commitment were stepping up really well, too, but nearing the end of the stage we passed another competitor who had stopped to change a flat tyre and they pulled out directly behind us. Following us for about a mile Majed kept looking back at him and with him starting to be put off by him being close behind we decided to let him pass rather than having an accident by not concentrating under the pressure. Off went the guy in his little Fiesta and then off we went in pursuit. I thought it would also be a good chance for Majed to see this faster driver’s lines and see where some time could be made up, but the guy was driving so sideways trying to get away from us that, in fact, he was not getting away at all. We followed him for a mile or so and then on the second last corner when about 30m in front of us, he went in too fast on a 3R and slid off the edge of the road. We hooked in tight, I made the old 'Ha Ha' noise like in the Simpsons and we went on to the finish!
More invaluable experience for the boys then and it was also fun for me, too, and another good result to seal the trip. From there it was pretty much pack my suitcase for the last time (you have no idea how glad I was to do that) and a couple of beers and a few tales before we headed off to Heathrow in the morning. We made the plane ok on Sunday afternoon and headed down to Dubai, then on to a transit stop in Bangkok before finally landing in Sydney on Tuesday morning.
So what a mega trip. I hope I haven't bored you all too much. I do get writing and then can't seem to compress it much but you get that with me! It sure has been an action packed couple of months and with four WRC events as well, three Middle East and three or four Russian rounds left this year, there seems to be no rest for the wicked.
On a personal note, I want to say a special thanks to Allan firstly. It was great fun, as always, at the events and I had a top time hangin’ out and seeing the sights over the last couple of months. To Ron, Majed and all of the Abu Dhabi team, again good times, good results and some lasting memories. I also had a blast with the E-Art team in Estonia and Russia and I’m certainly looking forward to the events we have to come. A big thanks to Barry and all the lads from DGM that did such a good job and were such fun to hang out with in Wales (even if they do all throw stones like little sissy girls, see picture, I also have video).
To big Scotty Ando, a big thanks also, for being there every time I wanted or needed advice while I was away and under the pump (of which there were many times), and lastly, but certainly not the least (and without wanting to sound like my old mate Cody here), I would like to thank my wife for letting me take off jetsetting around the world to chase my dream and these opportunities. I really am glad you were still here when I got back and I promise I won't go away again for at least another ten days (ok maybe for a day on my KTM - I missed her too you know), so my sincere thanks for all the support from not only you but all the family and friends that keep encouraging and supporting me.
Sorry to end on a soppy note like that (it must have been all that time in the Boxter getting in touch with my feminine side!). Anyway, I look forward to catching up with you all some time soon.
Hope you enjoy the pics!
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