Rally Blog – by John Allen
- 18th September 2008, 11:00am
The second round of the Chinese Rally Championship was held in Mohe, approximately 70 kilometres south of the Russian Border. If there was a Chinese “wild west” (well, technically speaking Mohe is in the North East of the country but you know what I mean), Mohe would be it. This area (including the town) was destroyed by a massive fire ten years ago, so the surrounding forest is a kaleidoscope of colours as Autumn begins.
The town, however, is confused as it is still in the process of being rebuilt and is in the awkward teenage years of deciding if it wants to grow up to be a big western town or stay true to it’s history and remain Chinese. It is a town where new Landcrusiers share road space with the horse and cart. It is a place where I would visit even if there wasn’t a rally on, especially in winter with the snow.
Mohe would be the first rally I have been to where the transport section has more jumps and corners than the special stages! Thankfully we followed Dean Herridge and Chris Murphy on the bitumen roads to the stages and wherever they crunched the sump guard or caught serious air, we knew it was time to slow down. One pothole in the middle of the road was big enough to swallow a car whole, and with witches hats in short supply, enterprising locals planted a tree in it to warn you of it….all you can say is “this is China.”
Well to the serious part of the story, the rally proper, and the first stage, and I am stumbling for words here, but we were hosed on the first stage. We lost nearly a minute to David Higgins and Juha Salo over 25km from just “easing” into the stage. I should know better that there is no gentleman’s agreement to do this anymore…was there ever!? Normally I am content to run our own rally and not worry about times but we were seventh on the first stage and thankfully this upset Tony Green and I to come back with a second fastest stage time on the following stage….better!
While happy with the improvement this was at the expense of Herridge/Murphy who had absolutely no brakes after cutting a brake line and still averaged around 120 km per hour, and Juha Salo from Finland, who had a monster crash when he claimed he broke the steering before leaving the road according to the data logging at 155 km per hour. Admittedly I did have doubts that Juha was strong enough to break his steering, but he is a big lad with gorilla sized hands that crushed every comer at the after party who dared to challenge him to an arm wrestle…that is a story for another time.
Digressing you may already have caught a glimpse of high numbers describing speeds of this rally. I have never seen stages like it, and you know it is going to be scary fast when Finnish boys mention “it seems a little bit to fast!”
If there ever was an autobahn of rallies this was it. For the first two stages we averaged approximately 145 kph and our top speed was 198 kph. The Mitsubishi Evos were claiming 225 k’s per hour so know matter how hard Tony and I pushed in the corners, we were always going to get slaughtered on the straights, so it was Evos 1,2 and 3 while we consoled ourselves as the first Subaru in fourth.
After lunch and with a repeat of the afternoon stages, we decided there were no more excuses and we would just have to push harder through the corners to try to carry more speed at the start of the straights. This would mean committing to a new pace noting system based on steering angles used by Chris Atkinson, and commonly used by many of the top steerers in Australia. Tony was beginning to trust that a 9R is essentially code for take it flat and hang on for as long as you can around the next corner. This commitment moved us from fourth to third at the end of the day, behind David Higgins and local driver, Wei Hongjie.
Time for some homework and Tony and I headed back to the motel to review the following day’s stages on the TV from the recce. An unwelcome interruption from our service crew informed us we have been caught twice for speeding on road sections, once three days ago in recce that no-one told us about, and once that afternoon, which, well, we were speeding, so I accept that. If we are caught once more we will be out of the rally!
OK, so now the motel is no longer the sanctuary it once was and a few frantic phone calls to find out what the speed limit is/are results in various answers depending on who you talk to. This Saturday night was a sleepless one for me…..I have had a few arguments over the years with various drivers nagging them to keep to the speed limits to the point they would (un)happily toss me out of the car…..I was not looking forward to Sunday.
I’d say Tony slept better than me that night, and while not happy at the decision, he plugged in his Ipod (he must have heard the fact that I am a nag) and cruised at no more than 80 km per hour for the 50 kilometre transport section. We have the data logger to prove it! Even though we started third on the road, we were passed by seven cars on the first transport stage. Tony didn’t flinch and drove at Nana pace. I rate him for being professional and accepting this decision to make sure we would not lose our podium position.
Thankfully this slow cruise didn’t affect our first stage time on Sunday, finishing only six seconds behind David Higgins and second fastest with an average speed of a mind boggling and pace note stutter inducing 155 km per hour…..I haven’t even done this sort of average speed in a Lamborghini Gallardo or Porsche Turbo in Targa!
The second stage was even quicker with essentially a two kilometre straight where we had our Prodrive Subaru wound out to 216 km per hour, which did require an involuntary ad-libbed braking call by me at the end of the straight!
That was where our rally ended…..actually everyone’s rally ended here as the organisers decided 155 km average speed was enough and called it a day. Tony and I were actually happy enough to call it as we wanted to add another podium to our one in Shanghai, and if we were allowed to accrue drivers points (International drivers don’t score points), this would have us second behind David Higgins in the Chinese National Championship, which is an exceptional effort considering this is only the eleventh rally in Tony’s career.
The final results were:
1. David Higgins/Leuan Thomas 0:56:54.8
2. Wei Hongjie + 0:02:39.4
3. Tony Green/John Allen + 0:03:09.3
4. Liu Dong Cao/Anthony McLoughlin + 0:03:39.2
5. Brian Green/Fleur Pedersen +0:04:33.3
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