It all started on Saturday afternoon at Logue Brook Dam just North of Harvey. I, being the last to arrive at 4:30pm, was immediately shafted by being told trip notes were my responsibility. We registered our team, had a quick bite to eat, put red transparent plastic over the interior lights to aid our night vision (well done John, best idea ever) and made wise cracks about being in a red light district, before heading down to the start line for a 7:10pm start.
Looking at the calibre of vehicles entering the comp I began to wonder if my mostly standard Paj had any hope at all of completing the course. If you ever needed confirmation that the society is full of cashed up bogans at the moment, then you should have come down just to see the vehicles on the start line.
There were supposedly fewer teams this year than normal with only 12 (I think) team entries (24 cars). At the pre race briefing we had been informed of the usual safety procedures and then told the course consisted of 4 loops with two of the loops having special stages worth bonus points if they were completed, Oh and a ‘car swallowing’ mud hole had appeared in the last week that had already claimed 2 out of 2 course organisers cars before the event had even started. I looked down at my relatively new Nike running shoes that I had forgotten to change before I left Perth and wondered how my navigators (Duncan and Diana) felt about slopping around in the mud recovering me every time I became ‘forwardly mobile challenged’.
At last it was our turn to hit the gravel. I think it took only 200m before we stopped and questioned our first turn and if we were on the right track or not. Fortunately we made a correct decision here but soon made our first mistake only a few minutes into the event that saw us add 1km of extra distance onto the odometer. “Oh did you say a bearing of 1140” was the catch cry “I thought you said 1400 ”. I did try to recover the situation by backing up the 500m mistake thinking that the odometer would spin in reverse but did you know that even in reverse the odometer still counts forwards. Explain that one.
Anyway, after eventually getting the right track things, quickly brightened up with a series of good navigational decisions being made and some enjoyably challenging terrain to traverse. We overcame a couple of tricky muddy downhills and soon arrived at the first of the special (optional) stages. A quick discussion with the marshals at this point on track conditions and what to expect and the purchase of some fund raising Freddos.. for energy… saw us decide to make the brave decision of “Have a crack”.
John in his 4runner lead the way and according to navigator Martin proclaimed the track to be easy. Of course it was always going to be easy sitting on top of a set of 33 inch mud terrain diff locked tyres. The Pajero however found the going difficult to say the least. In fact it really was at the limit of its capability for the setup. Never the less with a bit of gentle coaxing (if you can call 6500rpm of screaming V6 gentle) we made it. No one was happier than me to see the top of that hill. One day I’ll go back and see if I can find the 3kg of metal from the chassis rails that is still somewhere up there. The marshals at the top informed us that we were only the second team to make it up and at the end of the night we were told we were one of only three teams that had made it. Given the fit out of many of the cars on the course, that made me quite happy with the performance of the mighty Paj.
Only one more wrong turn for this loop but it was a beauty. I don’t remember the exact distance we travelled to recover from it, but it would have been close to the 10km mark. We arrived back at the check point at 11:05pm, 3.5hrs after we started.
We gave ourselves a 30min break here to stock up on caffeine before setting off on the next loop. Fortunately this time the track was easy, we made no mistakes and completed the whole task in 2hrs. Brilliant. This really boosted our spirits and gave us a feeling that we had a real chance of doing well not just being in it for the experience. At this point the marshals told us that we were only the third team to have completed two of the loops.
Another 30min break saw us start the 3rd loop (the one with the infamous mud hole) at 2:00am. We arrived at the bog within the first 15min of the course to be greeted by the smiling course recovery team. You’d think that they’d get sick of watching competitors and their vehicles flounder about in the mud but apparently small pleasures are hard to beat. The most valuable advice from them “Pick your line carefully”. I guess they thought if they gave away too many hints they wouldn’t get to watch any carnage. Despite this lack of assistance John and Martin carefully considered their attack plan then proceeded to execute a perfect crossing. Next was my turn. With my snatch strap already hooked onto the front recovery point and the remainder sitting on my lap you can imagine the eager anticipation of the marshals as I crept forward in 2nd low. However they obviously hadn’t encountered the agile performance of a Pajero previously because with hardly a wheel spin we crossed successfully.
For the next 30mins everything went according to plan. We made very few navigational errors and successfully negotiated any obstacle in our paths including a water crossing that saw the headlights take a late night dip. Martin even very cleverly covered up an error and got us back on track without losing any distance or time. Then disaster struck. Somewhere along the path of success we made a wrong turn and became hopelessly lost although it took us a while to realise because things still sort of fitted in with the course description. By this time we had covered many extra km’s and wasted just as many minutes.
Eventually we came across another team who put us back on the straight and narrow but it was all too late. At 5:30am we arrived back at the check point to be politely but firmly told that the race was over for us and it was time to go to bed. There just wasn’t going to be enough time left to complete the last stage. A disappointing end to a great night but already I’m itching for the next event like this to come around. As it turns out only about half of the competitors finished all loops so we were not put to shame. It will be interesting to see the final point’s results when they are published.
You’d think sleep would come easily after an all night event like this but it took a long time for the adrenalin to leave the system and exhaustion finally kicked in.
Thanks very much to Martin, Diana and Duncan for their excellent navigating and well done John for showing me the way and making it all look so easy.
A fantastic night worth putting on your calendar for next year.