Day 2 – Tambo to Eulo
Each day starts with breakfast from about 6:30, then morning briefing at 8:00 and departing from about 8:30. Cars going out early need to pack up before briefing, but the later groups for the day can sleep in and get breakfast a bit later, and pack up after briefing. At briefing we learnt that one car died on the first day.
Day 2 was 533km with less than 100km on sealed roads. We were towards the front of our group this day, but not leading it. The steering was feeling a bit sloppy and the car was understeering a bit. About 140km or so we decided that we should stop and check it out, but we’d wait the 20 or so km until we got to the sealed road where it would be safer to pull over. We radioed through to our buddy group to let them know, so the lead car would pull over when we got to the seal.
About 10km along there was a bend and the car massively oversteered. We left the road and started going into and over the scrub. The car was difficult to steer, and wouldn’t accelerate. Putting it into gear and taking disengaging the clutch created a horrible noise. Fortunately as the car slowed down we were able to control it back onto the road, and roll to a stop. Everyone else pulled over, and we got out to check.
We opened the bonnet and with our negligible mechanical skills, and no idea what we were looking at. Neil from Rusty Wrecks asked a few questions and got under the car, and told us that we’d done our CV joint. That had broken and come away from the wheel, and it needed to go on a trailer. This could be the end of the rally.
The standard procedure is you remove most of the weight from your car, and put it into other cars in your group. We were reliably informed by rally royalty Neil and Nicki that support would be fighting over our car, being so light it would be an easy tow, and would fill up their trailer so they couldn’t take another. It took less than 15 minutes from when we stopped for a trailer to turn up, and when they did, it was just like Melbourne trams, and two turned up together.
Not A V8 went on Michael’s trailer, the chief mechanic for the rally. We pushed it on, and left leaving support to tie the car down. We both travelled in other cars, myself in Premo and Anthony in Defiance Duo. I actually found it great to meet other people, and be able to sit in the back and relax without any need to navigate or drive. I even got a snooze in after a rough night sleep in the tent.
It was pretty comfortable sitting in the back of a Commodore wagon. The large car was much smoother than a 3 cylinder city car, and far more suited to the long distance touring of the rally. I also learnt a few more pointers from Beamsy as he was giving driving instructions to Troy. While the two wagons we were travelling were far more suited to the rally (as is usually the case for first time rallier’s), there’s nothing wrong with taking a less suitable car. In fact the whole point of the rally is taking cars that aren’t really suited to it.
The rest of the day was trouble free. We arrived into the fuel line about 5:45 again. This one only had a single bowser, but had someone directing cars to back in towards it, so that three cars could be backed in to fill at once, and had a really good system of directing the next cars in while one was filling so it moved faster than the one at Tambo.
At each camp support set up an area called triage. It’s where all the cars that have had major issues or come in on trailers are repaired. Generally the mechanics from each buddy group work on cars, with the support crew providing more specialised support such as tyre repairs, welding, as well as general mechanical repairs. We arrived into camp at about 7:15 again, and started to set up our tents. Neil went across to triage to check on the Alto.
It turned out it had already been repaired. A bolt holding everything together at the front wheel had vibrated loose, causing the driveshaft to pop out. It’s likely that when we replaced the clutch in the end it wasn’t done up tight enough. It had remained attached for six months of daily driving, then over 2500km from Melbourne to Rockhampton, but on day 2, it had finally come loose. It was also the reason for the steering feeling a little floppy, it had come loose at the left front wheel.
It was a relatively easy repair, albeit it was suggested I get it fixed properly if I was keeping the car beyond the rally. The mechanic and his partner were paid in Bundy and cokes to go on and fix the next cars.
Riding on the trailer, the car got covered in dust. The 4WD ute towing the trailer kicked up loads of dust, and because the Alto was so close, the outside and the inside (through the air vents) were absolutely covered in dust. At some stage a rock must have been thrown up as well as one of the front fog lights was smashed. Lesson for future rallies, take some cardboard for the front to protect the lights, and ideally a dustproof tarp to protect from the dust.
This turned out to be the first and only mechanical breakdown for our buddy group.
By time we went for dinner at 8:00, over half the teams had already gone first, and they’d run out of food. They scrambled to find some other options and were cooking chicken breast and chips which actually turned out to be OK.
Words and Photos by Daniel Borton