This year IJC rally team participated in Sind Desert Challenge.
The participating team consisted of
1, Asad Marwat (Desert Devil) with Ali Zafar (Charged) in Pajero V6 3000
2, Shabab Haider (Untamed) with Akbar Sb in Nissan Safari Cruiser
3, Myself with Imran Ahmed in Nissan Patrol Pickup.
Masha-Allah I am extremely pround to share that Desert Devil proved to be a true desert master and secured third Position in the Rally.
We are all extremely grateful to Almighty for bringing us back safely and for his eternal blessings upon us!
Welllllll………………….here we go again………………… another Rally, another wonderful weekend, lots of tense yet exciting moments, wonderful companionship and chit chats (read leg pulling!). In short a wonderful experience, strongly recommended for all enthusiasts as per doctor’s orders!
<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comThe ones who had been following IJC rally team would be aware that we were in preparation for Cholistan Rally from the beginning of the year! Cholistan Rally was postponed multiple times for various reasons and eventually Sindh government decided to hold a separate rally at Dharki, just south of Cholistan! The terrain was golden sand and lots of it!
<o:p></o:p> Although initial plan was for even more entries from the team, but due to clash of date, only three took part. The weeks began with frantic last minute jobs to be completed before we loaded the rally vehicles on Tuesday evening to be sent directly to Dharki. The team itself left on one vehicle (also acting as support vehicle) on Thursday night. First stop was ffice:smarttags" /><?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com</st1:City><st1:place w:st="on">Lahore</st1:place> where we picked up my cousin Imran Ahmed who was going to be my navigator. At <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Lahore</st1:place></st1:City> we were greeted by Deedee and treated to yummy Hardies burgers! Later Deedee sent us off with lots of wishes n prayers towards our destination.
<o:p></o:p> The journey upto <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Lahore</st1:place></st1:City> wasn’t unexciting. Midway when trying to take a picture I realized that I forgot my memory card back home attached to my computer! So yes I brought my DSLR with three lenses and what not, and forget the da… memory card. As mine was the only DSLR, rest were small pock digi's and mobile phone cams, so usual expletives were uttered, + usual taunts from the rest of the gang. All panic buttons were pressed, called my cousin in <st1:City w:st="on">Lahore</st1:City>, who rushed out at the last moment and managed to get a new one before we reached <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Lahore</st1:place></st1:City>!
<o:p></o:p> The journey from <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Lahore</st1:place></st1:City> to Dharki proved to be much longer than I had anticipated. Along the way, the usual banter continued. Usual smoker vs. non smoker tussle was worth listening to! J After driving all night and most of next morning (in turns) we reached Dharki, where our Rally vehicles had been delivered the night before! All things were checked, fuels etc were topped up and we set off for the Rally village, which was good 40-45km off the main road into the desert!
<o:p></o:p> Along the way, a strange knocking noise started coming from the front of my NPP, I stopped over to check. To my utter shock found out that my front right shocks upper mount had come undone!!!! I had the shocks worked on by a mechanic, and despite my insistence of about a million times to check n double check all the work, the chota had tightened the top screw of the shock directly onto the rubber bush without the usual thick metal washer on top. I had driven NPP locally for about 30 odd km before loading it onto the trailer, but all remained well on road, however as soon as I hit few bumps of the broken down track the nut cut through the bush and the nut became free and so did the shock. It stood attached just by the lower eyelet. Liberal use of foul language later, with some calming down words by Asad, and Ali’s reassurance that he does have the necessary repair stuff in his tool box, we headed towards the camp at gentle pace which was still some 30km away!
<o:p></o:p> Once we were at the village we put our stuff in the allotted porta-cabins with bunk beds! Needless to say I stayed on the lower bed in the interest of not endangering life of fellow team members! After lunch recce was planned, but first repair work was carried out by Ali n Shabab on NPP. Than another issue with lower shock mounts of Shabab’s safari was noted. The lower end was hitting the steering rod on turns. We tried different Jugaars and eventually gave up without muck change. Unfortunately this very fault later lead to further damage to the whole shock!
<o:p></o:p> The recce itself was uneventful, it was done at moderate pace and everyone agreed the track was quite bumpy and rough at some places, but overall it would be an exciting challenge going full blast on it!
<o:p></o:p> Later that night we formally registered the vehicles after inspection etc. The draws were taken out for the firing order of qualifying runs. My name was in 3<SUP>rd</SUP>, Asad was middle of the pack and Shabab near the end out of 49 registered vehicles.
<o:p></o:p> We went to bed around mid night and were almost all asleep within minutes, as all remained awake the night before. Next morning, I lost my way rushing towards the qualifying area, but still managed to reach in time. My qualifying went not as well as I had expected, the track didn’t suit the long wheelbase of NPP that much. Asad’s qualifying went much better! It was Shabab’s first ever participation and he qualified just behind me!
<o:p></o:p> While the qualifying was taking place the news broke of the death of the wife of one of the participants in car accident in <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Karachi</st1:place></st1:City>. The driver was extremely well known in racing drivers’ fraternity and a meeting was called to discuss whether race should be cancelled. After long discussion it was decided to go ahead with the race, but there will be no fanfare ceremony etc afterwards!
<o:p></o:p> Rest of Saturday afternoon was spent in filling up fuel n doing final checks, securing tyres, getting minor repairs done to Shabab’s safari. After that it was light chit chat till late, eventually hitting the beds just after midnight!
<o:p></o:p> Race Day, morning was rather quiet, everyone concentrating, checking cars, tyres, pressures etc Asad’s launch was before mine so I managed to take some snaps of his launch before I got in the queue of cars getting ready to launch for the race! At race speed the track till checkpoint 2 proved to be extremely bumpy for NPP. The car front shocks went soft well before that checkpoint! It was still manageable in straighter runs, but fast turns were difficult to handle. The drag of the sand with the heavy weight of NPP ( and myself :p ) proved to be too limiting for our top speed. None the less we gave it a good welly within limits. My navigator had prepared good notes of the track which proved to be helpful during the race. Mashaallah we finished safely without any breakdowns. On the way had seen 5 broken down vehicles including one which had flipped over!
<o:p></o:p> Shabab arrived safely as well a little while after. We headed back to the camp to pack-up. Where on closer inspection we found that the front right shock of Safari had been complete thrashed and smashed to bits! The broken shock also caused the front brake-line damage leaving him to manage mostly with engine braking. Despite all of this Shabab proved to be a true fighter and managed to finish the rally safely and in good time with style, Mashaallah!
<o:p></o:p> The news that provisional timings suggests Asad has secured podium got us all really excited. Eventually the final result was announced in a very quiet ceremony and Mashaallah Asad n Ali received their much deserved Cup n prize!
<o:p></o:p> The return journey began soon afterwards. We dropped our rally vehicles at the pick-up point for them to be loaded onto the trailer for return back to ISB. We continued the return journey around 5pm in our support vehicle. We drove almost continuously apart from usual short breaks, reaching home by 9am next day.
<o:p></o:p> I would like to pass all my thanks to my navigator for his help. Also my thanks to all the other fellow team members for their wonderful company and help through-out the trip. Many congrats to the “Desert Maestro” Asad for his Zabardast podium. Asad we are waiting anxiously for a grand treat from you. As I suggested earlier, a weekend retreat at PC Bhurban will be very appropriate (just what the doctor ordered to recover from this long journey). I am sure rest of gang members would overwhelmingly agree with my suggestion!