This year three vehicles participated in Jhal Magsi Desert challenge 2010. The vehicles were loaded on to a trailer and transported to Sukkar three days in advance, whereas the team joined up on Dec 9, 2010. A great event which went pretty well against all the odds. All the three vehicles finished the Rally in style.
The composition is as following;
Vehicle # 415 (Category A) Nissan Patrol Pickup
Nadeem Naeem Driver
Zohaib Jadoon Co-Driver
Vehicle # 206 (Category C) Willys
Ahsan Niaz Driver
Imran Ahmed Co-Driver
Vehicle # 205 (Category C) Mitsubishi Pajero
Asad Marwat Driver
Burhan Kundi Co-Driver
Will give narrative details as we go along the thread. For a start up here are the pics...
Writeup by Nadeem Naeem ( nn )
Woowwwwwwwwwwwww! What a trip. I know…I know it will sound over exaggeration but to me it was just beyond every other sporting activity I have ever done.
It all started early this year, when on a normal Saturday morning the Devil…sorry desert devil (aka Asad Marwat) called to say we are heading for a sand run, wanna join, I said I have clinic and he said………don’t work so hard for money all the time! (little did he know at the time that this Rally bug is a Money Pit of a different kind) ….cancel your clinic he said…….and foolishly or otherwise I did…….called Redbull_AR and woke him from sleep to come along to take pics. The sand run near Lawrence Pur was good fun and while have our snacks the Devil said Doc, interested in going for Cholistan Rally. And I said YES! The rest as you know is history (at least for us Nuts with Guts….very nicely described by IHaq on this thread) and so the Rallying bug was born!
When I first heard of Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge (of course courtesy the Devil) my first reaction was ……… its too far……….heard it’s a disaster for vehicles….blah blah blah! But the Devil had other plans….he had another IJCian infected with the Rally Bug……..come forward Para Pilot (aka Ahsan Niaz). With the two of them constantly going on n on about how… when…what to plan…….I just could not resist. At first I kept saying I can come to support you …… and will not participate. But the Rally bug is lethal…………….and I gave in. The work on vehicle started and this time……. for me it was recently acquired Nissan Patrol pick-up. The Devil himself got a new Intercooler Pajero and started tinkering with suspension, roll cage, snorkel and what not. Similarly Ahsan was moving full speed ahead with his Vehicle Rally preparations with above items. My plan was like Cholistan to go as completely Factory Stock Vehicle (Probably the only factory stock vehicle in both Rallies). The only work carried out was the fitting of the compulsory Roll cage. And yes a new CD stereo system for listening to music during the rally etc :)
There were several plans and ideas floated around regarding mode of transport etc and also there was some musical chairs regarding the navigators as well Eventually on the D-day we somehow managed to all finish up the required work on the vehicles and got them on a trailer by 9pm for them to be eventually dropped off at Sukkar. Two days later we started off in two vehicles, first one was Burhan’s Mango Pajero with the mighty V6 3000 petrol engine with Burhan, Asad and Zohaib in it. They left late Wednesday night and headed straight towards Sukkar, a journey of 1180km, which took them 16+ hours. Once in Sukkar they took delivery of the Rally vehicles and checked into the Hotel. The second party comprising myself, Ahsan and Imran left next morning at 4:30am on Ahsan’s Corolla GLI. We had a comparatively faster run with less breaks, but it still took us 14 ½ hours. We obviously headed straight to the hotel and joined the rest of the gang.
The next morning excited and full of anticipation we left our hotel at 5:30. Ahsan’s corolla was left at the hotel and we moved in 3 rally vehicles and our back-up service vehicle (Mango Pajero). We were only 7 people in all, i.e. 6 rally participants and Asad’s driver who came along with the vehicles on trailer and who was going to be our man with service vehicle at mid point during rally. Ahsan’s navigator Imran very kindly decided to travel in the comfort of enclosed car and deserted Ahsan to drive the open Willys in freezing cold early morning! Unfortunately extremely dense fog meant our progress towards Jhal was extremely slow and after a while we decided to stop for breakfast and for sunlight to clear up the fog.
Massive truck traffic and queues, extremely poor roads (if you call them roads) and also wrong directions meant our journey was prolonged a lot and we managed to reach the Jhal Magsi Camp only at 2pm. 200km in over 8 hours To top the disappointment, all other participants had already left for Track Recce, and we were so knackered that full recce was not possible in the remaining daylight time. So we had a bit of lunch and then eventually we left for brief recce. Ahsan n Imran left in the Willys, while rest of us decided to go on the Mango together. The start of the rally track was very rough and it just opened our eyes to the difficult terrain ahead. Within first 2 km in a short patch of soft deep sand Ahsan’s transfer case pack up and he was locked in neutral mode, unable to move. To top the stress, I managed to get the mango stuck in deep soft sand by driving too slow for terrain. Eventually with the help of a local boy who helped dig for 45 minutes under the stuck mango, we managed to get the mango out. Imran and Ahsan worked furiously on the Willy and managed to partially rectify the problem, but on each subsequent attempt in deep sand, the 4X4 transfer case would pack-up under load. Had to tow him out of sand and back to camp couple of time more, before we eventually stopped.
It was tough call, whether after reaching all the way to Jhal, if Willys would be able to enter the rally. Later while going for a friendly drag with mango and Asad’s intercooler, at a drag strip within the Rally camp, I found that my engine refused to pull full rpms or would keep bogging down near top end of both 2<sup>nd</sup> and third gears. That was rather stressful time. Thinking it was some rubbish in carburettor, I tried several full throttle runs on the road and later Asad tried as well, but problem persisted. We removed the air filter as well to see if it will make a difference, but nothing worked. Damn Carburettors!!! For some time I seriously deliberated not entering the rally. Eventually sanity prevailed and I thought, have come so far, lets do it and we paid up the registration fee for myself and Asad. There were 50 participants in total in all 4 categories. Ahsan was still working on his Willys and it was decided that he will do some Juggaar and do a trial run in morning to see if it works and than enter the rally.
The qualifying runs firing order was decided by a draw, my number came out third, and first one was not even in Jhal yet, so I knew I was second one out, a bit nerve wrecking. Asad was 26<sup>th</sup>. That night I was out chatting in next door Camp with Ashraf Sb and Qasim Saidhi, and when I returned back to our camp at 1:30am, found out the my sleeping bag had been nicked by Burhan. I decided not to disturb him despitemy annoyance. I eventually did try to go to sleep in another sleeping bag in which my generous size wouldn’t fit in. It was freezing cold out there in the half side wall open tents. Eventually I got up at 4am due to constant shivering and decided to walk around, there were few random thoughts of smacking the sleeping bag nicker, but I managed to control my vicious n malicious instincts!! I got my own back the next night, when I took my bag back and left him to sleep in small sized thinnish sleeping bag, and guess what…… next morning he was the one walking around at 4 am trying to get warm and eventually ended up sitting in his car with heater on!!
Qualifying started at 9:30, half hour later than planned, there was too much dust on track after every run, so qualifying went on till late around 3pm. It was a timed run of 2km on an auto cross style track. Our qualifying run was mediocre, lack of practice and bogging down of engine at high revs was partial contributor, but probably I wasn’t aggressive enough either. Asad had mashaallah a blast of qualification and was almost 5 seconds ahead of me. Eventual result showed that there were 15 other drivers in those 5 seconds difference between us, margins were very small!!! Lazzaz (Willys) had a successful trial run after multiple juggaars to fix the 4X4 problem. They had managed to fix the gear into permanent 4X4 mode by hammering in shaped wooden pegs on either side of shifting levers in transfer case and securing them with bungee cords (and it worked like a dream) and they eventually registered for the Rally, but he wasn’t allowed to qualify and was told he would start the race at the end. Asad’s race staring position was 18<sup>th</sup> and mine 33<sup>rd</sup> and Lazzaz last, with 4 minute difference between each starter it meant all of us would start over an hour apart.
Burhan’s Pajero was showing few gremlins and so we decided that only Asad and myself would do the rally recce on my Pickup once our qualifying was over. We left for recce at 2:30pm with our note pads and GPS etc. The further we moved on the track, the more it opened our eyes, it was a hell for the vehicle, really rough stony patches with sudden change to grainy sand to soft powdery clay/ sand etc. The powder sand / clay was like flour, it would puff up in air by minimal tyre speed and would take forever to settle. The recce finished around 6:30 or so, we had made reasonable notes and felt comfortable about what to expect. After usual chats and taking the Mickey out sessions and what not we eventually went to bed before midnight. Needless to say, I had a much better night sleeping in my own XL sized warm sleeping bag :)
Race Day, well, all were up early in excitement, Asad’s set off time was 10.08, mine 11:12, Ahsan 12:16. We all kitted up etc, wished one another luck and gradually all moved to the starting area. The support vehicle was sent off to mid point by following Saidhi’s support vehicle. Eventually on our respective time we set off on the track. The recce the night before was at slow pace making notes, so trying to do the rough stuff at high speed was completely different ball game. Within first hour before we had even left there were news of two roll over’s and couple of breakdown, adding to our excitement (read nervousness).
Jhal magsi track is notorious for difficulty in overtaking because of enormous dust clouds. Having qualified slower meant, I was more relaxed that I wasn’t among any faster vehicles so no one would overtake me. And that’s what happed exactly, so I could concentrate on my own driving. Zohaib and myself thoroughly enjoyed the Rally run, him giggling and me cursing our vehicle for lack of power and the awful track terrain!!! I managed to shout at Zohaib several unquotable profanities, when he managed to misplace the timing card at the check point losing us a minute or so…….it was all good fun Zohaib, wasn’t it !!!!! Other than that we had great fun power sliding the pickup tail on all turns in sand once the front shocks had gone soggy by first breakpoint after 78km! High speed runs weren’t the most stable, but we managed to give it a good welly, managing to hit 140kmph very briefly twice. I am told other Class A vehicles were hitting 170-180 on those stretches…..explains our eventual time difference Although I haven’t receive the official timing yet, my own timing suggests 2 hour 42 minutes for my 194km Rally run giving average of 72kmph. Initially it was a disappointment, because I possibly pushed harder in this rally compared to Cholistan, where my average was also the same at 72km. But than I did some more calculations, I worked out that Nadir Magsi the eventual winner averaged 101kmph at Cholistan, while here at Jhal he averaged much lesser at 92kmph! The eventual times of Asad and Ahsan could not be worked out as they didn’t note their mid point times.
Lazzaz probably had the most excitement during the rally. He rolled the vehicle to the side almost at the very start of rally, where luckily they were pushed back onto the wheels by some helpful spectators and they continued, later they tried another roll over but failed to mange it by minutest of margins. By mid points their front shock mounts had broken off and rear shocks had also packed up, so they removed the front shocks completely during the compulsory 20 minute break and set off again without shocks, driving just on leaf springs (what did I say….. NUTS with GUTS). I am told they had a blast of time floating around whole track and managing to bang their front wheel on a rock ripping the tyre apart as well as bending the wheel, which they changed, but as they didn’t secure the damaged wheel back on the vehicle, it fell off some where on the track and we couldn’t find it after the rally!
We stayed at Jhal till the evening in hope of getting final results, but nothing was posted, eventually there was small ceremony of Prize distribution and us participants was also given small wooden thingys. Finally after pack-up we left Jhal at 11pm Sunday night with constant driving, stopping for short breaks (some not so short, n some even long) we eventually managed to arrive back Islamabad at 1.30am Tuesday. 26 hours for 1420kms. We dropped of the rally vehicles at Sukkar as planned for loading onto trailers and headed back in same two vehicle as initial journey.
The friendship, the camaraderie, the helping hand, the passion n drive etc shown during the trip was phenomenal and typical of all IJCians. Thank you my dear friends for one the best times of my life. God bless you all!