4×4 Croatia Trophy 2011 stage 1

Our baptism of fire as the competition gets off to a challenging start! A long and confusing roadbook and the scene of the infamous ‘Carwash’!

This is the baptism-of-fire. It is do-or-die time. You’re on our own – with a simple roadbook – and heading into the Croatian forests!

We charge off down the track and instantly make some beginner’s errors: missed marker trees, navigation, bad driving. However, after half an hour, we seem to catch up to everybody else. So we are not doing too badly after all…

There are about fourteen cars scattered around along a river. All of them lost and on the wrong track! We search together for about an hour, consulting our notes, checking trees, driving up-and-down tracks! Eventually, the correct markers are spotted by Simon and everyone floors it in that direction.

In a tricky riverbed we winch a tough point, which takes us about 45 minutes! The steering ball-joint breaks! What now? No steering at all…

As we stand there scratching our heads, trying to figure out why this had happened, we see Mark and Paul (in the Extreme class) arrive at the winch point not too long afterwards. They have spare ball-joints, which they give to us, before disappearing down the track again! We whip out the spanners and can continue elated!

A while later though… the clutch starts slipping! I thought it was wheel spin in the muddy swamps but it gets worse. I find a recognisable tar road that we need to cross over and decide to head back to the deserted camp…

The Carwash!

Kindly the Swiss team mechanics, ZZ Kustoms (a very slick outfit), help us bleed the hydraulic line, which seems to help, and an hour and a half later we rejoin the course from our last (known) position. Tough going, though. There are some really deep marshes, and we even end up lost – and on the trail of the ‘Extreme’ course…!

Driving in tandem with an Austrian Jeep (also lost), we make good progress but at 7 pm we are only halfway! And the clutch is slipping again. Later we hear they were turning back Adventure cars anyway, due to the late hour… A very tough introduction to offroad navigation, driving technique and determination. A small consolation during dinner…

Big Pete’s Jacuzzi – taking a break during stage one…

Tomorrow is the mighty ‘Team Challenge’ as well as the ‘Night Stage’ as well.

We had a good day that we enjoyed despite some mechanical problems. The navigation is getting good and the car is strong enough for my mistakes…

Here is some footage from Team Desert Foxx during stage 1

ps. Happy 40th birthday Simon!

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