KOV Race Report 2014 Round 2

Here we go the Race report from KOV 2014, sorry its a bit long it was an eventful weekend and i have had plenty of time waiting in waiting rooms recently!

Shock tuning:

I was really pleased when I heard there was going to be an area and time allocated to shock tuning and vehicle set up prior to the event. Over the last few months I have been working closely with Paul Jones from Prolinx Suspension to dial in the coilover set up on the racer a we ran in Scotland with an off-the-shelf shock tune and totally wrong spring ratings.

Since Scotland the truck has had a PAC sway bar added to the back end to firm it up and now we are running a triple spring rate on each corner as well as revalved shocks. I wanted to get some wheel time in so we got out on to the testing course just after lunch. This enabled us to get used to the route so we could then feed some speed in to see how the truck was performing with the new set up.
We pulled up at the start of the course and off we went, straight down a long corrugated straight with an off-camber 90 left uphill on a rutted climb then through some trees and out downhill before coming out on to the open, then a long uphill rocky climb to crest, a grassed hill to then across the off-camber slope through some drainage ditches.

After a few laps we had the route nailed and knew the better lines to take to get the speed across the terrain. We went back to the start and powered down the first straight and through the corrugations. The difference from the first laps was unbelievable – by carrying the speed across the terrain the suspension was absorbing it like it wasn’t even there. It was like a different truck from the last outing at King of the Glens.

After a few more laps to get the time behind the wheel I met Paul and took him round for a few laps so he could get a feel for the suspension and see how it was performing. This man’s knowledge is unbelievable and straight away he got a feel for it and came up with some further tweaks we will be carrying out shortly to be able to really unleash the power and potential of the truck over the ground. After that I was happy we were ready for the prologue the following evening!

Prologue:

Drivers’ briefing was at 4pm and first car over the line was 4.30pm so we had plenty of time for final checks. Due to the disastrous week leading up to KOV in which I managed to smash my finger up fitting the suspension to the truck there was not a lot I could do when it came to prep work – and I wasn’t allowed to, either!

I cannot put in to words how appreciative I am of the help I have received in preparation to the event and over the race weekend. Dan, Ross, John, Darren, Toni, Martin, Brett and Kev crawled over every nut and bolt of the car to ensure we were ready to race.

Before we knew it, it was time to get in starting order. We were P8 for the prologue which was decided on race number. So we pulled up at the line, this time in 4WD, unlike in Scotland! We had already walked the course so we knew what was coming… the flag dropped and we were off at a slower pace than previously haha!

We went straight in to a mudsplash, then a dash down a rocky incline to a 90 right and then on to a tight straight between the trees before crossing on to one of the main Cat 1 tracks with a few glancing corners before taking us across the rough at speed, then back on to the Cat 1 track with the power down. The suspension kept the wheels planted and the tyres ate the track ahead and we were soon off the throttle on a descent in to the woods and back on to the rutted tracks before crossing a fire break with fallen trees across it. Around halfway round the car was flying.

As we approached the only checkpoint on the prologue the next obstacle that awaited was a rocky stepped climb. We arrived at the checkpoint and it felt like we were waiting forever due a technical issue with the marshal’s pen! He soon got the hang of it and we were back off straight in to the rocks and the route was right to left, alternating on each step.

Off we went, up the first step, the front climb and then a blip of the throttle and we were up. Well, that’s what I thought, but the engine had bogged down … ‘sh!t,’ I thought, ‘what’s going on?!’. Straight away I knocked the additional fuel pump on to ensure fuel pressure was good, but it was still the same. We rolled back, locked it in first and hit it again. We’d managed to get the ponies back under the bonnet and we were off, alternating as we climbed before power loss struck again, but we kept it going and after climbing out of the rocks we were off back on the straight.

After the confusion of the gear lock out on the rocks I forgot to go back up the box so before we knew it we were bouncing off the rev limiter and back up the box on the tracks to a man-made right hairpin in to an off-camber 90 left then flat out down a muddy rough track which felt as flat as the track we had just dropped off. There was then a flat-out climb uphill before running the test area in reverse. The descent into the arena area was taken at caution due to a knife-edge mound at the bottom before a 90 right to a tabletop jump.

I was racing with the aim of finishing so approached the jump with caution, then headed up and out of the arena to climb on to the finish straight.

I approached at speed for the flying finish counting in on the caution boards – 3, 2, 1, flag… ‘oh f@#{!’. There was a bank on the inside and a rock on the outside, and we clipped both! The car was now out of control, all we saw was sky, ground, sky, ground, sky, ground, race track, and as soon as the car landed the wheels were down and straight and we were off. We never actually ground to a halt and we crossed the line mid-flight, keeping the power in when the wheels hit the race track. Well, we finished the prologue didn’t we?!

That was an improvement on KOG. Ok, yes, we rolled but to be honest if you had blinked you would have missed it and most people did so we shrugged that one off quite well.

As we drove off the track we were escorted to parc ferme where the cars were all lined up. Now was the moment of truth, time to get out and assess the damage. While some people were worried about race times that thought hadn’t even crossed my mind – the concern was the state of the truck…had I just destroyed a one-event-old truck?

The roof had smashed in above my head and the cant rail over the driver’s head had bent but was intact. Thankfully we had installed ‘taco gussets’ on the front hoop which had taken all of the compression force and not affected any of the rest of the structure of roll cage. The windscreen frame had also cracked in half and dislodged the mesh screen, but other than that everything was intact! We were amazed.
Why hadn’t we rolled end over end at 20-30mph and landed on the wheels and driven off before I’ll be looking to leave it a while before trying this again though!

The credit goes to the construction of the vehicle, which was built with safety as a priority. The cage was built by North Off Road in T45 tubing. Every section of it is T45 and the roll was a testament to the strength of the material and the construction of the cage.

Now it was time to get the car checked out by head scruitneer Dan Furness and his brother John, who both agreed it was structurally sound to race.There was some work to be done but we were still going to be able to start the race! That’s the luck you need when racing. Some people might look at the roll as bad luck, but it was repairable and we took that as a positive!

After what felt like hours the cars and start times were released and we were starting p10 which I was amazed about as we losst about 30-40 seconds with engine issues on the rocks and pen issues at the checkpoint, not forgetting the roll but that technically started at the finish flag!

As soon as I turned the engine off back at the pits the car was swamped by Ross, Kev, Darren, Dan, John, Skins, Toni, Martin, Brett and Stu. I was honestly blown away by the dedication of the team, which was pretty much randomly assembled with a group of friends at Scotland and has grown at each event!
There were spanners, hammers, grinders and drills running all over the car, prepping and repairing the damage of the roll! While the car was being prepped I had instructions to get my hand dressing changed, so Garry from Gaz Fab turned his fabrication skills into medical procedures and he did well!

In the mean time there was a list of parts required to get the car patched together. We needed some ally to fix the windscreen frame, so off I went to look for some. I ended up at Jerry’s camp and he said he had something suitable. In an instant he had a chisel in hand, and then a hammer, and was chiselling a lump out of the roof of his lorry! Fair play! That’s dedication to keep other people racing – thank you, Jerry.
With that sorted the boys patched the frame back together and had the roof and door frame back to Land Rover tolerances! While the repairs were being made the rest of the team were prepping the truck, checking every nut and bolt on it and tightening as required. It’s unbelievable how much things come loose, no matter how tight things are; the abuse these trucks are put through will loosen anything. Due to the dust at KOV in the dry we changed the air filter in readiness for the main race. The filter was clean but got replaced as a precaution.

Within a few hours of the car being bent and possibly out of the competition we had a race-prepped truck fuelled, clean and ready to race.

Lap 1
We pull up at the start line and we are going in blind, though we know the first two corners and straights because they were on the prologue.
The flag drops and off we go, down the descent in to the 90 right and down the straight and straight in to a water splash and off through the forest at speed. Ross and I agree to avoid water on the next laps because getting wet that early with out a windscreen is never fun and we pull a tear off from the googles and drop a gear as we pull through the gears at speed through the forest.
With Vision-X LED lights lighting the way ahead we were at 3km and battling through Cat 1 tracks at speed then dropping in to rutted tracks through the woods and across the rough logging tracks. Ross was calling the corners and the hazards and I was driving at 75%. Yes, I know you’re all laughing but it’s true, we were looking at the bigger picture of survival and using this as a sighting lap.
The car was perfect, giving the feedback and handling that’s needed at this event. It was quick and planted on the fast stuff, danced across the rough and climbed boulders like they were pebbles.
We were passing parked vehicles, always approaching with caution and ensuring the crews were safe, and we were always waved on by smiling crews. Even though they were broken they had been loving it till that point, so we knew we were progressing up the field and making places up without stressing the car or us too much.

Soon we caught a glimpse of tail lights and realised we had hunted down and caught a car up. Ross told me to pace myself as we caught the car on a rocky river bed approaching a checkpoint. I knew this was the terrain we could really carry some speed on (well, to be honest it was an assumption but I had faith in the car from the prologue) so we dropped a gear and kept the foot in.
It worked perfectly and we were carrying more speed across the rocks than we had been on entering the river bed! It’s amazing the difference it makes to have a car in sight to get the race pace in, so we were soon on the tail of the Whitbread buggy.

Learning from the previous day, I locked it in first gear and climbed looking for the line to pass them. They got hooked up and then free which caused us to lose momentum but gave us space to carry our speed and line up the rocks, with the truck taking each step in its stride. As we crested the rocks the buggy had pulled to one side to let us past! Thank you for that, it was great sportsmanship and we enjoyed the battle.

Back on the Cat 1 we pulled the gears hard before dropping back on to the forest tracks, which were great fast rutted tracks to work the suspension. There are some great rocky river beds and drainage routes and Neil had used them all. We were crawling through the gullied rock crawls and it was amazing the traction these cars can find and the speed you can drive at over terrain you can’t even stand on. It defies logic!
We were back on the forest tracks feeding the speed in and as Ross called a drop to the left, the back right tyre goes. After scrubbing out the speed without dropping to the left we pulled up safely off the track to change the wheel – no problem! Well, usually no problem, but the fact I cant use my right hand for lifting turned this into a one-man job which, when you remember it’s a 50kg wheel and tyre set up at head height on the back of the car, does add its difficulties. Credit and thanks go to Ross who had the wheel changed in quick time and we were back on track.

A few cars passed us while we were parked up, so we had cars to hunt and time to make up but we also knew we had to be extra careful because we had no spare tyre left! The thought did go through my mind ‘why didn’t I fit the tyre balls’, then a glance at my hand reminded me why we hadn’t.

We soon caught up with Pier and Willo, who were kind enough to let us pass in the approach to the main rock crawl. After a little blip up the first step and the front lifting Ross reined me in and called to just winch us in to the main line and then let me have a play! He called the line and turn point and we nosed up and applied the power but this didn’t work, so we dropped back and took a slightly different line with more power to get the momentum going and across the rocks.

After completing one main rock section I called Ross back into the truck as I knew I could carry more speed across the rock than he could on foot. With some great support from the crowd we entered a dog-leg left over the rocks and after about 100 meters we caught up the cars that had passed us while we were parked up, so we were back on pace and looking for the line.

However, Philon had broken and had parked up and we were all queueing to winch round due to the camber of the line to avoid crashing down in to him. We winched the step and approached traffic while seeking a route to the left. We took it and went for the pass, the steering went light, Ross called STOP! He asked what’s was going and then told me I’d sheared the wheel off!

So that was lap one! We had sheared the upper ball joints on the axle housing and sheared the drive shaft uj yokes in half and folded the wheel under the front axle. The only way to get the truck out was going to be strip the swivel off the wheel and steering, take it to the pits, fit new ball joints and then re-assemble in the rocks and drive it back out… so that’s what we did!

We had spare Synergy heavy-duty ball joints to fit, but were missing a press! We managed to track one down from Pete Whitman and Ross, and John and Darren soon pressed the new units in. While they were doing this I was trying to find a replacement drive shaft assembly for the driver side so we could get racing again. After walking the pits, I had received many offers but none of the correct parts. I returned to the pits and Axel had given one to the team that we could borrow! Axel kept us in the race and we will hopefully repay you equally one day.

So we returned to the car and rebuilt it with the swivel with the Synergy ball joints freshly fitted and recovered back to the pits. Due to the time we were broken we had DNF’d that lap and missed the chance of a second lap but had time to get a third lap in, so I accepted the start time which gave us an hour to get repaired and back out. Due to the time required to re-prep the car and carry out a sufficient repair and replacement of the ball joints on the other side of the axle to ensure they didn’t fail we made the team decision of starting the lap at the designated time but DNF’ing the lap to give us maximum lap time which is better than a DNS and no lap time.

This meant we were in with a chance of meeting the criteria of 75% of laps started over the weekend. This then gave us all night to rebuild the truck for the final day to hopefully to get some lap times in. With the weather reports calling the tail end of a hurricane coming in, the team got to work reorganising the camp so the car was fully covered in case it rained. Once again the team spirit and love for racing was outstanding and the car was fully prepped and the borrowed shaft installed and the other side ball joints replaced as a precaution.

I was designated the job of going to the fuel station to get petrol and lager so Brett gave me a lift and returned with 80 litres of petrol and equal amounts of alcohol for the team as a reward afterwards! Once again the car was prepped just before the weather hit which worked out to be perfectly timed, so we drove the car out and let the welsh weather clean the car off for the second day.

Lap 4
So the weather hit hard over night and due to flash flooding the course had been modified to keep the racers away from the fast-flowing floods sweeping the site. The start time, max lap time and amount of laps had been changed to suit the weather conditions as well, which wasn’t the news I wanted to hear. I was counting on the chance to get three good laps in to make up for the previous day but that was now not an option so it changed the race approach from full-out attack mode to ‘let’s get some wheel time in, have some fun and bring the car home over the finish line’.

As our start time approached we made the final checks and at this point the rain had stopped. My goggles were loaded with a fresh pack of tear offs and the flag dropped.
Off we went through the water splash and downhill, straight through the second splash and off through the forest, clicking up the KMs on what was a totally different course due to the overnight weather changes.
Soon we found ourselves passing parked cars again and arriving at clear rock sections. We picked our lines and drove them with ease. The rock sections at Walters are weird – you add water to them and you get more traction! The grip was unreal.

Before long we had caught up with some cars winching up a rocky muddy climb between the lower and upper track. We patiently waited clear at the bottom and let both cars clear the gulley and as soon as the last car crested the top we were off. The choice was mud or rocks and water and we took the rocky route and started to crawl, approaching the point where the other teams had been winching we were climbing the obstacles with ease and were out and back hunting down the cars in front before entering the next rocky trail. We were waved past the car in front and with a beep of the horn we were back through a rocky gulley and then out of the forest to a Cat 1 track with a high-speed sweeping left corner. At this point I realised we had no steering, so I pulled over and saw we had dropped a belt. Under the bonnet the belt was still intact and so was everything around it, so it must have picked up some mud or something.

After a quick refit we were back on our way. Marcus and Rob must have passed us while we were packed up, but we were soon back in the hunt, clicking through the KMs and arriving at the arena to take our place in a five-car queue to winch round a stranded car on the steps.

One winch pull, one climb and one straight was all that was between us and completing our first lap at KOV. After the traffic moved off we winched from bottom to top in one motion and we were almost there. If anyone had heard us cross the line they would have thought we had won the series, but we were just ecstatic to finish a lap! As a team we have been trying for the last three years to complete one lap of KOV and we had finally done it!

Lap 5

So we had made it to the start line of the fifth and final lap. We knew the script by now and as the flag dropped we were soon clicking through the forest tracks.

The rain was coming in hard, which reminded me that a full-face helmet is definitely on the shopping list as I digested rain and mud every time we powered through the ever-expanding puddles!
We approached the quarry at speed and as we entered a hairpin left straight in to the water we could see tail lights so we were closing cars in already which was great seeing as we were driving to finish again.
After the water and into a right-hand bend we lost steering again. We knew the drill from the previous lap and put the belt back on just in time to see the cars ahead loop back into the quarry and exit back on to the fast tracks. We hopped straight back in, clocking up the kilometres and checkpoints before arriving at the rock gulley where we had caught the same cars on the previous lap.

Marcus and Drew both chose to winch the gulley and we sat back again and carried the same line as before and made it work with some power. We sat on Drew’s tail through the next rock section and then the chance came… we had considered dropping in and out of the gulley to pass through the gates and then get back on the track and drop back down in to the gulley along the length of it to avoid ripping a tyre wall like on Lap 1. The gap between the markers was tight to get out, overtake and back in for the next gate, but we were determined to give it a go. I made the call and took a tight line to Drew’s back wheel out of the gulley on to the track. Hitting the accelerator to make the pass as the gates approached, we dropped in perfectly in front of Drew with out affecting his line (I think he sped up to shut the door on us ). We now had Marcus ahead but, seemingly, out of sight. And then he appeared, on his side with marshals standing by. The co-driver of the truck couldn’t release his harness and was still in the truck so we backed in to the bushes and anchored up in a gulley to winch him back up the right way. Drew caught us up and Ross waved him through as we continued to make sure Marcus was good to go again.

Back on our way, we caught sight of Drew again, using him as an indication of the terrain ahead. After some twisty ditch crossings Drew ducked in to the left and let us pass on the outside of one of the faster stretches. There was some great sportsmanship with these guys over the last two laps and we were all racing our own races so I really respect them for letting me through when they did!

With the addition of the rear bent trailing arms, the new angle of diff pinion was causing us massive issues and we really couldn’t push any harder than we were so once we got to the arena I was happy to see it clear. It would have been nice for the spectators to have a show down at the end but I was just looking to bring the truck home and finish!

After one long winch pull up the steps we were there, taking the finish line with caution this time! King of the Valleys 2014 was over and we had completed it, which was amazing!

Looking back it’s hard not to be disappointed from our incidents on the prologue and race day one but on the plus side the potential of the truck is there and we are learning how it needs to be driven and what needs to be changed. Once again I want to say a massive thank you to all the support we have received over the season and the weekend.

Special thanks must go to our sponsors and race partners.
- Synergy MFG
- 4130 Clothing
- Prolinx Suspension
- PAC Springs
- Atlas Transfer Case
- Bailey Morris Prop Shafts
- Wrex Racing
- Ruftraks
- Alisport

Special thanks to the crew who kept #Wrex27 racing.
- Paul Jones
- Richard
- Darren
- Brett
- Martin
- Ross
- Toni
- Kev
- Skins
- Paul
- Kk Mobile
- Steve
- Grant
- Axel and team
- Jerry and team
- Rob Butler and team
- Drew Wright
- Stu

and everyone else who helped us! I’m sure ive missed some names off the list but not ment personally just a very busy weekend and im not the best at remembering names!