Final Testing proves Invaluable
The team's final testing and training package in Morocco has proved a huge success and vital to ensuring the race crews are as prepared as possible for the harsh realities of the Dakar Rally in South America next month. With a fleet of three Defenders and support from the Land Rover Experience team out in Morocco R2R T4 truck driver and off-road "Jedi" Mark Cullum delivered a well rounded package that saw the drivers and co-drivers work together in the Atlas Mountains, long, rocky tracks and some of the largest sand seas in Morocco over a five day period.
Mark had specifically created a robust package that would see the teams navigating together, working on the vehicles together and operating from a grass roots "Ewok" level of sand driving (some levels below Jedi) to highly competent and thoughtful sand drivers focussed on keeping the vehicle safe and not getting stuck.
The package was split into two groups who were thoughtfully called "A" and "B" teams to ensure that no competition happened at all... Group A consisted of the "RatCat" crew of Ben and Mark and "Joy" crew of Matt and Barney with T4 navigator Chris Ratter on hand to support mechanically. Group B was made up of the "Orange Plant" crew of Justin and Tom with Tony and Cathy completing the set as the I.R.D crew. The groups would deploy to Morocco at different times and complete the same package with Mark and Chris with the main aim to prove that they understood the basic tenets of Traction, Ground Clearance and Stability before deliberately setting themselves recovery exercises in the unforgiving and changing sands.
Tom won't forget Justin's dune parking in a hurry although credit where its due the vehicle didn't roll, meanwhile Tony showed Cathy exactly what Mark was talking about with a fine example of driving in the snow until the ground clearance factor ruled out all forwards... or backwards movement! Life wasn't easy for the "A Team" either with Matt following Barney's instructions to the letter and familiarising himself with the entry and exit points of ditches. Needless to say these early mistakes were ironed out rapidly and the resulting training became a hard fought success for everyone.
Simply put the package was a fantastic opportunity to complete the team's preparations for the Dakar with the law of the land delivered by Mark if mistakes were made. By the end of each group's package the pairs were working well together, choosing good lines through the dunes and building up an excellent rapport inside their vehicles.
For Group B the enjoyment was made better with the inclusion of two journalists to follow the exploits as well as conduct some dune driving themselves. We look forward to seeing their articles and photos as Dave Shepherd was on hand to take some breathtaking images.
Our thanks to everyone who made this trip possible, without it the team would not be as ready as possible for the great adventure that is the Dakar Rally.