Forcefield News

Duo take on Pre-Dakar Competition

30/10/2012 15:33:00

Forcefield sponsored motorcycle Enduro racing duo Craig Bounds and Tamsin Jones have been preparing for the 2013 Dakar Rally with a trip to the Australian Outback to compete in the gruelling Australasian Safari Rally and after a hard, fast 7 day race against a number of full factory supported teams both riders managed to finish in the top 20!
For the full race report that includes tales of ingenuity, kangaroos and lizards read on……

The Australasian Safari Rally: By Tamsin Jones

“Watch out for the Kangaroos as they’ll jump out of nowhere, the Emus will run along the track in front of you and won’t get out the way, be careful of the fence wire that’s all over the place and yes the snakes and spiders are poisonous”.  That was the advice given to us by many of the previous competitors and locals at the Australasian Safari rally in Western Australia when we took part in September this year.

It’s hot, it’s fast, it’s long and it’s like doing half a Dakar without the long tarmac sections.  In fact in some ways it’s better than Dakar as the riding is more varied and interesting and it’s not even a quarter of the price. 
This year’s Australasian safari rally started in Perth, Western Australia and headed up the coast to Geraldton, Kalbarri, Carnarvon and Gasgoyne Junction and back over 4,000ks in 7 days.  We were expecting a bit of an adventure ride as the word Safari conjured up an image of a leisurely ride through the countryside, but it was as full on and well organised as the Dakar.

Craig Bounds and I had decided to do the rally in preparation for the 2013 Dakar.  We’d been searching around for a rally in September and didn’t really want to go to Morocco but wanted a long race.  I’d heard of the Safari and stumbled across it and the dates looked good.  I wanged them an email and found out it was free shipping for all European competitors.  FREE – Right we’re in!  We didn’t have much time to prep the bikes, Craig’s rally bike hadn’t turned up yet so our cheapest and easiest option was 2 DRZ’s we had in the garage.  All we needed was larger tanks, a road book and ICO.   Lack of time meant we didn’t bother with a steering damper and the suspension remained standard – both of these we realised later we should have sorted out.    As normal, jobs that I thought would take a day took all week – I’ll never be a good mechanic.   We used the ICOs and road books we’d had from previous rallies but had problems with the switches and leads after a bit of mechanical butchery of bits and pieces we had lying around we had what resembled some sort of rally bikes.  We knew that we needed at least 26 litres of fuel on board and Aqualine in Australia kindly donated 2 x 28litre front tanks that we were to pick up when we arrived in Perth.  3 weeks after we decided to do the race we were dropping the bikes, parts and tools, off at a warehouse in Paris ready for their 4 week sailing trip to Australia.

On arrival we were picked up in a limo – woo!  And taken to our bikes which we in a warehouse in just outside Perth.  We were the only ones there for the first couple of days with a guy called Garry Connell the head honcho of the Husaberg rally team – he had his team’s bikes there and we noticed immediately that the other bikes in the workshop were factory built proper rally bikes.  He asked us where were our dust lights, indicators, horn, high and low beam.  Aye “Craig did you read the regs?”, “No, did you?”  We soon found out these were essential as you need to be road legal and there was no way we’d pass scrutineering.  Our week’s holiday in Perth turned into another week stuck in the workshop making wiring looms etc.  We scrapped through scrutineering and had a few raised eyebrows about our air horns and hand operated flasher switches for the indicators.  We also realised at scrutineering that it wasn’t going to be a leisurely safari ride at all, these guys are serious and professional and we better get our act together.  Craig started to regret not building a proper rally bike and I just didn’t want to come last.  They’d even organised for us to be on national TV and radio – Pressure started to mount.    We were also 2 of 3 people who had opted to go Malle Moto (doing our own mechanics throughout the race).  Many of the riders had proper factory support. 

The first day of the rally was a short prologue, it was a chance for us to get used to the road book. Rallies in Africa and South America have a similar style of road book but this was different: lots of instructions within a short distance, rather than the long spaced apart instructions in the open desert.   It was like following a road book around an Enduro test.  It was easy to get it wrong and we both found ourselves up the wrong tracks.  Craig came into the finish of the prologue from completely the wrong direction – much to the amusement of the small but dedicated crowd who turned up at the end of every special on the rally.

During the rally we heard quite a few horror stories of riders hitting kangaroos and never riding again either due to injury or the sheer shock of it.  I had a big male Roo, leap in front of me on one special; luckily he wasn’t in striking distance and just bounced off into the bush.  Another rider wasn’t so lucky and hit one flat out; luckily neither rider nor roo had too many injuries.  Craig said that he unavoidably ran over a large lizard and as the rally progressed the story of the size of the lizard got longer and longer until it was an 8ft crocodile.   He’s also come across an Emu who ran in front of him on the track for a couple of k and could only pass after riding alongside it and gently nudging it out of the way with his foot.  Another hazard of the race is fence wire – Many tracks are alongside boundaries to large cattle stations and farmers often leave bundles of discarded wire.  You cannot see these until you are wrapped up in it.  If you overshoot a corner chances are you’ll be there for a while cutting the wire out of your back wheel.  This happened to me – I didn’t have any wire cutters but one of the medical helicopters was nearby and he had his emergency tool kit.

We soon found out that the tough and fast terrain definitely required steering dampers and the front end started to twitch at about 80 mph.  We dropped the suspension legs through the yokes and this seemed to help, only thing was it was difficult to turn tightly especially in the deep sand.  The lack of adequate suspension was also causing problems, especially the back suspension with where we had mounted our tool packs.  On the second day, on a fantastic track through the bush, my bike bottomed out ripping all the wiring off the back of the bike.  The bike then started cutting out and blowing fuses.  I had a few fuses in my spares and being no electrician or mechanic thought that wiggling the wires about would help, after nearly blowing all the spare fuses I realised this wasn’t going to work.  Down to last fuse and trying not to panic, I decided to take off all non-essential electrics, this seemed to do the trick and the bike started and kept going until the end of the day.  Working on the bike later, it seemed that the makeshift wiring loom we’d slung together to get through scrutineering wasn’t quite up to the job.

One of the best things about the rally is the variety of terrain.  From an enduro type special on the first day we were then riding up the beach splashing through the beautiful Indian Ocean.  We also had sand dune crossings which could have been in the Sahara, beautiful colourful national parks and trials style rocky creeks.   The sand dune crossings were interesting with no GPS or compass bearings, just an arrow slightly pointing to the right.  When I arrived at the first sand dune there were panicked riders and tracks everywhere.    We worked out by scrolling on the road book that we had to head towards a water tower in the distance.  Eventually we all found our way out of them and settled back into the race.

Some of the days were very long and felt like Dakar stages, without the long tarmac liaisons.  The hardest of the days had 2 x 190k tests in the morning and a 300k test in the afternoon.  I was hanging on for dear life and the tracks were superfast in deep sand.  I had to stop myself thinking of the Kangaroo s which were all waiting to bounce out in front of me or the wire which was buried in the sand that was going to mean I was going over the bars, then the snake which would slither over bite me and end it all.  Also on the roadbook were anthills, these were marked with !!! – Danger but were so hard to see  as they were the same colour as the track.  In the afternoon went through a beautiful national park, the spring flowers were out, there were lovely small pine trees and pink and purple colourful bushes.  Lalalalala, what a nice day!  I was suddenly reminded I was in a race when the leading car pulled up beside me – It gave me such a fright I rode straight into one of the lovely colourful bushes, fell off and landed in a lavender tree.   That is one of the things that could be improved – the communication between the cars and riders.  In the Dakar you there is a loud buzzer which goes off as the car or truck is closing in – in this rally you couldn’t hear the sirens until the car was at the side of you, then you got filled with dust so couldn’t see.

The latter end of the rally the terrain turned to rocky and sandy creeks.  One particularly long special ended in many !! And !!! Rocky creeks, through spectacular rugged scenery.  Craig reckoned it was one of the best specials he’d ever done.   I was too tired to enjoy it especially as I went over the bars in a rocky, dusty creek and got a mouth full of grit and it took a while for the dust to clear and for me to find a bike which was in a nearby tree.  No damage was done, well it was a DRZ.

We went back onto the beach on the last day for 2 x special tests.  The sand was deep, rutty and hard to ride – again I went over the bars and got a mouthful of sand – eww, I was like chewing grit all the way back.  In the end Craig had made it to a credible 13th place, battling it out with the factory built rally bikes on his DRZ.  As one rider pointed out Craig on his £3,000 DRZ was neck and neck throughout the rally with a £30,000 KTM 450 rally bike.  Craig would catch him on the technical bits but couldn’t keep up on the flat out tracks.  I rode steadily and consistently each and also managed a top 20 finish, coming in in 19th, much to the annoyance of riders behind me who had been desperate to beat the girl on the DRZ!!

It was a fantastic race and experience which more Brits should go and do next year.  There are some superfast rally riders and riders like myself who just like a tough, challenging event. They also put on an adventure riding tour which follows the rally.

Thanks to our sponsors: Craghoppers, Kriega, Tredz, Aqualine tanks – Australia, Michelin, Wayne Mounter Motorcycles, Putoline, Forcefield Body Armour.

Tamsin Jones Australian Rally

Craig Bounds Australasian Rally

Craig and Tamsin Australasian Rally

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