Josh's Blog: GCC Day Two Update

Published: 26 October 2009
Day Two of the 2009 Global Green Challenge.
Josh's Blog: GCC Day Two Update

Pictured: Day Two of the 2009 Global Green Challenge.

The earth moved for the entire Global Green Challenge field today. Literally.

As most of us were asleep, in the wee hours of the morning, the shockwave from an earthquake in Indonesia was felt as far afield as Katherine.

The rumble was so active that my bed (on wheels) moved from side to side on the tiled floor of our palatial motel.

In my deep sleep, I remember thinking it might have been an earthquake. But then I told myself (clearly incorrectly) that Australia can’t have earthquakes because we are the oldest, flattest continent on earth.

At breakfast, everyone said “did the earth move for you last night?”. And that’s when I discovered it was an earthquake for real. Thank goodness it wasn’t dangerous. And I was on the top floor.

Luckily we arrived at the start line to find that our GCC vehicles were intact and none had fallen into a crater.

There was, however, one less car when we arrived. The Tesla electric sports car had been given special dispensation to leave early (after all teams agreed). It needed the extra time so it didn’t arrive at night.

Today, from Katherine to Tennant Creek, was the second longest day at 669km, and the Tesla needed about three and a half hours to sit on the side of the road and get recharged – from the diesel-powered generator on the back of the big diesel-powered truck. So much for electric cars not using a drop of fuel!

As was the case on day one, day two was extremely hot, especially in cars with air-conditioning switched off. We stayed in 40 degree heat for longer periods today and the sun was just as relentless as it was the day before.

Mini driver and former LeMans Vern Schuppan winner compared economy runs and endurance racing brilliantly: “There’s no comparison,” he said, “except in both events you get hot and sweaty.”

After the kerfuffle of refueling figures yesterday (some cars took on less fuel than others because the pumps were running hot) the figures seemed to have balanced out a bit today.

The HSV Maloo took on the most fuel (about 55 litres) but this made up for the fact that it took on less than expected on day one.

The Ford XR6 Turbo took on about 47 litres today. So with the two days combined, the HSV Maloo and Ford XR6 Turbo are separated by just 3 litres of consumption.

However, these are provisional figures only until the cars are refueled on the final day.

Among the tiny tots, the petrol-powered Suzuki Alto is giving the diesel city cars a decent run for their money.

The Alto took on about 26 litres today, and the diesel Minis took on about 23 litres. The sole diesel Fiesta took the least amount of fuel, sipping just 21 litres today.

Meanwhile, the Hyundai and Kia softroaders (two each from both brands) continued their argy bargy among themselves, all sipping fuel at a rate of about 5 litres per 100km or so. Both vehicles are powered by the same, new generation 2.2-litre common rail high pressure injection turbo diesel engine. Even though Kia and Hyundai are related, the teams are definitely divided.

Inside the HSV Maloo

My turn to drive today, with nine hours of driving the second longest day of the event. Unfortunately we got off to a bad start.

I started the engine 15 seconds before we were waved off the line. Doh!

Luckily HSV engineer and co-driver Gerry Bechet didn’t give me too much grief for wasting our precious fuel.

Little did I know there was some consolation around the corner. As we joined the main highway at the start, we noticed the Falcon XR6 Turbo go past the intersection – even though it should have been two minutes up the road.

It turns out they turned right instead of left onto the highway. There but the grace of god go us, I say.

The first hour or so today was much tougher than I expected, keeping the Maloo down into the high 7s on the instant fuel consumption meter.

Even though it’s hot at 8am, it still took a little while for all the mechanical fluids to get up to proper operating temperature, plus the terrain was quite hilly at first.

So, after a slow start, we started to get into a rhythm after the first hour.

As was the case yesterday, we caught the XR6 Turbo early, at about the two hour mark this time. They seem to average a slightly slower speed than us and build speed later.

We tend to run better at a higher average speed.

There is a strict ban on drafting, so it is hard to overtake. Fortunately there was a long straight and no traffic as we got close to each other. We were on the wrong side of the road (broken lines) for almost a minute as we inched past.

All the teams are friendly towards each other, and it’s the same with this Holden v Ford battle. With a nod and a wave we were on our way. Slowly.

About an hour or so after that a local ute fan came out in his black VU Holden SS ute to give us some support. It belonged to Jason Keys, a mechanic at Larrimah, about 500km south of Darwin. He followed us for a while, and then disappeared into the dust.

We saw him up the road a short while later; he’d gone ahead to get some video of us.

He’d heard about the new HSV Maloo heading his way at his local, the Pink Panther Pub at Larrimah, and came out to give the HSV and Holden teams a boost. Thanks Jason, hope you get that kangaroo dent in the bonnet fixed one day.

After about four-and-a-half hours (half way time-wise), it was time to swap drivers. My ankle was sore and my heels were starting to cook on the floor.

We took a quick toilet break and refilled the esky. We are each drinking at least 5 litres of water and electrolytes a day at the moment. It still doesn’t feel like enough.

Gerry was fresh and got straight into it. He made the last half look easy, but it wasn’t. We had strong headwinds again as the breeze built up and mini tornados swirled across the road in front of us.

We made make-shift sun screens out of rubber gauze you use in bathrooms and stuck them on the glass like you would a baby sun-shade. It’s not pretty but it keeps the sun off our necks, hands and arms, and the keeps the cabin a little cooler.

We treated ourselves to three short bursts of air-conditioning today (thanks task master Gerry!). It was awesome, but it only lasted a total of three minutes out of nine hours driving. I’m not sure who’s more determined to record good figures: Gerry or me.

We also drove past a guy towing an old, half-cut Suzuki Carry van towed by two camels. We sent the HSV support guys back to snap a shot. It was the most interesting thing we’ve seen so far on the trip (although the earthquake was the most interesting experience).

The guys in the HSV support car, an LPG Senator, are in good spirits. The pair of them, Rob Davis and Leigh Russell, have begun calling Gerry “Gary”. For some reason there was a misprint on the entry form and so the organizers keep calling him “Gary”. Funnily enough, Gerry says he doesn’t mind the name Gary.

Pace notes and other observations

After pointing out how much fuel the Tesla electric car is using thanks to its diesel powered truck and diesel powered generator that follows it everywhere, we thought it only fair to have a look at the rest of the support vehicles.

The HSV team has one car: an LPG Senator. Holden’s Omega wagon team has two cars (a Commodore SV6 wagon and a diesel Cruze sedan) and the tiny Suzuki Alto has a Grand Vitara 4WD following it.

The trio of diesel Minis are being pursued by a 2.0 diesel BMW X3 softroader and Ford has a fleet of two Mondeos, and two Territorys to follow two Eco cars.

Hyundai has a pair of identical softroaders following its two entrants, while Kia has a 4WD and a Hino support truck.

We should add up the fuel for all the support vehicles and have a category for them as well. Now that would be interesting…

-- Joshua Dowling

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