Josh's Blog: GCC Day Four Update

Published: 28 October 2009
Day Four of the 2009 Global Green Challenge.
Josh's Blog: GCC Day Four Update

Pictured: Day Four of the 2009 Global Green Challenge.

After the dramas of the night before, teams were digesting the re-calculated results over their breakfast in Alice Springs this morning (Tuesday 27 October).

Following a meeting with all teams, the organisers, and the Confederation of Australian Motorsport, the results for the entire field were recalculated using map distances as opposed to individual vehicle odometer distances, which varied by 1 to 2 per cent across all cars.

And the net result? Pretty much everyone is in the same position as they were before – and in the same order.

And that means the V8-powered HSV Maloo ute is leading the field for the third day in a row ahead of the Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo sedan and Holden Commodore Omega V6 wagon in terms of the biggest improvement in fuel economy.

The tiny tots such as the trio of diesel powered Minis and the sole diesel Ford Fiesta still only made marginal improvements. If anything they were upstaged by the petrol powered Suzuki Alto which has made a bigger improvement compared to the diesel cars.

That said, the last day will help even things out, when the bigger, thirstier cars are likely to use more fuel around town.

With a few of the rules and regulations sorted, the tensions eased – and so did the temperature.

Alice Springs was an entirely comfortable 19 degrees when we hit the road in the morning and the temperature climbed to a maximum of 28 degrees on the whole route.

This was a significant relief for what was the longest day of the journey, at 689km, and a maximum allotted travel time of 9 hours and 15 minutes.

Officials introduced a compulsory 15 minute pit stop at Marla, a little over half way in the trip, to ensure drivers and co-drivers weren’t fatigued. This brought total travel time to nine-and-a-half hours.

It was a long day, but the going was relatively easy, almost comfortable, for most competitors.

However, the terrain was deceivingly hilly, even though there is a gradual descent from Alice Springs to the opal mining town of Coober Pedy.

We won’t know until tomorrow how each team went today because, following concerns about short-filling, organisers deemed it safer and fairer to refuel the cars in the cool of the morning.

But even then we won’t really know how well each car is travelling because it is now up to individual teams to decide how much fuel they want to take on board.

They still need to fill the cars until the bowser nozzle ‘clicks’ twice, and the refueling will be done under supervision of the technical director, but they won’t be brimmed until the last day.

This change was made after some fuel was accidentally spilt during a refill on one of the cars in Alice Springs on Monday.

We saw the solar cars in full flight for the first time today, and the top three teams were absolutely flying, averaging at least 100km/h by the looks of them. They really were amazing.

There was some confusion, however, about our compulsory stop point. The compulsory stop for solar cars was earlier than the cars in the Eco Challenge, and a number of Eco Challenge production cars slowed and lost valuable momentum until they realised that the stop was not for them.

In the tough terrain most teams made the timing cut off by seconds, as the directions into town were a little ambiguous. But everyone made it safe, including the brave entrant wearing the Evil Kenevil suit and riding a postie bike. Yes, he’s still going.

Everyone seems in better spirits today; no doubt the cooler weather and the rule changes helped.

Inside the HSV Maloo

I was back on board today but I let HSV engineer Gerry Bechet start this time. Last time I started the car too early, and used too much fuel early on as the car warmed up. He’s very professional.

As we have done on the previous days, we caught the XR6 Turbo (which left two minutes ahead of us) within the first two hours (in this case it was about 90 minutes into the leg) and then we did our usual, slow paced overtaking manouvres for the next few hours.

The cars and the drivers clearly use different techniques to get the best economy. Somehow, we still end up within sight of each other by the end of the day.

Unfortunately we had to burn some fuel today because I had to do a phone interview with a radio station; the only phone coverage on the route was at Marla.

To make the deadline we travelled at higher speed (but below the speed limit, of course) and used more fuel than we would have liked (Gerry wasn’t entirely happy), and we also ate into a bit of our driving time once I used up the 15 minute stop.

We were stopped for at least 20 minutes all told, but only 5 minutes affected our driving time.

It might not sound like much but every bit counts. So our leg from Marla to Coober Pedy was particularly challenging for two reasons: we were trying to make up time while I made us sit at Marla to take a call, and the terrain was hillier than we were expecting.

The crosswinds and headwinds that have been with us all week were also doing their best to slow the field down.

Gerry and I felt more relaxed today, we swapped driving duties more times to stay fresh, and we really are starting to feel as though we are part of the car now.

The passenger can tell if the driver has moved the accelerator too much simply by the ever-so-subtle sound of the engine under all the road noise.

Our make-shift sun shades made from a roll of bath mat material worked a treat and we regret having stuck them to the glass on day two (we just poke them in the closed window now, but there’s yukky tape residue on the glass). We’re trying to get it clean before the guys at HSV head office see the mess. Wish us luck.

Pace notes and other observations

The poor old Tesla electric car has copped a bit of a rough time over the whole event because it has an 8 tonne truck following it with a diesel-powered generator so it can be recharged.

So it’s only fair to point out how many cars are in the support crew for each solar car team.

The leading Japanese team seemed to have the entire NT rental fleet of Kia Carnivals booked out, while Michigan University had a fleet of Fords. Others had Taragos and Camrys. There were dozens of support vehicles, all told, to get a handful of solar cars from Darwin to Adelaide without, ahem, using a drop of fuel.

There’s some big money being left behind in the desert. Hyundai has a fleet of 4WDs and a documentary crew, Ford has a fleet of cars following its two entrants.

The humble HSV outfit, meanwhile, is two blokes in a ute, and another two blokes in an LPG Senator packed to the rafters. At least the company’s good…

-- Joshua Dowling

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