Thursday 4 August 2016

New Wheels!

So what else has been going on in the world of Nomad Racing?

As you will have read yesterday, it hasn’t involved a lot of rally racing!

In March we got the opportunity to change the Vito “race truck” for a nice shiny and almost new VW Transporter T6 Kombi. A similar layout to the old Vito in that it’s a Kombi… side windows and a second row of seats but there the similarity ends….

A 180bhp 2 litre diesel linked to a 7 speed DSG auto box compared to the Mercs 114bhp 2.2 litre with 6 speed manual. So it’s a bit rapid to say the least, yet fuel consumption is a bit better than the Vito.

It’s a six seater but instead of having to get the tool box out to remove the rear seats, they lift out with a single release lever. Unfortunately VW have decided to make the rear seat a single three seat unit unlike the T5 that had a split twin and single seats. As a result the seat weighs a ton and is definitely a two person job to get it in and out the van! I’ve had a look at converting to the T5 configuration but the mountings, whilst the same; are in completely different places and there are four instead of the T6’s two mounts.

Compared to the Vito it’s luxurious in its other role as a camper van, being lined, including a full length headlining, so none of the dripping from condensation I used to experience in the Vito as that was just a bare metal roof in the back. It is also fitted with a full length rubber floor mat that is cushioned, so luxurious before you have even rolled out the mattress.

I used it at the Ryedale rally, where I had to bodge up some window blinds (much gaffer tape was in evidence) but it was very comfortable. Little features like the opening rear windows allowing decent ventilation make it far more pleasant than the Vito.  Since then I have purchased a set of Thermo Mat window blinds from Just Kampers, an excellent bit of kit.

Other modifications so far include a VW 4 bike cycle rack, purchased for the van's role as the support vehicle when we cycled the coast to coast (C2C) route back in May. Another excellent piece of kit (well it should be at over £400) made by Thule it makes carrying four mountain bikes a breeze.

On Black Hill, the highest point of the C2C

At the Ryedale, I did manage to get the van stuck in the campsite but it had been very wet and the front tyres were almost at the legal limit. So I did investigate fitting it with all terrain tyres but would have to go to a slightly larger size. As this would mean changing all four tyres, when the backs still have plenty of life in them, I decided to go for a set of conventional road tyres instead. My local independent tyre shop recommended Accelera PHI tyres, made in Indonesia. I’d never heard of them but they are half the price of the well-known brands and perform just as well if not better than the Bridgestone’s they replaced.


The other advantage over the Vito it replaced is the additional room inside. The Transporter comes in two body lengths as opposed to the three of the Mercedes. The Vito was a “Long” (short wheelbase but long body) whereas the Transporter is a short wheel base. But in reality they are about the same length, with the Vito having only 132mm (5”) more length inside on paper but in reality the T6 is actually longer inside as it doesn’t have the Vito’s substantial metal beam behind the front seats that restricts how far forward you can park the front wheel of a bike. 

But it is the small amount of extra height where it shows its true advantage. Whereas to fit my rally bike in the Vito I had to remove the entire navigation tower, in the T6 all I have to do is remove the fairing and it goes straight in. I’m in the process of changing the mountings from Allen bolts to quick release Dzus fasteners to make this even quicker to do. My Honda CB500X also goes straight in the van without removing the mirrors or top box which is very convenient.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Racing, what Racing?

That pretty sums up my racing year, after the Tour of Portugal I sat down and had a look at the UK Rally Calendar, not good news....

Apart from the Ryedale rally in July that I had already got my entry in for, there seemed to be a reason I can't make almost every race on the calendar!

Indeed it looks like a repeat of 2015, where after the Tuareg Rally in March I was only able to ride one UK rally, in the rest of the year, the Hafren in November. 

Now I've always had a soft spot for the Hafren as it was my first ever rally back in October 2011 but on that first race, the sun shone and I loved it. Last year by contrast, held a month later in November, was a day of hill fog, pouring rain and howling gales... not pleasant!

Hafren Rally 2015

So what's happened or is happening in 2016?

The Brechfa Rally in March was discounted as it was only two weeks after the Tour of Portugal, so I would have had very limited time to prepare the bike especially as in the event I didn't get it back until the week beforehand and even then due to a slight cock up, my fairing and spares box got left behind at Desert Rose Racing in Sussex and I didn't get them back until after the rally!

The Borders Rally on 31st April/1st May was a no go as I couldn't get the Friday off work and driving all the way to Scotland after a day at work on the Friday evening of a Bank Holiday weekend wasn't a realistic proposition. 

The BAJA GB in May clashed with a prearranged holiday to cycle the Coast to Coast route from Whitehaven to Sunderland.

The Rally Moto Cup event in June was unfortunately cancelled, shame as it would have been my first UK navigation rally.... and I was free that weekend!

The Ryedale in early July I actually got to race, a race report will follow in the next few days.

The Keider Rally in July was a bit close to the Ryedale being only two weeks later but would have been possible, except it got cancelled only a week and half before it was due to go ahead due to low entries. 

The Beacons Rally in August is a no go as I'm already committed to a long weekend break to friends in Cornwall.

And the Tour of Mann on the Isle of Man in September is off because Grainne and I will be off on holiday to New Zealand (So don't feel too sorry for me).

This is also the reason I'm likely to miss the second Rally Moto Cup navigation event in September as it's the Sunday before we fly to Auckland, not great timing.

This also would have been the reason I couldn't do the Hafren Rally on its original date in October as it was the day after we got back but it has now been moved to November like last year. 

So I may yet go and have a schlep round the Welsh forests in the cold and wet again!

The "Luxury" camping facilities, Hafren Rally 2015

Monday 1 August 2016

Tour of Portugal 2016

OK I know it's been a long time but after getting back from the Tour of Portugal I was feeling a bit "blogged out" so decided on a break. I've just realised how long it has been!!!

So rather than subject you to a long update, I've decided to keep it to some short sharp updates, so intend to do a quick blog each lunchtime this week to get back up to date.....

So the Tour of Portugal, in brief a fantastic event but not as successful as it could have been, so the highlights:

  • Fantastic scenery and great trails
  • Great 4* Hotel and Spa opened just for us
  • Excellent food, lots of great company and amazing hospitality
  • Took fifth place on the prologue (but see below)
  • Eighth place on day three (could have been better but I got a silly speeding penalty)
  • Bike ran well throughout
  • Didn't fall off much!
  • Took 13th Place overall J

  And the low-lights.....

  • Brand new ICO switch wouldn't work had to replace with the old one at the last minute
  • Long wait at Porto airport as information about the transfers wasn't clear
  • Decided not to go too fast on the prologue and actually started 20 seconds late, then discovered that 20 seconds would have got me into third place!
  • Fell off on day two on a very tricky hill climb and lost loads of time
  • Then got caught in low cloud, hail and snow storms
  • It was bloody cold at times!
  • So only took 18th place on day two as a result
  • Ripped my seat
  • Took 13th place overall L
But as said a fantastic Rally, so I've already paid my deposit for next years event!

Here's a few photos: