The following was submitted by Team Media Manager Chris Collard.
It’s been a brutal seventy-two hours for the FabSchool – General Tire Ford Raptor Team USA. After departing Buenos Aires late afternoon on New Year’s Day and making the long drive to Victoria, the team finally went to bed at 0200hrs. 0600 came fast, and the four-hour nap would be an indication of the schedule to come.
The Special section (the dirt) heading to Cordoba was mostly hard-pack with many rocky sections. They lost some ground mid-way in the stage due to a few unexpected stops and large concentrations of spectator traffic on the road and pedestrians clogging the start line. They were also warned for speeding in two places during the liaison stage (a whole three km/h over the limit). The Iritrack system monitors speed throughout the day and automatically flags teams for infractions. The penalty is 100 Euros, the second infraction could cost 500 Euros.
With the big crunch to get the Raptor completed before shipping it to Chile, this was Darren and Sue’s first hours in the truck together. They were both happy with the Raptor’s performance and handling gave kudos to the combination of the General Grabber tires and King racing shocks.
The entire team was in the bivouac by 2100hrs but would not see a pillow until after midnight. Troy Johnson and Dan Moore detailed diagnosed a check engine light that came on mid-day, and inspected and cleaned the Raptor. Sue Mead and Darren Skilton reviewed the next day’s roadbook and discussed the pros and cons of the day. Media Manager Chris Collard finalized details for a 0200 departure with a Bulgarian media team and threw his sleeping bag down for a one-hour nap before heading out for the next Stage.
January 4, 2011: San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy
Drivers Sue Mead and Darren Skilton took their place in line for a 1000hrs starting time, behind the 130-plus motorbikes that traditionally begin before four-wheeled vehicles. The beginning of the dirt section, or Special, was a 2.5-hour drive from the bivouac. Since organizers pushed the motorcycle start time down to 0430, so Chris and the Bulgarians were again out of camp by 0200 after arriving at midnight. He snapped the attached image at kilometer marker 157.
Sue and Darren are still on the track as this is written, but sailed the Raptor passed Chris at about 1300hrs in a sandy section of wash on the lee of the Andes. Chris is pirating an Internet connection at a roadside café, and Troy and Dan are in route to San Salvador de Jujuy to set up the camp. Tomorrow, if all goes well, they will cross into Chile through a 15,000 pass and head for the highly revered sand dunes of the Atacama Desert. You can view real time Iritrack position updates at Dakar.com and follow the team at Facebook under Dakar Ford Raptor.