"Destination Down Under" CHALLENGE.
Örebro - Fredriksberg - Falun - Falun - Uppsala, SWEDEN. 1710 km
Last weekend we conducted the DDU Challenge, a selection trial event to find the fourth member of our "Team Sweden Challenge"
team for the 2007 Australian Safari in W.A.
It was a mini-replica of a rally event held over four legs and includes 12 stages, 6 special tests and 1710 km’s of riding. There were 12 riders who took up the CHALLENGE
category, and another 28 riders who nominated for the slightly less demanding "Boot Camp"
division (they rode a similar course… no timekeeping, they didn’t do the special tests and weren’t required to perform the practical tests like tyre changes etc.) In addition to the riders there were five jury members on bikes, two sweepriders on bikes, two control/checkpoint vehicles, two service vans, a HQ Biviouac Truck, two paramedics and a crazy Swedish Chef!
We made the combatants ride and navigate in the dark and do up to 17 hour days in the saddle. They had to push and carry their bikes through various riding tests, there were roadside mechanical tasks to be performed. We had two MX and enduro tests, they slept in tents in minus 4 degrees, up at 4:30 am each morning, rode all day then dinner at 21:00 (at best). In fact we generally just pummeled the crap out of them physically and mentally for 96 hours straight (did I mention that they averaged 4 ½ hours sleep over Friday, Saturday and Sunday night?)
Friday began with tech scutineering and a breifing at KTM Scaninavias HQ in Örebro at 12:00. Then we started at 16:00 with a 240km leg to Fredriksberg divided into two stages. The timekeeping procedure was based on a reliability trial… where we calculated an optimal average speed time for the stage based on road conditions, statutory speed limits and the type of terrain. Riders were penalized three points for each minute early, and one point each minute late; the goal was to be on time all the time.
The first riders were up to Fredriksberg around 20:00 with the tail end "Boot Campers"
coming in just after dark at around 22:00. Everyone was happy with the roads and trails (mostly gravel forest roads with a bit of light enduro stuff thrown in)… But the HQ truck was "late" to the campsite (a secret arrangement between the driver and I, that NOBODY else knew about), so the gear wasn’t at the Bivouac until 21:00 and dinner not served till 23:00. Everyone was cold, hungry and just a tad irritated – including the cook! (Ha-ha… my plan was working… welcome to the world of a real rally guys and girls!!!). There was even a "shortage" of water so everyone drank coffee or milk… Then at 23:45 during the roadbook briefing for the next day everyone was relieved when I cancelled the planned night navigation stage (due to commence at 22:00) and told everyone to get some sleep… it would be a 4:30am wake up and 6:00 start for the 700km stage tomorrow…
From Fredriksberg via Likenäs into Norway, then back to Höljes in Sweden, to Malung, Sollerön, Gagnef and on to the leg finish in Falun. 700km’s (less than 50 on tarmac) divided into four stages, with two special tests and what I had calculated to be around 12 – 14 hours saddle time.
The first 191 km stage went smoothly (I set up a secret control along the route to catch riders who exceeded the average time on the stage), but then 20 k’s before the control in Likenäs we came upon a locked gate in a forest stage… Nothing to do but gather all of the Challengers and Boot Campers and execute a 40 km detour (with an impromtu refuel along the way).
From Likenäs we would do a 230 km stage up through Norway via Höljes to Malung... along the way in Höljes Mike was waiting with one of the control and service vans and got the CHALLENGE
guys to do a front wheel tube change against the clock.
Further along the route was another mate of ours from the "Boot Camp" brigade (their days course was an abbreviated 490 km version that did not incorporate the loop into Norway)… He had made some wild brake marks by the side of the road with his Rallye 660 and then dismantled it slightly, lying it by the side of the road and then positioning himself some meters further down the track in an "accident victim" like pose. The object was to see how the Challengers would react and handle an accident situation… there were going to be demerit points awarded for "slipping in the tongue" according to Håkan (the victim).
In Malung we had set a 200 km stage via Sollerön to Gagnef that had an excruciatingly low average speed… this served a double purpose; 1. It dragged out the day to the point where it was almost certain that the Challengers would end up riding the last 80 km stage in the dark (if they did not blow through the time checks - for which they would be penalized) and 2. it tested their patience… As anyone who has riden a major cross country rally will tell you, long tedious transports are a part of the game…
There were a few missed navigation points and the slow schedule meant that it took most of the challengers between four and five hours to do the 200 klicks to Gagnef. In Gagnef, Oz safari veteran, Olle O was waiting with a few lengths of 520 o-ring chain in pieces. Riders were expected to break and repair a chain using the tools they had with them… Extra penalties if it took longer than the ten minutes allocated or if they did not have their own tools.
The last 80 km to Falun were ridden in the dark, the temperature had fallen to zero, most of the guys did not have their night lights with them (many thought they would not need them after the night nav. stage was canned??). At 23:15 the first Challenge riders made the bivouac at Falun MX track… the last at around 23:45… They had been out for approximately 17 hours… at least 14 of those saddle time.
Falun to Falun 530km, four stages, two special tests (along the course) and two special tests (enduro and MX) back at the bivouac in the evening. We started at 6:00am, I headed off early with rally veterans and fellow DDU jury members Annie Seel (KTM 525 Rallye), Björn Nygren (Husaberg 650e) and Henke Rahm (Aprillia RXV450) along the 140km first stage to set up the Tälingsberget "Team Challenge"
It was a simple task… we had a start control - which was positioned on one side of a patch of pineforest, with a finish control located on the other side… some 3,50 km’s away. The challengers were paired up with one another (one big twin cyl. with a single) and given a map with the start position and finish position coordinates marked on it… Simple really. The only problem was, that there was a dirty great big mountain in the middle… and no roads/tracks over it… just some goat trails, big rock faces, logs, boulders, fallen trees and bog holes… Good fun with a fully tanked Rally bike eh?
I cheated and headed off first (alone) on the WRF 250 just to check it was passable...
It took most teams between 35 minutes and an hour to complete the task, riding, lifting, carrying the bikes at times… One of the magazine photographers who was covering the event said to me… "You sure are a sadistic bastard, Troy!"
To which I replied; "No Inge… not really. Mike and i rode our 950’s through here three weeks ago… It was 3:00 am in the morning, minus 9 degrees and snow patches on the ground..."
He laughed, shook his head and went back to shooting the mayhem. After the last team finished the test we rode in liaison together to the next refuel at Edsbyn.
From Edsbyn we had a 80 km stage that went up to "Los" (the northern most point on our tour), then a 180km stage south via Rosemont to Bingsjö (refuel) and then 100km back to the Falun bivouac. I had a hidden control along the way, where I also got the guys to do a back brake pad change and some great rally roads (a lot of stuff similar to the Oberon/Hampton/Sunny Corner type terrain in NSW).
The Challenge guys were back in the bivouac around 19:00 (approx. 10 hours in the saddle)… at 20:00 we had planned a MX special test. All of the Boot campers were positioned around the course as "flag marshalls", the Challenge guys were really ramped up – some had changed gearing, others had stripped down to MX shirts etc. Though I was strict that all optional equipment and extra tanks etc. remained on the bikes. While I was getting the "time keepers" ready at the finish line, the challenge guys took the opportunity to do some "practice" starts… one fellow was even preparing his "start groove" (a la’ Ricky Carmichael" behind the gate with the heel of his boot!
I took them out for two sighting laps, and revved them up a little more by jumping the step up jumps and generally flipping out a bit. When they got back to the start chute they were really worked up! You could smell the adrenalin.
I rode my 950 se over and gently parked it by the start tower. I calmly took off my helmet and goggles, put on my baseball cap and walked slowly over to the start line in front on the guys (all the time they were revving the tits of their bikes in anticipation of getting the supercross holeshot!). I gave them the "cut engine" signal… all shut off their motors… and removed their helmets… total silence.
I said. "… this is a MX test. At documentation two days ago we recorded the weight of your bikes as according to the rego. papers. Then at tech inspection afterwards we checked the actual weight of your motorcycle with all of the optional equipment and auxiliary fuel tanks on board… Now this MX test will be run as a handicap event… the lightest bike starts last… and for every kilo heavier (than the lightest bike) the other riders will be given five seconds head start (per kilo)."
They began to look at me a little strangely…
"That is to say, that if the HEAVIEST bike in the field weighs 25 kg MORE than the lightest, then he will get 125 seconds head start… or two minutes and five seconds…"
"How many laps are we going to do…???"
asked one of the riders a bit puzzled.
I replied. "… Oh yeah,…. I forgot one minor detail…. You’ve gotta PUSH your bikes…"
They were flabbergasted, the look on their faces was priceless and all of the Boot Campers (who were in on the joke) fell on the ground in fits of laughter!
With that, it was on with their stack hats and we sent them off pushing and grunting their way around the 600m course… Along the start straight, through a mudhole, over a camelback jump, up and around an uphill off camber corner section of the course, then down to the to the final "step-up" table-top jump before the finish line.
If I do say so myself… my handicap formula worked pretty damn well. After about ten minutes we had 10 of the 12 riders all congregated on the final table top jump fighting and dragging themselves up the steep face. Just as the biggest (and strongest) of our combatants shoved his 950 se up over the crown of the jump and coasted to a well deserved win, I said to the other eleven; "Allright… you can go around!" And with that began a goldrush like, lactic acid soaked free for all dash to the finish line for the minor placings. Across the line most didn’t have the energy or presence of mind to put down their sidestands… They just collapsed in a pile of bodies, sweat and bikes!
Twenty minutes later we put them around four laps of a 4,00km long snotty rock infested enduro loop as the final special test of the day. While they sucked on the camelbacks and recovered from the "MX test" the boot campers formed a "conga line" behind me and we set out around the enduro course for them to mark/show the way for the challengers.
Later that evening we dealt out the final days roadbook. The Boot camp participants each received a voting slip with which to vote (with points allocation) for the five riders whom they felt were most suitable to win the fourth position on the "Team Sweden challenge" team for the Safari in August.
The final day to Uppsala was 240 kms of great forest roads and trails, there were no special tests, just two stages to complete. The Boot Campers handed in their voting slips at the final control (where I was waiting in a sunny farmyard paddock), then we all convoyed in the last 40 km together to the finish at the local KTM dealership via central Uppsala.
All of us on the TSC Destination Down Under team had completed every mile of the DDU Route (me as Zero Rider, Marcus and Ola as Sweeps and Mike on his 950 Adv during the Course check). This was including the enduro, MX and Tälningsberg Challenge test’s (Mike and I did these on the surveys a few weeks prior to determine the times we would set).
As a training exercise for Boot Camper’s who had never had the opportunity to experience a rally raid event before, the event was a success. As a test to select a rider capable and determined enough to join the team for our attempt on the 2007 Australian Safari…? Well we also think it was a resounding success!
Eventually the winner was Carl (Calle) Hagenblad…
a 27 year old technician from Stockholm, Sweden who races amateur MX and enduro and is an avid member of the Swedish Offroad Enthusiast (SOE) movement. He is one of our real "driving forces" behind the offroad and rally movement here in sweden; he is heavily involved in SOE and regularly organizes and rides a majority of the offroad roadbook/orienteering events that are conducted here in Sweden. Congratulations Calle!
Organising Team: Annie seel, Mike badini, Troy Carpenter, Ola Nilsson & Olle Ohlsson.
Now the team is set; Mike Badini KTM 959 Adv, Marcus Green KTM 625 SXC, Calle Hagenblad KTM 625 SXC and Troy Carpenter KTM 950 SE Rallye.
Olle Ohlsson will be navigating the ex-Bruce Garland prepared ISUZU Vehi-Cross 3500cc V6 for Pelle Wallentheim in the international 4WD division.
Ola Nilsson will be the TSC bike team manager, assisted by Atilla Tamas (an ex-Swedish marine officer, now living and studying in Perth – and a good mate of ours from SOE).
There will be another official KTM trained LC8/LC4 mechanic accompanying us on the event to do service, and the ISUZU will be fettled by two mechanics from Bruce Garland's Team (who will be providing all our team logistics) and "The Goose" will be on hand to keep everybody laughing and on their toes… the Crown Jester of the Aussie Safari himself!
Well that’s about it… the crazy Swedes are coming and we are looking forward to meeting all of the other great Aussie and international riders "down under" in August and competing to the best of our abilities in this great event!