El Chott 2013: Ksar Ghilane Stages 3-5

ElChott2013 Tatras

Stage 3 of the El Chott Rallye was a mix of piste and dunes. We were looking forward to getting our first experience driving the dunes with the Tatra. The stage started out well. We pulled over to let Kolomý pass and then headed behind him into the dunes.

The Tatra is a formidable vehicle in the dunes with the powerful V12 engine, the low gear and the CTIS, but it takes skill to operate everything and experience reading the dunes to find a good way through.

Photo by Andreas Wulf and Anja Bork

Photo by Andreas Wulf and Anja Bork

At first it was almost easy, but as the dunes got progressively harder, it became more of a challenge.

Photo by Andreas Wulf and Anja Bork

Photo by Andreas Wulf and Anja Bork

We had to shovel a few times, along with many of the other participants. We were within a kilometer of the next way point when we had a serious problem; we broke the right front axle shaft. We were lucky that the break was inside the shaft, which meant that while the wheel was no longer being driven by the motor, we could still drive. The air for the CTIS passes through the shaft, so when it broke the air went out of the tire and it went flat and we weren’t able to inflate it normally. It came off the rim several times and we had to stop to put it back on and inflate it manually.

We didn’t expect to have this problem in our first rally, so we didn’t have a spare axle shaft. The dunes in Tunisia are difficult enough but when you have 10 tons and only 3-wheel drive it’s hard to avoid getting stuck. The wheel that was broken acted like an anchor, sinking into the sand and pulling us to the side. It was almost impossible to turn left when the sand was soft.

El Chott The Big One

With some expert advice from Wolfgang Adam and Karlheinz Muller, a few pulls from the MAN KAT service truck and a fair bit of shoveling, we managed to drive back to camp, arriving two days later, having missed stages 4 and 5. We were surprised to learn we hadn’t been the only ones to miss those days; several other participants had spent at least one night in the dunes, so we were still in the race!

Read the next post in the series or go back to the start.

One Response to El Chott 2013: Ksar Ghilane Stages 3-5

  1. Pingback: El Chott 2013: Tunis – Gafsa – Ksar Ghilane | Erg Machine

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