A Seemingly Endless Number Of Details

Planning a rally is a great deal of investment, not only in terms of money, but also in terms of time. There are a seemingly endless number of details that can’t be left until the last minute.

A few weeks after we got back from the Breslau Rally, we made an inspection of the Iveco service truck. We had driven over 4,500km to Poland and back, so we wanted to make sure that everything was ok. During the rally we had had some trouble with the clutch. Sometimes it was difficult to put the truck in first gear, a problem that only got worse after we had to do some maneuvering on sandy ground. We decided to take a closer look and ended up changing the clutch; the release bearing was worn.

Iveco Clutch

Since it was the first time we’ve done this kind of maintenance, we enlisted the help of an experienced acquaintance who is in charge of servicing a fleet of heavy construction vehicles. The procedure didn’t turn out to be that difficult. We accidentally pulled off a sensor bracket while removing the transmission and had to re-weld it, but otherwise everything went smoothly. The job was finished in about six hours.

Once we were satisfied that the service truck was in good condition, we started to work on our checklist for the rally. While most of our friends were on vacation, we stayed home, working during the weekdays; planning for the rally consumed most of our evenings and weekends.

The biggest part of the first upgrade on the Tatra had been done in Koprivniče early this year, but there were still a number of things we wanted to do without waiting until the last minute. We installed a fan on the oil radiator to improve the engine cooling and mounted a small winch on the truck bed for hoisting the spare tires.


We placed a number of fasteners and holders in the cabin and box for the spare equipment and tools we might need during the race. Everything needs to be secure so it won’t move around, but it also has to be quickly and easily accessible. To protect the headlights, which might be damaged in the dunes, we fitted a plexiglass plate onto the front bumper.


Finally, we made a console for the navigation equipment and satellite tracking unit, and installed the wiring for the electrical connections. Once the console was ready we installed the GPS units and Terratrip rally computers and checked that everything was working properly.

Although the test drive in Slovakia went well, we still wanted to improve the front suspension. The shock absorber we damaged during the testing was most likely defective, but twelve days of sandy tracks and dunes will be more demanding than the testing we did. Over the last few weeks we reviewed all the options for upgrading the suspension and decided to replace the front Sachs shock absorbers with Fox 3.0 Piggyback units. These are 80 mm diameter triple by-pass shocks. The only problem would be fitting them in place without having to modify the mounts, which are sized for metric and not US customary units. We contacted Fox and were pleased by how helpful they were and how easy it was to work with them. They sent us the technical drawings of the shocks and end caps so that we could make sure they would fit. We chose the end cap that worked best for us and designed a set of ring adapters that would allow us to install the shocks on the existing mount and keep the current Sachs shocks as spares.

Once we were convinced we could mount them properly, we confirmed the order and Fox scheduled the build. In total, it took about a month to build and ship the shocks. During that time we were able to finish the design of the adapter parts. We used the DraftSight CAD software and gave the resulting technical drawings to a local company that makes precision machine parts. Both the shocks and the adaptor rings were delivered last week. We spent the weekend installing them and taking the Tatra out for a short road test. We’ll post more details and pictures during the week.

Except for a few remaining details such as mounting the onboard cameras, the only thing left now is to review our checklists to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything and then start packing. We leave in just under five weeks.

Off Road Tatra Testing Video

After a short delay, the video from our off road tests in Slovakia is finally up.

We should have news about our first rally soon.

Off Road Tatra Testing

Unfortunately, last week was rather demanding so it’s taken a little longer than we expected to get the photos up from our trip to the Czech Republic.

Our week started with a few days in the workshop. We helped with some technical modifications, installing an additional temperture sensor on the cylinder head in the engine and checking the position of the deflectors that control the air flow for cooling. We made some last-minute checks and adjustments, aligned the steering, and tested the lifting bags that we’ll be using instead of a jack during the rally. During the first days at the workshop, we had a chance to take the Tatra out on the prooving ground to make sure everything was ready for the off road testing.


We also completed a number of special arrangements in the cabin: we installed electricity for all the rally equipment, changed the screws in the seats, checked the fixtures of the safety harnesses and replaced the FIA cabin security cable closures so they are easier to remove when the cabin needs to be tilted for work.

On Friday we left for a day and a half of realistic driving tests on an off road training ground in Slovakia. The field was a real “paradise, ” one of the best training grounds we’ve seen. The terrain was mostly sand with long fast tracks for speed, a few hills for practicing ascents and descents, and technical sections with lots of bumps and dips for checking the suspension and handling.




We had two objectives. Primarily, the testing served to verify the configuration in conditions similar to what we’ll encounter in a rally. In addition, the test drive was also a training for us to learn to use the new equipment (like the CTIS) and get accustomed to how the Tatra handles with the changes to the suspension and the new settings.

The Tatra is one of the most efficient vehicles we’ve ever driven. We were impressed with its capabilities in the sand. We were also surprised by the CTIS. The ability to change the tire pressure in a matter of seconds is not just a nice-to-have, it brings a decisive advantage.







At the end of the day on Saturday, we had logged over 200km without a major problem. Sometime in the afternoon we noticed that one of the front shock absorbers had been destroyed. We’re not sure how that happened, but we suspect it might have been defective. We’ll have a few spares with us when racing in case we need to make a replacement. The only other casualty of the weekend was a broken headlight.



All in all we were quite pleased with the results, coming home with a configuration that will be solid for our first rally and confident that we’ll be able to use it. We also had a great time and met some wonderful people during the week. We already have some ideas for future upgrades to the Tatra, so we hope to have an opportunity to go back again soon.

With luck we’ll have some video from the tests up by the end of the week.

A Taste Of Things To Come

We’re enjoying the warm spring weather in the Czech Republic. This afternoon we went for the first few turns on a special track to take the Tatra in hand and start getting used to the new configuration.


Being so close to 110 years of Tatra history is exhilarating, but this is just the first taste of what’s to come. Tomorrow we’ll be installing some equipment in the cabin and visiting the Tatra Museum.

Bringing The Tatra Home

We’re off to the Czech Republic tomorrow where the fully reassembled Tatra is ready and waiting for the first off-road tests since the overhaul and installation of the Central Tire Inflation System.


The drive to Kopřivnice is over 1,300km and will take about twelve hours. Once there, we’ll spend a few days in the workshop and then head out for testing before bringing the Tatra home.

Pictures and video when we get back.


Some photos from last week’s test drive, the first since the Tatra was reassembled.

Tatra First Test 1

Tatra First Test 2

Reassembling The Tatra

We got back from the Czech Republic the weekend before last. We spent a week there to see how the work on the Tatra was going and to help out a little in putting it back together. We were glad to have the chance to learn more about the construction and modifications, which may also help if we need to make repairs or adjustments during the rally.

In addition to installing the CTIS, the upgrades also involved a few improvements to the suspension, including the air bellows that are part of the pneumatic suspension. The original Tatra 4×4 bellows were replaced with a smaller lighter version designed for the Tatra 6×6, which has eight bellows on the two rear axles. The Tatra 4×4 has only four bellows on the rear axle. Comparatively, even though the Tatra 6×6 can haul a heavier load, each of the bellows on the Tatra 4×4 are designed for a heavier load because there are only half as many to support the total weight. Since we’re preparing our Tatra for racing, we won’t be carrying anything heavy, and we can afford to change the bellows to the lighter 6×6 version, which is more reactive and should make a smoother ride during the race.

nouveaux coussins dair

While we were there, the engine was remounted.

mounting motor 1

mounting motor 2

We also mounted the front wheels.

front wheels mounted

It’s usually hard to see the front axle because of the skid plate, but because it hasn’t been remounted yet, the newly painted axle is easy to spot.

front axle

The CTIS has been completely installed and tested in the workshop. The air pipe on the hub will be protected by a cover. It has a vane so that it can be isolated and so the tire can be inflated normally in case of a problem.

CTIS wheel closeup

This is how it looked when we left.

back wheels mounted

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stay for the first tests this week, but we’re planning to go back for some offroad tests soon.

Update On The Tatra Race Preparation

With the cold and snow this past week, it’s hard to believe that spring is less than a month away. Likewise, with all the work that still remains before the Tatra will be ready for our first rally, it’s hard to imagine that as winter draws to a close, so will the upgrades for the race.

A few weeks ago, the rear axle looked like this:



Now the parts have been inspected and the worn pieces replaced. The axle has been put back together, painted and is waiting to be remounted.


The hole in the center is for the CTIS. The air will pass through the shaft in the axle to the tires, through a small hose that will connect the rim to the air supply.


The front axle is ready too,



and the air hoses for controlling the CTIS from the cabin are ready and waiting to be connected.


Soon comes the big job of putting everything back together again.

Our Tatra Is In Pieces!

As we continue preparing for our first rally, the preparation of our Tatra is advancing too. The main modification is the installation of the Central Tire Inflation Sysyem (CTIS). The air supply to the tires will pass inside the axles, which must be removed so that a shaft can be bored. To remove the axles, the truck has literally been taken apart.

It doesn’t sound as impressive on paper as it looks in the pictures. This is a big job!






While everything is dismantled, it’s a good time for a complete checkover, cleaning and painting.


These photos are enough to make our hearts flutter, but it’s comforting to know our Tatra is in good hands.
Of course, we’re looking forward to when it will all be put back together again and we can try it out.

We’ll be posting more news over the coming weeks.

To Kopřivnice

We’ve been busy over the past few weeks putting together a bill of materials for everything we’ll need for our first rally next spring. Most of that behind-the-scenes activity consists of making a list, pouring over catalogs, and reading specs and reviews. Lots of work goes into making sure we make a choice that will best fit our budget and needs.

Things were a little more exciting last weekend. On Saturday, we left for Kopřivnice, where the truck will spend the winter while the suspension is reworked and the central tire inflation system installed. The work should be finished in early February, giving us time to make a few test drives to make sure everything is ok and get used to the new equipment.

We’ll post updates from time to time as we have news about progress.