Dakar Dazed II - Part 2: The road to Dakar 2015

Discussion in 'Racing' started by JMo (& piglet), Jun 4, 2014.

  1. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    Welcome to part 2 of the Dakar Dazed II trilogy!

    [​IMG]

    Those of you who have followed part 1: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=858442 from the beginning of last year, will know that a key part of my own return to the Dakar has been in conjunction with Rally Raid Products' LC4-50 project that has been developed here in the UK over the past 18 months or so...

    As a quick recap to get you all up to speed - the LC4-50 Rally bike is based on the KTM 690 Enduro R, with the addition of Rally Raid's EVO2 tank and fairing kit, together with the requisite navigation and FIM approved safety equipment. Fundamentally though, the original LC4 engine has been re-engineered [using a new short-stroke crank, rod and piston] to a Dakar compliant 449.6cc, retaining all the original benefits of the donor bike, in an affordable, low maintenance and ultra-reliable* package.

    *Indeed, Rally Raid are so confident that the engine is in effect 'unburstable' that they offer to underwrite any mechanical failure during a rally that they support! - more about this later...



    To explain the concept more fully...

    While the original KTM 690 [and it's various derivatives] has proven an excellent open-class rally bike over the years, since 2011 it has no longer been eligible to compete in the Dakar Rally (and latterly the FIM World Championship) since they imposed a capacity limit of 450cc.

    Of course we all know this cc limit was really to encourage more manufacturers (especially the Japanese 'big brands') into the foray - all of whom already had a 450cc MX or enduro bike of one sort or another, that could be easily and relatively cheaply converted into a rally-spec machine, in an effort to take on the dominant KTM factory team...

    Conversely, it was inevitable that KTM wouldn't drop the ball through this onslaught, and certainly over the past couple of years particularly, we have seen a new breed of ultra-high performance, high-tech, and increasingly focused (and by that I mean requiring extensive daily maintenance) 450cc rally bikes emerging, as the factory teams compete up at the sharp end of the field.

    But where does that leave the majority of competitors - the mid-field and tail-ender privateers who are simply looking to finish the longest and most arduous off-road race in the world?

    Sure you can build your own bike around a lightweight 450cc enduro machine - suck up the cost of a spare engine (which almost inevitable needs changing half way through the Dakar, if not before), and suffer the relative discomfort (not to mention worry) of nailing what is still essentially a short-course bike over it's effective 'lifetime' during those two weeks and 9000kms... hoping nothing fatigues, breaks, or falls off - including yourself!

    Or you can [typically] remortgage your house and stump up the €20-30,000+ Euros* it costs to buy one of the manufacturers 'factory' replica bikes... at least that way you'll have access to a similar parts pool (albeit at a further astronomical cost) that the top riders have, and hopefully benefit from a more integrated and cohesive design than the typical home-brewed bike... you are still likely to have to stump up another five grand for a second engine too though, if only as a safety net.

    *That's in addition to the €14,700 it costs to enter the Dakar itself, plus a similar amount to an independent service team for full assistance during the rally...

    Which brings us rather neatly onto what Rally Raid Products' consider is 'The Third Way', in their effort to create the ultimate privateer Dakar bike.

    By retaining the original chassis and engine (albeit at a reduced capacity to meet the regulations) of the 690, the privateer Dakar rider immediately benefits from a powerplant that requires far less intensive maintenance - hell, technically you don't even have to think about changing the oil for the duration of Dakar!

    More realistically, the LC4 bottom end is far stronger than the current breed of MX & Enduro derived engines... being originally designed to handle 60-70bhp, all day long, it has a strong (and suitably widely spaced) 6-speed gearbox, much larger clutch, increased oil capacity, and the inclusion of a balancer shaft makes the engine far smoother - especially during those long liaisons...

    Then there is the chassis and geometry of the bike itself - again, a far more stable (at speed off road) and 'comfortable' machine - especially when faced with another 200km liaison after a long hard special stage, that in turn started with a long liaison, typically in the dark. Remember than typically 40% or more of the total Dakar distance is liaison, and the fatigue of the rider and attrition of mechanical components cannot be discounted just because you are not 'on the clock' - indeed, rider fatigue and mechanical failure are the two main reasons that riders [and particularly first time participants] fail to finish the Dakar.



    Proving the concept... works!

    At the start of the project (and the original thread here on ADV), we had a fair share of nay-sayers... typically:

    "Why are you doing this when there are loads of 450 enduro and/or rally bikes on the market already?"

    "It'll never work - and even if it runs, the engine won't produce anything like the power you'd want..."

    "That bike is too heavy compared to an EXC"

    Now I could easily counter all those arguments with an individual lengthy reply (although most of which I hope I have already addressed above in any case), but all I would say is while KTMmitch certainly enjoys a technical challenge, he is no chump - and he is not in the business of wasting his own time and his company's money on a personal folly!

    Of course theory and practice are two very different things, so I'll let a few numbers speak for themselves...

    49.8 hp @ 7840rpm

    35.4lb/ft torque @ 6377rpm

    In comparison, a stock 690 Enduro (654cc) on the same dyno made 59.1 hp and 46.4lb/ft torque - so despite nearly a 1/3rd reduction in capacity, we have less than 20% reduction in power, and more importantly perhaps - the LC4-50 produces better figures than pretty much every stock 450cc enduro engine - be that an EXC, CRF or WRF for example.

    Perhaps most impressive of all though is that the LC4-50 engine produces a lovely level torque curve from around 3500rpm all the way to the redline - offering great tractability and retaining the 'feel' of a larger capacity machine!

    So as you can see, the engine [design] does work, and it works damn well - better than any of us had dared hope!

    There is a far more detailed technical explanation about how the engine was designed and built towards the end of the original thread: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=858442 - suffice to say, once the concept was proven with prototype parts, the production components were commissioned early this year, and the first engine built and comprehensively tested in the field (Tunisia) and on the dyno back in the UK.

    Once John and Martin (Wittering - of Torque Racing, who built the engine) were happy with the fuelling and overall performance, it was up to me to properly prove the concept in an extended endurance test which included riding over 2000kms from the UK to Greece, racing the LC4-50 in the Hellas Rally for another 2000kms, then riding it back home again - all without touching the engine or changing the oil!

    I'll be writing up my ride report (and photos, lots of photos!) over the next few days, but for now, we have something even more exciting for you...



    The road to Dakar, 2015 - so who's coming too?

    Having effectively signed off this project as a complete success after my return to the UK, John has now commissioned a further two crank assemblies, and ultimately will be building even more bikes in the coming months - why you ask?

    The answers are all here, in the dedicated LC4-50 Dakar website: www.lc450dakar.com

    [​IMG]

    Essentially, John and Martin have so much faith in the new bike, that they are offering a VERY attractive rental package, including full service assistance, for the Dakar this January 2015.

    Unlike most other service teams, Rally Raid Products and Torque Racing have set out their stall with firm prices (in GBP) - no nasty surprises or hidden extras - it's all there!

    Quite apart from my own personal campaign to return to the Dakar this coming January, I honestly believe the package/s available offer the most affordable and realistic way for anyone who is contemplating entering the Dakar this year to achieve a finish...

    Not only will you have a bike built and tailored for you - including full navigation equipment fitted, but the Dakar rental package also includes use of the bike in another event prior to the Dakar 2015 (including a full refresh/rebuild prior to shipping to South America), full service assistance and mechanical support during Dakar, all transport and logistics surrounding the event, all the necessary spares available from their stock (effectively the only extras you'll have to pay for are your tyres/mousses), and fundamentally of course, Rally Raid will underwrite any mechanical issues with the bike...

    I really hate to use the phrase 'No brainer', but in this instance I really feel it seems appropriate!

    More soon...

    Toot toot for now!

    Jenny xx
    #1
  2. Carlos M

    Carlos M www.motoxplorers.com

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    Subscribed! :thumb
    #2
  3. Deadly99

    Deadly99 Fast and Far

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    Best of luck Jenny :pynd
    #3
  4. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper

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    Thanks for new link to part 2!
    This is definitely "out of the box" thinking :clap
    #4
  5. elron

    elron Still Standing

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    Been waiting for this thread to start...subscribed.
    #5
  6. chasbo

    chasbo Long timer

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    In! Good luck this coming year Jenny!
    #6
  7. RoninMoto

    RoninMoto Wanderer

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    Jenny, I'll be shipping to South America in November. So I'll be seeing you, John and Martin at the Dakar.

    John and Martin have helped me out so much on my RTW I'm volunteering my time during the Dakar to help the team in anyway I can/in anyway needed.

    This is going to be good. :freaky
    #7
  8. ecarnell

    ecarnell Been here awhile

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    Subscribed ! Best of luck!

    Swag support coming?



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #8
  9. Happe

    Happe Offroad Nut

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    I need T-Shirts :D

    Stefan
    #9
  10. beechum1

    beechum1 Dandole Gas al Burro

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    Shirts or it didn't happen.
    #10
  11. StepOnIt

    StepOnIt Assitoner

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    Ya would have liked to say that with my last marriage :rofl
    #11
  12. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    I certainly hope so!

    We are currently in communication with an apparel company regarding the 2015 Dakar project, and over the next few months will certainly aim to have some specific 'limited edition' supporters' gear together, plus some tasty discounts on their regular product lines...

    I also have some ongoing and new commitments regarding other [personal] sponsors, so hopefully a little closer to the time, we'll have some fantastic incentives for you all to chip in with a little financial support...

    Of course in return for this, along with your own personal glow of internal wellbeing, and some tasty gear - we hope to be able to take you along for the ride as the team project and ultimately the Dakar 2015 campaign picks up speed - with a regular feed of behind the scenes photos and info, both here on ADVrider and on a dedicated blog section that will be up and running on the LC4-50 website soon!

    In the meantime, shall we get started with a little ride report from the recent Hellas Rally?!

    Jx
    #12
  13. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    So it kind of started a bit like this:

    [​IMG]

    Actually, approximately two hours earlier, at the Rally Raid Products HQ in the heart of Bedfordshire, United Kingdom.

    To recap - the primary reason for building a Dakar bike around the KTM 690 LC4 engine - other than the fact that the regular 690 is the core of Rally Raid's own product line of course - was to build a 'clubman' or typical privateer level rally bike - one that ideally would be strong and reliable, and at the same time, require correspondingly less regular/daily maintenance that the current crop of enduro/MX derived bikes...

    That is not to say you wouldn't take as much care of the LC4-50 during a rally - of course you'd need to check things hadn't come loose or started to fatigue etc. but fundamentally, it isn't going to matter so much if you miss and oil and filter change for example, and you certainly shouldn't need to change an engine halfway through an event because the internals are wearing out - losing compression/burning oil etc. - and so ultimately could prove a excellent choice for the Malle Moto competitor for example, or indeed anyone who's budget is likely to be stretched by having to buy a second engine...

    So as part of the development of the LC4-50, it was always John (KTMmitch) and my idea to really prove the longevity and minimal service requirements of this bike/engine, by riding it to an event, competing, and then riding it home again... ideally without having to touch the engine at all for the whole period.

    Previously...
    Originally we'd hoped to have the bike ready to race to coincide with the 'season opener' in March that is the Tuareg Rallye - held in Tunisia again this year. Unfortunately, while the bike was together and running (just three days before Torque Racing had to ship everything to Tunisia), we'd not had time to set up the fuelling properly, or even put any miles on it, other than Donna taking it for a brief ride up the road to make sure everything worked as it should, before loading it into their service van for the journey south...

    If you guys followed the Tuareg Rallye official event thread this year: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=956944 (see page 17 onwards for my photo retrospective) then you'll know that along with my race reportage, that we got the opportunity to test the LC4-50 in the dunes, plus some endurance testing on-road during that week, and of course got a few tasty photos... here's John having fun on his new baby!

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    And a couple of 'spy shot' snaps during the endurance testing:

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    cont.
    #13
  14. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    What was immediately clear from the session/s in Tunisia is that while the bike ran with the stock 690 fuel map, together with the open airbox lid that was fitted to John's original rally bike which had become the donor - it would require some serious dyno tuning to get it to run anywhere near what we'd hoped...

    [​IMG]

    Although Martin (Wittering, of Torque Racing) had brought his laptop with him to tweak the fuelling while we were there, it was still very much based on guess-work - and although some improvements were made, especially to the bottom end and off-idle fuelling - as it was, it bogged down at anything above 3/4 throttle, and also if you cracked the throttle open fast - having ridden the bike myself, the effect was as it was choking itself - on a diet of too much air, and correspondingly too much fuel.

    Still - it showed we were going in the right direction, and both John and Martin were confident that we could find a solution once we got the bike back home to the UK...

    [​IMG]

    After a couple of intensive sessions at dyno specialists Dave Woods Racing in Aylesbury, a custom fuel map for the reduced capacity was created - and indeed our speculation regarding the open airbox was confirmed when, having replaced the open lid with a stock 690 snorkel - we immediately gained another 1.5 hp, even smoother torque curve, and a far crisper throttle response into the bargain - result!

    So with the bike properly set up, it was at last time for me to really prove it's worth as the 'ultimate Malle Moto machine' - with a proper endurance test, and not least a real race to prove it can compete on equal terms with the current crop of competition - be that a converted 450cc enduro bike, or perhaps more physically comparable, a factory KTM 450 RFR - this was going to be fun!

    cont.
    #14
  15. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    So, back to Piglet and I, a few hundred feet below the English Channel on a train, bound for France - Switzerland - Italy, and ultimately Greece, and the Hellas Rally 2014 in seven days' time...

    I'd left almost exactly a week before scrutineering, as this coincided with Torque Racing loading their team bikes in the UK and heading for the ferry in Italy too - a few hours behind me.

    I had also planned to travel extremely light - just a few personal effects in a Giant Loop Coyote bag (I have to say, after being a life-long Wolfman fan, the Coyote is now my luggage bag of choice - my only suggestion would be to incorporate QR buckles on the lower straps to make it a little easier to take on and off - although I appreciate their original design brief was more as a bag that you would leave attached for the duration of a trip). By electing to stay in hotels/motels rather than camp, the idea was effectively to ride to the race, race, and ride home again with everything I'd need carried with me...

    However, I made two concessions - the first was to send my racing body armour and a lighter-weight rally jacket on with Torque Racing, so that I could wear my Klim Traverse incase (and almost certainly) I encountered any bad weather riding down through Europe in early May... and the other was to also send a spare set of wheels with off-road tyres and mousses already fitted - not only to make the primarily autoroute journey more comfortable, but also to avoid trashing a set of tyres before I'd even started the race!

    It was of course my intention to ride the 2000 odd kilometres to Ancona, Italy (where we'd catch a 24 hour ferry to Patras in Greece) completely independently of the team... however, it was also reassuring to know they were only a few hours behind if the unthinkable should happen and the bike have a mechanical that I couldn't fix myself at the roadside...

    I have to say, for the all the gentle ribbing I give John about loading his rally bike up like a mobile spare-parts shop (he fondly refers to it as the 'Mothership') - he has managed to stash all manner of 'get you going again' spares all around the bike - bolted to the nav tower, under the seat - and perhaps the neatest mod of all - a Motion-Pro combo tyre lever/wrench permanently zip-tied around the rear axle nut and along the swingarm... this guy thinks of everything!

    However, for myself, the most important spare was nestled in a recess under the seat, and would be required the following morning, when, having limped to a budget motel on the outskirts of Metz in France late on that first evening after the bike started coughing and spluttering, and ultimately would hardly run at all...

    The bike had been running perfectly all afternoon - initially I'd been cruising at around 110-120kmh (so 70-75mph) down to the Channel Tunnel and on the Franch autoroutes, but after the second refuel and around 500 kms into the journey, I decided to pick up the pace a little more to 130 or even 135kmh, and again was impressed how easily it held that sort of speed, and how unstressed the engine felt and sounded.

    Of course my own WR450F Dakar bike could hit 140+ kmh plus for a time on-road, but you never felt 100% happy with a wide-open throttle for more than a few minutes during a quick overtake for example? (and that is one of the strongest 450cc enduro engines of course).

    In comparison, the LC4-50, based on the 690 engine architecture felt like it could run at sustained high-speeds all day, and did - and had been all afternoon down through France... so I thought initially the coughing must be bad fuel or something? (the French add at least 10% ethanol to their regular unleaded you see, so I wondered if that might have something to do with it).

    After getting progressively worse - loosing power/speed on even the gentlest of motorway inclines for example, and having nothing at all for overtaking, I finally limped into the hotel carpark at about 10pm that evening.

    A quick call to Donna in the Torque Racing van and after describing the symptoms, she was almost certain it was a fuel injector problem/blockage.

    This was annoying, but perhaps understandable as John's bike had not been used for a good long while prior to testing in Tunisia and the dyno sessions - and it was feasible that there was some gunk in the bottom of the fuel tank left over from previous events or from a Jerry can... and after a series of pretty much brimming to near empty runs that afternoon, had stirred up the crud just enough to block the injector.

    The following morning in the hotel car-park, I put my personal rally tool-kit to the test, and sure enough, swapping out the injector for a new one instantly cured the problem - phew!

    cont.
    #15
  16. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    The plan was to allow a relatively leisurely three days for the ride to Ancona from the UK - primarily so I wouldn't be flogging myself with overlong days in the saddle prior to a week of racing - but also as I'd arranged to rendezvous with the two Torque Racing trucks and get the same ferry crossing to Greece at the end of the week. If we were lucky, we might even get an earlier sailing - nothing wrong with spending an extra day in a Greek holiday resort we figured!

    As it happened, my journey south the following day coincided with the team and we had an expensive motorway lunch together before I pressed on ahead... razzing along at a steady 130kmh, then all of a sudden the bike started to lose power again.

    [​IMG]

    Yep, that's me, at the side of the motorway somewhere north of Switzerland - fortunately the roads aren't overly busy in France!

    The nice thing about the KTM 690, is that the stock instrument panel (which Rally Raid retain as part of their Rally kit conversion) reveals any fault codes with the EFi and various other sensors. As part of John's preparation, he has printed out a list of all the fault codes and stuck that under the seat of his bike - so all I had to do was count the flashes and look it up on the list.

    This instantly revealed fault was with the airbox temperature sensor - saving potentially hours of messing around with fuses and a multimeter for example - and on inspection it turns out a wire had broken in the plug - something I could easily repair with a pocket knife and some insulation tape.

    All good practice I kept telling myself...

    cont.
    #16
  17. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    Having passed through the Mont Blanc tunnel on the Tuesday evening, I shored up in a very comfortable hotel in northern Italy, and the following morning (day 3), decided to push on all the way to Ancona and wait for the Torque team who had to divert to Genoa to collect three more bikes en route to the Hellas.

    I have to say, during that 600 odd kilometres, I got throughly soaked. Three times.

    To be fair my Traverse jacket held up perfectly well, but only wearing Dakar pants in a biblical rainstorm was always going to end in a soggy mess. Fortunately the warm(ish) weather meant I dried out by mid morning, and after a coffee stop had the forethought to don my over-trousers before the next deluge.

    Somewhere in Italy:
    [​IMG]

    Stripping them off at a mid-afternoon coffee stop was a big mistake... as just 30kms from Ancona, the skies opened once again...

    Roll on Greece!

    Jx
    #17
  18. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    Having reconvened with the team later that evening, John (KTMmitch) flew in the following day, and we all got the Friday sailing to Patras in Greece.

    For those of you unfamiliar, mainland Greece is effectively split in two by a huge sea inlet, with a canal at the far eastern end... at the west end, until a few years ago the only way across was by ferry, but now there is a very impressive bridge spanning the bay:

    [​IMG]

    The Hellas Rally is based in Nefpaktos on the north shore, so crossing over from Patras in the south, I spied this rocky spit and had to find a way down there for a photo!

    Once at the bivouac site, we were pretty much the first there - and set about setting up the Torque Racing 'tented village' that would be home to 18 riders this year.

    Over the following 24 hours, all the competitors and other teams arrived and set up, and our own guys busied themselves with final preparations:

    Martin unpacking:
    [​IMG]

    John checking & prepping the LC4-50:
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    John working on his own 690 Enduro, fitted with TracTive suspension:
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    Oh how we laughed!
    [​IMG]

    Lyndon (Pyndon) also joined us in the Torque tent... having recently embarked on a mammoth 2-year round-the-world trip, he'd ridden down from the UK too, via Austria to meet up with LukasM, and both had entered the Hellas as part of their ongoing adventure heading east!

    [​IMG]

    Like in Morocco, it's not hard to find a local kid who wants to help out with anything mechanical!

    Team Torque Racing on a meal out prior to the start - that's inmates Stephan (Happe) on the right, and of course Chris 'Corky' Cork in the foreground...

    [​IMG]

    An impressive line up of machinery at the Torque Racing paddock - including a factory 450 RFR, and a good handful of 690cc Rally Raid EVO2s...

    [​IMG]

    cont.
    #18
  19. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    So I guess we'd better get on with a bit of racing eh?

    The Hellas Rally begins with a huge party in the centre of the town on the eve of the start...

    A podium ramp is erected, there a huge PA, music, lights, it's all rather impressive! Perhaps most impressive is the crowd of locals and presumably bemused tourists who turn out to welcome the event to town - the atmosphere is fantastic!

    [​IMG]

    Riders waiting in a side street for their turn in the limelight:
    [​IMG]

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    Corky on the podium:
    [​IMG]

    And I couldn't possibly mention the name of the guy on a brand new RFR who razzed up the ramp, skidded to a halt on the carpet, and promptly dumped his bike and himself in front of thousands of people!

    Jx
    #19
  20. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Gone a bit Baja

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    While Greece may be renowned for it's soft sandy beaches (on the whole), what it doesn't have is any desert to speak of... as such, the Hellas Rally is more akin to an hard enduro style of event - tight narrow trails that switchback up and down a series of knife-edge mountains, fast forestry going, gnarly rocky climbs & descents, and river crossings - bloody deep and full of boulders!

    As such, the majority of racers tend to favour the enduro-lite style of rally bike - just a bigger tank and bar-mounted nav gear. Although the Hellas is run under FIM rules (on the whole), there is also a degree of flexibility and no requirement for a 3 litre water tank for example - just the requisite safety equipment. Also I was surprised (pleasantly I might add) to find there was no need for a GPS to be fitted - and having a CAP heading was by no means essential either, although proved handy on a couple of days, if only for reassurance.

    The one thing I would like to emphasize to anyone considering this event is just how accurate the road-book was... The instructions were pretty much bang on your tripmeter distance, and only in a couple of instances did I find the tulip diagram a little ambiguous - otherwise it was perfect, and very comprehensive - with typically a follow up instruction a few hundred metres after a major junction for example, to reassure you you'd made the correct turning.

    Each day, the rally would start directly outside the bivouac, and rather fortunately directly opposite a kiosk selling all manner of goodies, including decent espresso coffee - double result!

    Calle (Hagenblad) ready for the off... most riders [who were looking for a decent result] knew that a lightweight bike was the key to success at the Hellas:

    [​IMG]


    As for my own campaign, my priorities were slightly different of course...

    Not only was this the first competitive rally I had raced since my accident at the Dakar in 2011, but I was extremely mindful that what John and Rally Raid needed most of all from this event was a 'finish' - anything else would be a bonus.

    As such, my plan was to start off easy - hell, I'd only actually ridden the LC4-50 off-road for maybe an hour and a half in total in Tunisia, so this would be as much about me learning the bikes' characteristics in the first few days, and also trying to preserve as much energy (or at least not expend it unnecessarily) so early on in what would prove to be quite a technical event - especially for someone on a 'big' bike.

    So, in no particular order - a few photos of the LC4-50 in action from both Alessio Corradini and Marcel Vermeij of Rallymanics... enjoy!

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    This one made me laugh... I spotted Alessio crouching on the far side of a muddy water splash - and could see where previous riders had wicked it up and blasted through for the camera... At the last moment, I jammed on the brakes and crawled through the mud waving, and no doubt saving him from a dousing or at least having to jump out of the way!

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    And another instance, this time where keeping going was more important than waving!

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    cont.
    #20