Australasian Safari Rally 2013 Day Two: Leg 1
Things Get Real
After the prologue was finished (Day One), we hit the road that same day and headed further up the Western Australia coast for Northampton. While our drive was sometimes under gray clouds and rain, that cleared up and we saw several RVs and what appeared to be fishing shacks alongside beautiful white beaches that edged blue-green ocean. We continued on until reaching town, and the entire rally group set up at a local community center. Some race teams had work to do that night, making any necessary repairs and adjustments in anticipation of the first true day of the rally.
We know the title of this post is confusing. "Day Two: Leg 1"? What are you talking about? Think of it this way: Day One's Prologue is considered Leg 0. That day determined the order in which everyone would leave the next day, on Leg 1. And Leg 1's start put us at Oakabella, where we stood near the Indian Ocean as we watched motorcycles and then autos get the best times they could. As Amy Lerner, driver of the #104 Jeep Wrangler, explained to us, this stage started sandy, with one steep climb that was littered with rocks, and finished with a high-speed stretch on the beach. The Wrangler did well through here, and completing that stage without problems, Lerner was encouraged by the capabilities of the Jeep. She was also happy that she and navigator/sister Tricia Reina had worked out shorthand communication ahead of time. As simple as it may sound, if a team can give the same instruction each time the same basic event comes up (hard left, slow here, etc.), instructions are clear and there's less of a chance of a mistake.
From there, we headed to the next stage, in Whelarra. This was a very fast stage, with soft, sandy roads. This was a stage that had the potential for race teams to make up some time. There were long, straight stretches without drainage ditches. It was about 100 km (just over 60 miles), but some vehicles were already seeing signs of trouble here.
The third stage of the day was through Yandi. To watch a stretch of this stage, we parked near a local farmer's dried-out field of lupines and waited for racers to barrel down a straight dirt road and make a hard right. The first few autos went through that turn doing the "Scandinavian flick" rally-driving maneuver, but drivers got progressively more rational when making that turn. We'd heard on the radio that #104 was in need of fuel and had to buy some that had been set aside for the motos. While it looked like Team Lerner/Reina wouldn't be penalized, under the idea of "living off the land" (if you need something and can get it from the locals, it's legal), we hadn't heard the final decision by the end of the day.
Lerner told us that night that this third stage was "the Jeep stage." It was rough, steep, and bumpy. There was a lot of rock-crawling. They could tell how hard the ground was by the color of it (red dirt as opposed to darker gold). The reason there was an issue with fuel was that traction control kept kicking in above a certain speed and if the dirt was too loose; the way Lerner fought it was to downshift and rev higher (there wasn't a button to shut off traction control), which burned a lot more fuel.
After everyone was through the day's stages, they drove to Kalbarri, a peaceful beach town. It even had a farmer's market going as we arrived. It was reminiscent of Santa Barbara, and everything about it was in stark contrast to the rugged, arid scenery from that same day. We saw whales just off shore, and drove back to the bivouac to figure out our goals for the next day. Even with their minor setback, the ladies were happy with the results from the day. Their plan that night was to figure out a solution to the traction control issue, and prepare for tomorrow's stagesvof the Australasian Safari Rally 2013.