Making The Way To The Bivouac – Mar del Plata

Making The Way To The Bivouac – Mar del Plata

With the clutch issue hanging over the team’s head, there were a few more loose ends to tie up before heading to Mar del Plata, a beachside Argentinean resort city about a five hour drive from the capital, Buenos Aires. Because Tara and I would be monitoring the Dakar rally as press, we are required to have our own vehicle. This vehicle would be inspected by Dakar officials to ensure it meets the safety standards as well as it would be marked with the same decals and stickers as the racer cars, trucks and support vehicles.

We learned that conditions on the bivouac, the command center for the rally, were extremely rough, Robb had arranged to lease a small RV/camper so that life on the bivouac would be more comfortable for Tara as well as a quieter and more comfortable place to sleep for the sure to be exhausted driver and co-driver. For Tara, her concern was a clean and private bathroom. However, renting the RV in Argentina was no easy task. It would need the documentation for crossing the borders of Chile and Peru. And we needed to arrange to have the RV delivered back to Argentina from Lima Peru.

When the guy showed us how to dispose of the the waste, Tara had to step away. I thought she was going to get sick.
All these issues were handled with some degree of difficulty, so we agreed that Raff and Bill would leave early in the AM towing the injured Desert Warrior behind, while Robb, Tara, Ben and I would take taxis (yes, we need two to carry all of us and our supplies) to pick up the RV. Plus, we decided to bring along my friend Dario who could be our Argentina Ambassador in Mar del Plata and help source anything we needed or help solve problems.

The look on Tara’s after she saw the RV expressed more than disappointment—horror. A simple but sad case of expectations not being met. The RV arrangements were made by one of Robb’s employees and photographs Tara had seen on the internet showed a built in bathroom. The RV that was being cleaned and prepped as we arrived at 8am on Thursday morning provided for a nice portable toilet — one that sits on the ground with privacy provided by a canvas booth that extends like an awning from the side of the RV.

When the guy showed us how to dispose of the the waste, Tara had to step away. I thought she was going to get sick. Robb did everything he could to try to switch to a different RV, but all the RVs were leased, besides, it would be impossible to get the documentation for border crossings for a different vehicle in our very tight time frame.

Robb expresses some tension as another driver, David, discusses particulars and suggestions.

The RV company was very thorough and detailed in explaining how to operate the jack, where the spare tires were and emergency reflector signs and more. But they did forget to tell this group of foreigners one thing. With Ben behind the wheel, we were pulled over by the highway police just an hour south of the RV company. The young lady in a loose police uniform yet with big brown eyes explained that Ben would be served an infraction and assessed a fine (a “multa” in Spanish) because he was driving without headlights. On national highways it is required to drive with lights. Nobody told us this. So we put our Argentinian ambassador to work, and Dario managed to bribe the officer for about $25 rather than the $300 she originally requested. The brown-eyed policewoman stuffed the bills in her pants.

At the bivouac in Mar del Plata the desert warrior was already on jack stands and sitting above the ground like some sort of space age hovercraft. Bill and Raff scuttled around with the stress oozing from their pores. This is not what After more than 4 hours the Desert Warrior was lowered back to earth and tested—but the clutch was slippingthey expected to do here. There was a long list of loose ends they hoped to address. instead, they had to fix the clutch problem. Thankfully, the contracted support team from Rally Raid UK was there to support our team. Between them they realized because of the new clutch, gap between the slave cylinder and the master cylinder was too much. Rally Raid UK techs suggested spacing it out about 3mm to close the gap.

While the team worked on the clutch, Tara and I proceeded through the long process of getting our press credentials. Like a kid on a scavenger hunt we were handed a document, they called it a passport, and directed us to a large tent filled with about 20 booths staffed by Dakar officials and others. We had to go to each booth/table and either go through a doctrinarian (environment, border crossings, safety) or present documents (registration, title etc.). Once our passport was fully steamed we could then proceed to have our press vehicle inspected. However, Raff and the techs would have to install a special GPS device, referred to as the “Trippy”, that would allow us to follow the race assistance route. There would be no way they’d be able to install this until the Desert Warrior was ready for its inspection.

Meanwhile, Rally Raid techs strongly suggested we get aluminum plates that would serve as a base in sand or on rough terrain for the Desert Warriors built in hydraulic lift—a tough call at 2pm on a holiday weekend. But Dario set off hoping to have these fabricated to match Rally Raid specs.

After more than 4 hours the Desert Warrior was lowered back to earth and tested—but the clutch was slipping. Raff and the team reasoned that there might’ve been some fluid on the clutch, plus because it was new it needed to heat up to temperature, but the short test drive wasn’t enough. There was plenty of grab at low RPMs but high a bit of slip. This we’d have to wait and see. With more than a million people flocking to Mar del Plata for the new year and The Dakar, the streets were choked with traffic and pedestrians spilled off the sidewalks on to the streets.

With the sun dropping fast and a long to do list for all three vehicles, and with everyone operating on about 4 hours of sleep and barely any lunch, the team finally got its first break and gathered for dinner, where Dario showed up with the cylinder disk plates — made better than the Rally Raid originals. The techs then returned to the bivouac and worked until about 1am. All necessary because the car would have to pass inspection the tomorrow, Friday the 30th of December at 4pm.


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