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Report Rally of Haspengouw 2019

After a very hectic winter update, with some radical changes, we were of course very much looking forward to a first confrontation with the Haspengouw concrete strips.

For the observant media watchers it had been clear for some time that from now on Isidoor Smets will knit the notes together and that we decided to focus on the full M-Cup. Through Isidoor’s experience, the bar is indirectly raised a bit higher, even though it is not the intention to put more pressure on myself. And even though I don’t know anything about knitting myself, I’m going to do my utmost not to drop stitches.

(Photos Wim Becker, Jérome Deskeuvre, Frank Pacqué)

The rest of the changes were all made to the car. For example, the bimmer has followed some Weight Watchers sessions during the winter months, resulting in a 30kg weight loss. At first sight not bad, but in terms of BMI we are still far from ideal. Today there is still 120kg too much on the counter. Despite the excess weight, the car felt much better compared to the end of last year. Thanks to Mats van den Brand who helped us a lot!

The weather was of course also exceptionally good, which made the course a lot less tricky. But especially during the first loop there were still some damp situations, so that here and there some restraint was not a superfluous luxury. Fortunately, there was Isidoor to compensate for my lack of experience so that we were unscathed and above all satisfied at the finish in Gingelom.

I had little or no adjustment symptoms, except for a slightly too boisterous brake maneuver in the first meters. (I leave in the middle whether this was due to cold tires or my youthful enthusiasm :-)) We were immediately in the right flow in terms of rhythm and the atmosphere in the car was very relaxed and amusing. Due to our changes to clutch and exhaust, the BMW also turned out to be much more relaxed, smoother and above all a lot quieter. I have never known our eardrums so happy.

KP2 Neerlanden also went pretty well, with the exception of the super smooth cobblestone retro where I chose a totally wrong tactic. I knew that the grip on the polished cobblestones was almost zero and definitely wanted to avoid a tête-à-queue, by hanging a little too enthusiastically on the handbrake. I went into the anchors way too early and then I went back on the gas when the nose of the car was still pointing in the wrong direction, resulting in heavy understeer. We didn’t lose a lot of time with it, but it was more than disappointing for the spectators. Except for this small hitch, the good feeling remained unchanged and with the 2 pieces of unpaved it also became clear that the BMW clearly feels at ease here as well. Ditto for the crew by the way, which certainly benefited the fun content!

On KP3 Heers we were out of balance for a while. Even before the unpaved surface, our throttle guardian angel thought the difference between pedal position and the sliding position was too big and went back into safe mode. A problem that we thought was completely off the track after the GTC rally last year. There was no other option than to follow the well-known ritual: perform a complete reset (read powercycle), resulting in a good 30 seconds on the side and especially a considerable sacrifice in terms of chrono. Not that we are currently heavily focused on that, but it is certainly not a nice feeling. Especially since we were convinced that the problem was off the track, this was not so encouraging. In the meantime, we have discovered the cause and it was not a repeat of the problems we had in the GTC. A not 100% correctly programmed sensor was responsible for the troll behavior.

At KP4 Horpmaal the STC trolls had calmed down and the accelerator again behaved exemplary. Fortunately, because we would not be able to solve this problem during the service. The peace in the car also returned fairly quickly, so that we could fully enjoy the colorful landscapes and ditto fruit trees. Horpmaal I also found the easiest KP. Nevertheless, we also missed some time here, this time by a slower, but very sporty participant who had gone neatly to the side. Loop 1 was over and we were quite satisfied, too bad from Heers but for the time being the chrono was still our friend, so we didn’t really lift heavy.

Normally, the connections should not be stressful, but because the car is then in road mode, we see a lot more parameters regarding the general health of the BMW. Even though the heart rate was normal, the state of the battery was not at all. Even before the refuel we received the message “alternator problem”. It seemed as if history was repeating itself, because in the EBR we also had to give up due to an alternator issue.

Surprising, because both the alternator was brand new and we gave ourselves an oversized LiPoFe battery at Christmas, just with the intention of excluding electrical problems as much as possible. Fortunately, the S14 started without any problem after the refuel, but the counter had meanwhile dropped below 13V while in normal circumstances this should be between 14.4V and 14.6V. Knowing that this type of Lithium battery starts to feel sick when the voltage drops below 12V, we were a little more than worried and especially very happy when we saw our friends in the service park.

Since our service crew is now more than properly trained on replacing alternators (thanks to the EBR), a new and fresh one was installed in no time and after a short check it was confirmed that the energy source was charged back. Again a big compliment for the super well-oiled service crew who from 2019 is also decked out in a new R-Box outfit.

One of the advantages of Lithium technology is that the charging time is very limited and we already saw that confirmed on stage. After more than 20 minutes of charging, the meter had already climbed to over 13V. Both Isidoor and I had full confidence in it again, so much so that Isidoor had already thrown zen charms into the scale to convince our predecessor to clock in a minute late because of the overtaking nuisance, but unfortunately without result. I want to leave in the middle whether it was due to a lack of charms or for other reasons not mentioned above. 🙂 But like any seasoned co, Isidoor did not accept this refusal and for the price of 10 seconds of penalty time we still got our 2 minute margin.

Gingelom 2 went a lot smoother. Despite the 2 minutes we did catch up with our predecessor again. Fortunately, it went back to the side sportively, which greatly limited the loss of time. Our battery also remained in top condition so everyone happy. In Neerlanden, more or less the same scenario followed: a better chrono, but still a hitch at the cobblestone retro.

On the way to the refuel it was again “red alert” and the culprit was again the same alternator alarm. Two heart attacks later, we still didn’t realize how two new alternators could fail after two tests. Fortunately, we got back into the service and there we saw that the problem was not in the alternator, but in the belt. For a still unexplained reason, the belt stretched each time causing it to slip and the alternator to stop loading sufficiently. After it was stretched, everything turned out to be okay again.

On Gingelom 3 the time was set a little sharper again despite a few hesitations on my part because of a short circuit in my head. We had fitted new rubbers at the back during the service, which caused a bit less grip during the first few meters and I was a bit too busy with my tires instead of listening to the perfect instructions from Isidoor.

At Neerlanden 3 I had full confidence in the tyres again and everything went well, until I went a little too enhousiast on the gas after a left 30 with the result and a short detour through a Haspengouw field for the price of a handful of seconds. Despite this unforeseen trip, we still tightened up the time a bit and we had a lot of fun. In short, everyone happy, until we went back to road mode and again saw “alternator problem” appear on the screen after a few kilometers.

We stopped on the connection (coincidentally on the chaussée d’amour) and dived under the hood to again find that the belt had become longer again. I now want to understand that things regularly get longer on the chausée d’amour, but from our belt we did not see that coming at all. Since we had to drive the last two tests with light, we were not at all confident that this time we were going to make it to Landen.

And unfortunately, the fear was completely justified: even before the TK van Heers, the power steering failed. I knew that if the voltage drops below a certain level, the power steering without any form of consultation gives up and only wants to revise its opinion after a complete reset (read: powercycle). Now if there’s one thing we really didn’t want to do in such a situation, it was to take off the engine at that point to reset. That would undoubtedly have meant game over.

After careful consideration, we decided to drive the last two trials in eco mode, on the one hand to reduce our ecological footprint, but above all to increase our chances of getting back to Landen. The eco-mode of the BMW ensures that the gearbox oil is no longer pushed through the cooler, the gearbox fan goes out, etc. Since the power steering had already gone on strike and we therefore had to drive very cautiously, we thought that we would also succeed with only the parking lights on.

I may not have to draw a picture, but these were undoubtedly the two longest KPs of the rally. I was definitely not involved in rallying anymore. Despite the fact that Isidoor continued to mumble the perfect notes undisturbed and just as enthusiastically, I no longer absorbed anything and I was only toiling to keep the car on the track. A bit like we were on the road with an electric car. Because of the very short wheelhouse it was almost impossible to get the car in the right direction and in addition I had to be very subtle with the accelerator pedal because correction was too slow anyway. Not to mention the limited visibility due to the lack of light. It was a big mental boost for us and the team to still finish in these conditions.

Although as expected we were never able to compete at the front of the M-cup, we finished in a creditable 4th place. In my opinion not really justified, but as the well-known saying goes: you can shave a pheasant, but that is why it cannot play cards yet. The prizes will only be distributed after the finish.

In any case, we had a fantastic weekend and Isidoor and myself would like to thank everyone for the support and hard work! Both the service crew, the catering, the photogra(s) and of course the supporters!!

Thank you and see you in Tielt!

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