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Sezoens 2021 mixed emotions

Despite all the efforts, all the preparations and especially the fantastic R-Box team (and of course I’m not talking about the crew) it didn’t go as we had planned. The energy crisis is not only manifesting itself in society but is also plaguing the R-Box team.

SS1 Steenberg was a wake up call from the start and it was immediately clear, the Sezoensrally does not fall into the category of easy rallies (in case they exist at all). Despite the beautiful weather, the grip levels were very inconsistent during the the morning loop. Partly due to the lack of testing and the extremely long corona break, it was particularly difficult to get into the rhythm and find full confidence. From the first meters I struggled with the car and there was no rhythm at all. I was constantly battling with the car to keep it in the right direction and considering this was our first “real” rally after the big suspension update I was only focused on what could go wrong with shock absorbers, suspensions and torsion bars. A 4th but at least as important item to keep in touch with the road are the tires but they were out my sight, completely masked by my brain. Not the most open mind to solve a problem but I have no explanation why I consciously or unconsciously forgot about the tires. It’s a textbook example of tunnel vision, even more, I was completely cut off for input so it was an extreme version of tunnel vision, even Isidoor’s suggestion to check (measure) the tire pressure before the start of SS2 I even ignored. I was too sure that the problem had to be found in the suspension.

At SS2 Beek we had the famous gravel for the first time and although I was particularly looking forward to this, this only led into a bigger fight with the car. It seemed like my CPU was getting so many interrupts to avoid trees and other things that can hurt you badly that sometimes there were no resources left to process Isidoor’s notes.

Fortunately, there was service after SS2 and I could push the reset button to open my mind again. Very welcomed because when we arrived at the service it was immediately clear that there was hardly any air in the tire on the left rear. A nail hole had created a perfect escape route for all the air that doesn’t like to be trapped and compressed in a dark room without windows. An action that could be justified, I would also escape in those circumstances so no hard feelings towards to the escaped air. The most important thing to remember with any problem is not to forget the basics and in this case this is not potting soil but tire pressure.

After service 1 we were able to get back on the road, this time with sufficient pressure in all tires and as expected the handling of the M3 had improved dramatically. I was again friends with the car again and for the first time in this rally I felt that I was back in “charge” and not constantly correcting the vagaries of the M3.

SS3 Gerdingen went a lot better, still way too many “small mistakes” and up to 2 engine stall’s that I could not really place but given my very poor performance on the previous special stages, I immediately accepted them as own mistakes.
I also lost a few reference points, so several times we slowed down much too early and that was much less easy to accept.

We knew in advance that we could not play a role in getting top times recorded due to a lack of rhythm and race kilometers so no problem to accept this, our only goal was to finish and learn this time. What was more difficult to accept for myself was the fact that I kept struggling with the notes, I sometimes was unable to process the notes on time and for the sake of clarity this certainly had nothing to do with the co-driver. This will become a big point of work for me and I’m not sure if it’s due to the far too long corona break or an early case of young dementia. Let’s hope it is the first problem.

SS4 Goolder was actually a bit of a repeat of SS3 in terms of feeling, car was okay, navigator was okay only the driver failed sometimes. Too many mistakes, too boisterous in moments and I even went the extra mile by spinning and stall the engine at the same time. Pretty efficient tactic for doubling the time loss in 1 hit. Although I may soon be able to get an exemption for the multiple engine stall’s.

SS5 De Hees was supposed to close the first loop and until 5 sec before the start there were no signs of trouble. The flag was rised, unfortunately our engine speed chose to go in the opposite direction at the same time and the BMW remained motionless and silent at the starting line to everyone’s surprise. Especially since I had not seen any alarm popping up.
Being mouse-quiet is not the best feature of our M3 so that didn’t really look promising. We tried to restart but even the dashboard remained dark black. There was no sign of life at all. Fortunately we were pushed aside by some spectators, for which we are grateful! Totally stunned we started checking everything and after a while the battery woke up of a deep coma and we saw some activity on the dashboard. Unfortunately only ominous signs such as a battery voltage that indicated 7.8V. Even if you know in advance the result at such moments, you refuse to accept the truth. We tried in an ultimate act of desperation to switch the fuel pumps back on but that resulted in a painful groaning and moaning in the trunk due to a heavy energy shortage and after a few seconds everything literally turned black on the dash again and it became deafeningly quiet.

The disappointment was super big, these are moments that you think, now it’s time to go fishing. (of course with all due respect to the fishermen among us)

This way, of course, we will never make progress and that makes it so frustrating.

We were warned by the Belgian government that we could have electricity shortage during the winter, but we did not expect that they would do a test with our M3 that soon.

One day later it is still not 100% clear what went wrong in Bocholt. This time it is neither a cable break nor a failing alternator. After resuscitation of the battery, everything works again as if nothing happened.

We have a suspicion but we want to figure everything out to the bone first and be 1000% sure that we understand the root cause before sharing it with the world wide web. To be continued.

Despite a far too short Sezoensrally, we have learned a number of things:

1 Always listen to your navigator when he asks to check the tire pressure, maybe I should even generalize this to : ALWAYS listen to your navigator.

2 A very clear working point has emerged for me in this rally and that is the processing of the notes.
3 Despite our 2 retirements on 2 participations in the Sezoensrally, we still like this rally very much ! I am a fan of the typical gravel, the organization certainly deserves a compliment and without the corona situation it is best atmosphere partly by the central location on the square.

4 Last but by far the most important conclusion. We really have an incredibly exceptional team, this is crystal clear. How everyone empathizes, despite the fact that not everything goes as we wanted, everyone remains super motivated and dedicated. We can only be very grateful for that. We digested the disappointment together and washed it through in the sun on the service and after a few minutes the atmosphere of mourning had turned into a positive vibe again. Partly due to the culinary indulgence of Nancy, but certainly also due to the resilience and positivity of everyone. Solutions were put on the table instantly together with new future plans. Without this team we would be nowhere and it would be impossible to practice our hobby.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that is very appropriate here. Despite the growing pains, we are getting stronger every time and Bocholt 2021 is yet another confirmation.

So because of Isidoor and myself I want to summarize it in 3 words :

To the whole R-Box team THANKS THANKS and again THANKS !! See you next year….

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