Team SANDVIK Integrale
Newsletter May 2009
The Debut : Rally Taranaki
Following the embarrassing clutch slave failure during the SANDVIK driver training
day, we returned the car to the workshop for a comprehensive going over. As expected
replacing the broken bracket was only a 30min job ( arrghhhh !) , and with everything
else looking fine , I was determined to use the car as a daily driver for a week or so.
This is a great way for bringing the little niggling bugs to the surface that can cause some
issues with a new car. Things like one washer not working , wipers scraping airbox, oil
leaks , etc . So we spent a few nights getting these sorted and ready for the big debut!
We loaded up on Friday and travelled down to New Plymouth is what can only be
described as atrocious conditions : driving rain , cold , gale force winds and roadworks !
The car and trailer looked like they had been in a snow-storm by the time we hit town.
Rain+Roadworks= yuk !!
After documentation , we then spent an hour fitting the required event-sponsor stickers in
the dark , before putting the car in parc ferme at the Warehouse underground carpark. At
least the cars would be dry for the night. We went to our team member Warwick’s
house for the night, expecting very wet and slippery roads the next day.
As this was the car’s debut event , we asked to be seeded towards the rear of the field so
started 72nd on the road out of 80 cars. This meant we could have a wee sleep-in , as our
start time wasn’t until 0730. With 200km of special stages and 240km of touring, it was
going to be a lonnnng day.
Amazingly , although overcast it wasn’t raining nor was it cold. At the start we met up
with Harry Duynhoven the ex-Minister of Transport who was instrumental in helping us
get the Integrale road-legal after our 3 year battle. It was great that Harry could see the
car in the flesh as it were , and we were looking forward to buying him a beer at the
prizegiving….assuming we finished !!
Taranaki Rally as one of the rounds of the sanctioned Top Half Rally Series is run under
full ‘rally rules’. Unlike Targa, where there is some leeway with the pedantic check-in
times and the like, with proper rallies you must turn up for stage check-ins on time not
early ( penalties apply) or late ( larger penalties apply) . It certainly makes for a more
serious event .
As co-driver Phil Sutton had not driven the car for sometime , he did the tour out of town
to the first stage . We decided that I would drive the first three stages just to make sure
the car felt good, then Phil drive the next four and then I finish the days last three
stages…assuming we got that far !
The roads around Taranaki are either hilly and twisty ( the ones we use for Targa) or hilly
and fast. Most of the stages used in the rally were of the mega-fast variety, with three of
them actually having chicanes in them to slow competitors down ! Seeing these it was
clear that the gravel gearing as fitted to our ex-works car will be dramatically effecting
our stage times : we were flat out at 158kmh ,when others were hitting speeds of over
The uniqueness of the SANDVIK Integrale certainly held us in good stead with Joe
Public who were getting quote bored with the plethora of Mitsi-ubarus that ran ahead of
us. Most who saw us at the service parks remembered the late 80’s when the Lancia
WRC team visited NZ in their Group A integrales.
The first stages were fast and rather boring . We drove the car very cautiously , getting to
know its quirks and hoping that nothing would break. Gearing aside, the car certainly
had some boogey and once the tyre pressures were fiddled with, we found levels of grip
that were amazing.
Our enthusiasm waned slightly on Stage 5 though , as we start to blow huge amounts of
blue smoke when we idle down after the stage….so much smoke in fact that we have to
turn the engine off to prevent over-coming the timing crews ! We diagnosed that the
turbo seals had blown , so whilst smelly and rather polluting at idle , no real issue at
speed. The concern was that the turbo shaft might seize and destroy the turbo , but with
only 5 stages to run , we had no time to change so decided to just keep going as hard as
we dare and keep topping up the oil !
Apart from that , the crew (Scott and Warwick) had a pretty easy day , just replacing a
small vacuum line as the only minor drama. The car felt good , and as the day went on
Phil and I were feeling more confident in the car. Even the sun popped out on occasion !
At service…..topped up oil , all done !
The last stage of the day was a 32km corker ! Way the back of no-where , it started
narrow and twisty ( ) then long and fast ( ) then finished narrow and twisty again ()
The car ,whilst down on power now plus top speed, gave us both a sense of where we can
be with further development.
Against our own inner suspicions ( to be honest) , we completed all stages with no
penalties and crossed the finish line with a Top Ten class finish….better than we had
hoped. Many cars crashed out during the day ( some quite spectacularly ) as this event is
incredibly hard and fast. In hindsight, perhaps not the most ideal of events to debut a
new ‘old’ car , but nonetheless we made it !
We Finished !!
After an equally wet, windy and dirty drive back to Rotorua the car is now back in the
workshop . The ‘to-do’ list for us is actually pretty small : re-build turbo , replace
original FIA-spec 34mm restrictor with allowed 36mm one ( more power ! ) , find some
17” wheels to allow us to run higher top speed , fit programmable ECU so as we can get
some more revs ( top speed again ) and a few bibs and bobs . It is always good to return
with a rally car that is damage free after an event. The car does have huge potential , and
we look forward to running the next event later in the year.
We were able to compete thanks to our sponsor SANDVIK… ..cheers guys ! And
luckily we had plenty of oil to keep topping it up with courtesy of Castrol !
Focus now switches to two very different events , run in two equally different cars . The
Yambina is running at Taupo on 30th May at a dual car sprint meeting , followed two
weeks later with the Abarth running in Targa Rotorua. With 2009 being the 15th
anniversary of not only Targa NZ , but also the Abarth competing , we are looking
forward to a big year. The old girl is on the hoist now, and with much of its ‘honeydew
list’ already completed , hopefully we wont have to burn the midnight oil as usual ! Stay