Cortez Rally Raid in a GWagen???

mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
I'm sure William will post the good news soon.

INCREDIBLY proud of these guys. Few others if any could have built a finer rally G in quicker time, nor represented the G-Wagen name better.
:bowdown: :clapsmile
 

McBride

Adventurer
Sooo.... we're back from the 2016 Sonora Rally.

In the first post on this thread I related how we first heard of the Sonora Rally on an Expedition Portal article and we knew it was something we needed to do. We'd heard of the Dakar and had high expectations that it would be an epic adventure, whatever it was. We signed up in September and started our research on how to turn an old G Wagen into a viable rally raid vehicle. We figured that if the team in the article did it in a modified Suburu we would be fine in a G Wagen. Hah! After doing the raid we have to give huge kudos to the Suburu team and their crew who built the car. Its amazing that they were able to make it thru the first day of the four day course... the modified Suburu this year didn't get very far into any of the stages despite their best efforts.

Based on research and a strong desire to not only survive but do well, we turned a 1988 230ge into an awesome rally raid vehicle following the rules of T2 FIA Rally 4wd specifications. We later found out that this class is probably one of the most highly regulated builds possible and the rules for the build read like an encyclopedia. You can modify the vehicle but within very specific parameters - an example is that you can change the location of and reinforce a shock mount but you can only move it no more than 2.4cm from the original location.

We had already signed up so we continued with enthusiasm.

Under the eye, guidance and in the shop of Marc Beyer, some good friends and the team at OCD in Santa Fe, NM we finished the car 30 minutes before we loaded it onto a trailer and headed for San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico for the start.

It turned out that the Sonora Rally had upped the game in both length and difficulty. Having recently been named a Dakar Challenge for the motos (winner of the Sonora gets free entry into the Dakar) we rolled into the parking lot of the hotel at the start and found we were in the company of mostly seasoned desert racers and a bunch of pros. Talking to the other teams, we found that our credentials were at the bottom of the list. At least 6 Dakar veterans, guys who had won the Baja 1000 and 500, and other seriously experienced desert racers were in the line up. Evil looking 800 hp trophy trucks, sand buggys, other Dakar cappable vehicles and 25 motos.

The evening before the start we took our G for its first ride! James had never driven the vehicle! We went for a 30 minute drive and were impressed by what we had built.

The next morning we started. At the end of the day we rolled across the Stage 1 finish line - a little over an hour behind the lead vehicle. We were ecstatic that the vehicle had made it. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I had tears in my eyes and I could only curse during the interview with the reporters and camera man. The course had been brutal, violent, fast and we were way over our limits of experience. It was the most intense experience of my life and I couldn't wait to do it the next day. The vehicle went into our pit, the team tore into it and an hour and a half later the came back, as astonished as we were, and said that there was nothing wrong - the car was perfect.

This went on for three more days. The vehicle performed flawlessly until the end. Well, almost. When I say performed I mean that even with the modified suspension and triple bypass shocks we slammed hard at least 50 times - I mean auto accident hard - nose dives - we almost rolled at least 20 times - wheels in the air - side sloped dangerously on huge dunes - it was violent and it is amazing that the G held up.

Where there were roads the runs were amazing and extremely fast and whoopy. From the beginning to the end we had the pedal pinned. We were between 4500 and 5500rpm for the entire race - almost redlined - up to 12 hours a day - the temps were redlined - the fuel boiled - people melted belt after belt - several trannys blew - engines were blown - radiators were torn off their mounts - frames were ripped - power steering pumps disintegrated. Thankfully, other than the boiling fuel, none of these things happened to our G.

The last day we were advised that we had to go fast on a long beach run in order to beat the incoming tide. Well, all of the racers were held up for an hour at a military check point and the tides were coming in fast - against a cliff. We got stuck in a 3' mud hole and it took us 25 minutes to get out. We had to do a beach run between the cliff and the water - sometimes only 6' of space. We were getting sucked into the ocean and waves were breaking over the back of the G. We made that section, which we probably shouldn't have tried and then came upon a 1/4 mile wide tidal flat with a strong incoming current. I walked it and then gave James a thumbs up to proceed. It was only three feet deep at deepest but there was one close stall out that scared the heck out of us.

We got off the beach, barely and hit the rest of the course which was predominantly fast runs; with serious ledges and washouts. We hit one and the steering wheel was 90 degrees off. We checked things out and only found a slightly bent pitman arm. We continued on the high speed runs, as hard as we could go.

30 kilometers from the finish it happened. The panhard mount tore off the frame. It was one of our modifications, not factory. We did a temp repair in 20 minutes and limped along, in the dark, 3 hours... and then we crossed the finish line. Nobody was there, they were all at the awards ceremony. We didn't care. We did it. Crossed the finish line and completed the course.

We hit every waypoint of the race and only took 1 time penalty - the least of any of the vehicles.

We made it to the hotel and when we walked in we received a standing ovation. We were the underdogs but had persevered. I handed the time card - in pieces and soggy from time spent wading in the water - to the race organizer. Then we celebrated into the night.

We finished 5th overall and first in our class. The hand carved trophy is beautiful and part of Sonora history.

5 days later and I'm just getting back to normal. Adrenaline hangover is a strange thing. It stays in your cells for a long time.

James and I have talked and we are going back next year. We have endless room for improvement and now that we know what we are getting into we feel we can make some significant improvements and we hope to finish again and do better against the trophy trucks.

I have to say that the Sonora Rally is now a full on Dakar type race in difficulty and next year it will only get harder, longer and more challenging. While any solid overland type vehicle in perfect condition could possibly finish it, it wouldn't be within the time limits and it wouldn't be a race. That said, just completing the course will be an epic accomplishment. I think the organizers are total game to let you in. They are all about providing the course for the adventure. I can wait to meet next year's underdog. They will have the time of their lives!

Here are some pics. SonoraRally79sm.jpgSonoraRally124sm.jpgSonoraRally69sm.jpgSonoraRally44sm.jpgSonoraRally9sm.jpg
 
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mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
BTW, I've been waiting for a long time to use this Emoji, and now I can;

:rally_guys:
 

njtacoma

Explorer
This reminds me a bit of "Against Gravity" by Ed McCabe. A privateer that ran the paris dakar in a g-wagen.

I need to find that on the book shelf and flip through it again.

Surviving is winning.
 

burquedoka

Adventurer
This reminds me a bit of "Against Gravity" by Ed McCabe. A privateer that ran the paris dakar in a g-wagen.

I need to find that on the book shelf and flip through it again.

Surviving is winning.
Thanks for all the kind words and encouragement throughout our build! William summarized the experience perfectly, it was an absolutely epic, life changing experience.

The Ed McCabe book was read front to back by both of us during the month leading up to t the race. The other really cool thing is the Kastenwagen Rally G live in Santa Fe, owned by the owner of Mercedes Benz of SF who is one of our sponsors. We were able to crawl around and study that G early on in our build process. Needless to say, there was a ton of inspiration drawn from it.
 

imjustdave

New member
WOW...... let me say that again... WOW

That looks like a fum time for sure.

To be honest I would love the details on the shocks and now your making me wonder if I want a 461 or 463 body. UGH so many decisions ... and I don't even own a G yet.
 

mk216v

Der Chef der Fahrzeuge
WOW...... let me say that again... WOW

That looks like a fum time for sure.

To be honest I would love the details on the shocks and now your making me wonder if I want a 461 or 463 body. UGH so many decisions ... and I don't even own a G yet.
Good luck getting a W461 into the States. Can be done, but not legally.
 
FYI 461 production of GD290, GD250 and GE230 started in 1992. Makes them within reach of the 25 year rule.
Just keep in mind, that 461 vehicles where bought to work and not as a status symbol. That means wear and tear to a degree that is not typical of the W463 series.
 
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vingtsun

New member
I have a 1990 250GD (W461) formerly of the Bundeswehr. If you are careful you can find good quality former military W461's. The only thing my G needed was a replacement fuel tank strap...
 
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