You never quite know what lurks in the sheds of Adelaide…

I’m sure most of you have at some stage wondered what sits behind the closed doors of the sheds of Adelaide. All sorts of rare and interesting cars lurk within, and we listen to and observe daily life intently in the hope of catching any clues that might lead to the discovery of hidden treasure. And so it was a few weeks ago when, mid conversation, I heard the words “Dakar car” and “in my shed at home”. This had to be investigated.

This should have been no surprise because the words came from none other than Garry Kirk – the well known Adelaide race car fabricator and builder. The car in question is a Desert Warrior, built for the 2011 Dakar rally in the UK by Rally Raid. Garry had just finished a complete strip down and rebuild for the Coconut Car Racing Team and was kind enough to show me around it. 

The car (4WD? Vehicle?) was ordered new by Australia’s Coconut Car Racing team for the 2011 Dakar. It’s been built to compete in the T3 class, who’s main rule is the engine, transfer case and gearbox must all be production based – this outlaws the expensive gearboxes from Hollinger, X-Trac and Sadev and the purpose built racing engines used in the outright buggy’s. All 4 corners of the suspension must be identical, so much so that a left rear suspension arm must be interchangeable with the right front. Track is limited and any brakes are allowed so long as they have no more than 4 pistons. Everything else is free.

The engine is a BMW 3.0 litre straight 6 single turbo diesel from an X5. The gearbox is a ZF 6 speed manual, also from an X5, however it runs through a Land Rover Discovery transfer case, Ford Explorer 8.8″ differentials and Range Rover Sport driveshafts.

The bodyshell is mostly handmade fibreglass that simply bolts on over the top of the chassis/roll cage unit. The only production parts are Ford Focus headlights, grille, windscreen and door handles.

The interior is pure racecar, although Garry had just finished installing air conditioning. This may seem like a luxury, but human fatigue is a big problem in the extreme desert heat so having a properly focussed driver and co-driver is a real competitive advantage.

The rear holds three spare wheels, and the side panels open up to reveal the utility space.

It’s mostly occupied by the fuel tank and the rear bracing of the roll cage, which also neatly forms the radiator mount. The radiator gets its air from the large roof mounted scoop, where it can supply clear, fresh air away from the sand.

The other side contains a large hydraulic ram for those times when it’s needed. I think Dakar racing is the most extreme form of motorsport – you have to be prepared for any situation that might occur, and be fully expecting the worst. The Coconut crew once broke down in the middle of the desert one evening and couldn’t get parts until the next day. They had no other option but to spend the night sleeping in the desert, upright in those race seats. It hit -2deg that night in the desert. And then when the part turned up at sunrise, they had 3 hours work ahead of them to change it.

The car is fitted with on board air jacks to enable flat tyres to be changed quickly. The crew let the tyres down almost flat to give more traction in really sandy conditions, but they then need to be pumped up again when they reach a harder packed surface. To combat this in a race situation the car is fitted with two scuba air tanks and a compressor which is used to rapid inflate the tyres.

This shot is taken from the right guard looking across the engine bay. The black arrow shaped piece you see in the middle front is actually a spare suspension arm. There’s no use in carrying dead weight, so the spare arm is used as chassis reinforcement but can be unbolted if needed.

Desert Warrior!

Believe it or not but this is actually a pee hose. It clips onto a special attachment inside the race suit and allows the driver to relieve himself on the go. Strangely enough, the co-driver doesn’t get one.

Do drive with a seat belt on, don’t drink wine or race people. I’m not sure why this little sign was there, I’m certain you wouldn’t find one in most racecars.

Most of us have old ‘OK’ scrutineering stickers dotted around the shed, some have old rally door panels. Few have genuine Dakar Rally signage hanging on the wall, and even fewer the stories to go along with it.

Amongst other smaller events, the car competed in the 2011 and 2012 Dakar rally with Geoff Olholm behind the wheel.

In 2012 the crew towed another competitor along the final 55km to the end of the rally, just so they too could finish. The Dakar is such a hard event that sometimes results are irrelevant, just making it to the finish is challenge enough.

This video is well known around the Dakar racing world. The Coconut crew came across the dunes to see another competitor on their roof. Whilst others drove past, Geoff stopped to help pull them back onto their wheels so they could continue. You can see in the video just how harsh the Dakar is – hot sand getting in everywhere, and the look of sheer exhaustion on the drivers face.

This photo was taken at the finish in Peru, where the team managed 3rd in class. They were running as high as Top 20 outright for some of the rally, but managed to finish inside the Top 30 outright. That’s pretty good going for a privateer T3 team from Australia!

By the time you read this the car will be in England, and may even already be sold. Coconut Car Racing are planning an even bigger campaign at the 2013 Dakar, and have ordered a new Toyota Hilux which is being built in Belgium by Overdrive in conjunction with Toyota Motorsports South Africa. That will be a T1 class car powered by a Lexus 4.6litre V8, and will hopefully be ready for testing in October.

I’d like to extend a huge thanks to Garry Kirk for allowing me to come out and for taking the time to show us around the car.

Follow the Coconut Car Racing Team’s efforts and preparations for the 2013 Dakar Rally on Facebook HERE.

Garry also gave us a sneak peak at another project taking shape in the back of his workshop. I’ll be heading back soon to do a full story on this build, but for now here’s one word to describe the project: Monte Carlo Rally.

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