17 August 2012 | DAVID BATZOFIN
“Three, two, one… have a good run.”
These are not quite the words you think you would hear at the start
of a motoring event, but the 36th Total Economy Run is no ordinary event.
Twenty-one car manufacturers and 54 crews tackled this iconic challenge fuel efficiency of vehicles (petrol and diesel) and drivers over two days and 1 105km.
But first, rewind to a few hours earlier.
I find myself boarding a tiny SA Express aircraft bound for the International Airport at Kruger National Park and my home for the duration of the event, the Pine Lake Inn.
The Inn is well known to tourists to the Mpumalanga Lowveld and has a reputation as a family- friendly facility.
The Total Economy Run starts at the Greenway Woods Resort, a 500m walk from Pine Lake.
The event takes place over three days, with the first afternoon taken up by weighing the vehicles and filling them with fuel. Both of these are critical components when it comes to the final scoring.
All of the 54 vehicles had to leave and return in the same order and each had to be filled from the same pump.
Aside from the defending champions, Robbie Coetzee and Craig Trott, there were also celebrity teams that were battling it out for bragging rights, if not trophies.
Well known actor David Vlok (who came seventh in his class) was one such celebrity and when he was not driving, he was busy having his picture taken with whoever would stand still for long enough.
Also on hand were Fred Berrangé and Chris Pearce from the Leopard Conservation Project, with which Total have been involved in for the last 18 months.
And what would a motoring event be without beauty? Tamerin Jardine and Aurelia Nxumalo, two Miss Earth finalists, were in car number 54. At least they got to sleep late...
Each team consists of a driver, navigator and an observer who is weighed so that each car had a similar mass.
In an event where fuel is measured to five decimal places, this becomes critical.
In previous years, teams were allowed to bring their own observers and arrived with really skinny friends.
Then they had to bring observers for opposing teams and they brought the heaviest folk they could find.
Other tricks included the removal of floor mats as well as using up all the water in the windscreen water bottle – all to make the cars a few grams lighter.
These (together with other sneaky ideas) have been taken into consideration in the current rule book.
What the teams were allowed to do is place coverings on the vehicles overnight to keep condensation off.
This was done so that they did not have to use windscreen wipers at the start of the race. Windscreen wipers = electricity = fuel!
The cars left in the early morning and many of them returned after dark, as the whole object was to test fuel efficiency, not speed and handling (as in a rally)
All 54 teams finished and it was a tired but happy group that gathered at Pine Lake Inn for the prize-giving ceremony.
Third in 2010, second in 2011 and in first place this year in the petrol category were Jeannette Kok Kritzinger and Riette Wannenburg in a Peugeot 107 with a fuel consumption of 5.063 litres per 100km.
Stuart Greig and Wynand Gerber won the diesel category in a Ford Fiesta 1.6 Trend Auto with a fuel consumption of 4.48524 litres per 100km.
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