The 685km journey down the Stuart Highway south from Alice Springs to the frontier-like Opal mining town of Coober Pedy should have been a piece of cake.
But long hours of watching Australia’s limitless, arid red semi-desert drift past took its toll on concentration.
With an hour or so to go some co-drivers whose attention had lapsed instead of paying attention to average speed calculations woke up rudely. Their cars suddenly took on a purposeful pace disappearing over the horizon with almost indecent haste. Wide-eyed, they clocked into the day’s final control point with only seconds to spare. When the fuel consumption results are revealed tomorrow morning there could be some surprises.
One of those caught by the “oops is that the time” syndrome was the most economical car so far, the Ford Fiesta Econetic diesel being driven by Peter McKay and Carolyn Barry. But at that Alice Springs stop they had held a handy lead with consumption of 3.18 litres/100km. The Fiesta headed the three more powerful Team MINI Cooper Ds whose best was the 3.5 litres/100km of journalist Bob Jennings and MINI PR manager Toni Andreevski.
Next was the MINI Cooper D of Le Mans winner Vern Schuppan and Fairfax motoring writer Jaedene Hudson with 3.58. Third of the MINIs (and therefore fourth overall) was the car of Adelaide former V8 Supercar driver Chris Smerdon and SA Motor Sports Board member Andy Ford with 3.80.
The battle is on between four Korean four-wheel drives – Kia Sorrento versus Hyundai Santa Fe – with their fuel consumption to Alice Springs spanning a range of 5.17 litres/100km (Kia) to 5.44 litres/100km (Hyundai).
Today Schuppan and Hudson left the event and were replaced as scheduled by ABC motoring commentator Will Hagon and Gail Broadbent, the sustainable transport campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The Tesla electric car succeeded in breaking the world record for distance between battery recharges, clocking 501km before it stopped. The previous record, set in the US (where the Tesla is made) was 430km.
Tomorrow the route takes competitors on a seven-hour run to Port Augusta before the run in to Adelaide and a final 100km urban running contest to finish the event.
With: BMW Australia.