I almost feel sorry for the head of BOS suspension. Their name, I suspect, was at the very top of the list of people Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and co. wanted to talk to this week.
As the dust has settled on the Extreme E opener, two aspects of the Odyssey 21 SUV have been talked about in the immediate aftermath of AlUla. The battery and the suspension.
The drivers are confident the overheating battery will be fixed before Senegal. The suspension, the drivers are pretty much demanding be looked at.
As the weekend wore on, the sight of cars being pitched into the air at a variety of awkward-looking angles became increasingly commonplace.
And that’s what the drivers are simply unwilling to tolerate.
What was a grumble on Friday lunchtime was a significant issue on Sunday.
What we don’t need is the drivers focusing on the damper. We need them focusing on the planetDavid Evans
Sainz on Sunday: “The damper is the main priority. I think we will be able to make quite a big step quickly just from the damper settings.”
Now, note for the good people of BOS: this is Sainz at his most friendly. I’ve had the great pleasure of working around Carlos for two decades now and I’ve never seen him quite as tolerant as he was at the weekend.
It won’t last.
He’s as keen as we all are to see this thing succeed and it absolutely has all the makings of a hugely worthwhile, pioneering, exciting and entertaining series. But what we don’t need is the drivers focusing on the damper. We need them focusing on the planet. The turtles. The plastic in the oceans. The retreating glaciers, advancing deserts.
We can’t have nine-time world champions worrying about getting the car too sideways for fear it’s going to roll. We need the car to work with that kind of attitude.
I had a long, long think about this suspension issue. I talked to a lot of people over the weekend and there’s a big part of me that thinks, we just need to get on with it. The suspension is what the suspension is – it’s the same for everybody, so make the best of it and race.
But talking to the likes of Loeb, Sainz and world champions from the other side like Johan Kristoffersson and Jenson Button, that’s not good enough. These are the men and women who rock our world and we need to give them the kit to leave us totally mesmerized.
Kyle LeDuc agrees. And I agree with him.
A few years ago, I joined Armin Schwarz in Nevada as he tested his Trophy Truck for a Baja event. That day totally redefined my way of understanding what off-road suspension meant. I’d been around rally cars my whole life, but I’d never seen anything like that.
When Schwarz gave it the beans, it was like being in a parallel universe: the bumps were there, sure they were, but I barely felt a thing. What I did see was a wheel going from floor to pretty much level with my head in a nanosecond as 30-odd inches of suspension travel worked its magic.
I was truly mesmerized.
“They weren’t willing to go as extreme as we do,” said LeDuc. “Dakar is the extreme reference, but if we want this to be genuinely exciting and not just making dust then you need to venture out a little bit into what we do.
“These cars are running around 12.5 inches of wheel travel and we’re accustomed to 18 and 20 inches on the short track, a Trophy Truck is 26 inches and 35 on the rear. But we can go across this at 80mph. We need that to show people what extreme really is.”
We sure do.
Over to you, BOS.