2018 Iron Dog - Day 4 Coverage

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With racers sitting out what is likely the longest delay of the Iron Dog race since its inception in 1984, the leaderboard appeared top heavy.  It didn't only appear top heavy, it certainly WAS top heavy with 7 of the top 9 teams having a champion in the ranks, meaning that, conservatively speaking, these top teams have logged tens of thousands of practice and race miles and that any one of these guys could take advantage of a fellow racers mis-step, lapse in judgement, or mechanical breakdown. Despite terrible visibility and white-out conditions, two-time Iron Dog champion Chris Olds, along with his racing partner, Mike Morgan, can take a sigh of relief as they made it to the halfway point of this race, arriving first into Nome.  The pair had an elapsed trail time of 20:48:50, averaging 53mph for the entire 1,108 miles from where they started in Big Lake, Alaska.  Motoring into Nome on their Ski-Doo MXZ X-RS 600's in the second position, just 24 minutes behind the leaders, was Team 6 of Brad George and Robby Schachle.  Only 25 minutes behind Team 6, Todd Minnick and Nick Olstad, two and three time champions, respectively, positioned themselves for a great chance of chasing down the front runners once they leave Nome. [caption id="attachment_11300" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]2018 Iron Dog Team 10 Nome Team 10 First into Nome[/caption] The flat light and poor visibility was evident to see after Sarah Voiles Hawkins of Unalakleet was able to strap a GoPro to the helmet of Tim Schachle of Team 19 as they left the Unalakleet checkpoint and navigated partially broken ice and various water hazards.
As Team 10 arrived into White Mountain for a fuel stop, you can hear Chris Olds say on the video that 'You can't see anything out there!' in regards to the trail being extremely difficult to navigate at high speeds.
Across the leaderboard, it seems that a few of the Ski-Doo eTec motors were having an issue with loss of power and/or it seeming that the machine was running on one cylinder.  In the Facebook live video below, you can see Tyson Johnson of Team 8 towing his partner Tyson Johnson into the checkpoint.  You can hear Johnson reporting 'We don't know whats going on with it' and that for a while it will run really well and then the machine will flash error codes on the digital display, lose power, and run poorly.  After fueling both sleds, Johnson takes off out of the checkpoint in the lead position and you can clearly hear the difference in the sound of the machines as they leave the fueling station.
It seems that there were a few other Ski-Doo machines affected by this suspected bad fuel and it struck Team 8 as they left Koyuk and their pace slowed drastically.  This unfortunate event caused them to lose their lead and about two hours of pace they had on the other riders.  It was also reported that Team 6 had issues with suspected fuel as they ran up the Yukon river, but that episode was apparently short lived as their gear appears to be running smoothly now and they are comfortably in second place.  This was apparently isolated to the eTec motors as the fueling system in these sleds are more sensitive to changes in fuel quality.  A brief explanation from a Facebook user states, loosely, that "eTecs are direct injected. Those injectors are very high pressure and squirt out of almost microscopic holes...droplets of water can get stuck inside the injector and cause it to not inject enough fuel and some cases no fuel because its full of water or dirt". Poorly running machines aside, it appears the only other issue that we are hearing about was a small pin hole leak in one of the heat exchangers in the tunnel of one of Team 9's machines, causing it to slowly leak coolant.  Luckily they were able to weld the small hole and patch it with tape for added assurance.  Team 9 is currently in 11th place. In Nome, racers will pull their machines into a heated garage where they are allowed to remove any gear they need for the layover.  After this, they are not allowed to touch the machines again until they are granted a period of time to assess the machines for damage, worn parts, or anything else that will need to be repaired or replaced.  After the assessment period, racers will then be put 'on the clock' to make the repairs needed for the second half of the race.  The total elapsed time for repairs will then be added to their overall trail time.  This additional time could certainly prove to be a game-changer for some teams as repairs don't always go as planned or they may discover larger issues with their equipment that they might not have seen while bundled up, in race-mode, and often in the dark, versus going over their sleds with a fine-toothed comb in a heated and well-lit environment. Due to the weather delay, the typical 'Wrenching Wednesday' has been moved to Thursday, so stay tuned to see updated information from teams as they begin their repair times and look for updated standings as teams might potentially leave Nome in a different order than they arrived. February 2018, Kyle Moffat

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