Macik tried the automatic gearbox and needs to find something to do with his right hand

The Big Shock! Racing team driver Martin Macik has begun his training for the Dakar 2021. This week, the Czech driver was finally able to drive through the Sedlcany valley in his Iveco truck with a new automatic gearbox. What were his first impressions? “We left the workshop for the first time, so everything is very new so far. I need to learn to drive Charles again. I have to adjust my driving style and I’m a little worried about getting bored. The right hand has nothing to do,” Martin said after the first ride. On-board mechanic David Svanda added: “I am glad that Charles is working. But we still have a lot to do. In addition to the automatic gearbox, we will also be fine-tuning the steering, suspension and also the weight of the truck to meet the competition limits.” The work on the Dakar special is far from over with the installation of a new gearbox. The biggest challenge for mechanics now will be to perfectly align the new part with others, especially the engine. The Big Shock! Racing team plans to cover around 13,000 training kilometres by the start of Dakar 2021.

One of my hands is idle

Because Macik’s racing truck, Charles, has been undergoing a complete service, Martin began preparations on the off-road track of the Sedlcany valley in Franta, the legendary Liaz, with which he reached the Dakar finish in 5th place in 2018. I the cabin, he was also assisted by fans, for whom the July training rides were a great experience. This week, however, Martin’s cars took turns in the team workshops. “The Liaz will now get completely renovated so that it can be made available to other people interested in taking part in Dakar,” the head of the Big Shock! Racing team Martin Maci, Sr. explained.

The improved Iveco has to pass stress tests. The driver Martin Macik believes that the new modifications will help him with further acceleration: “ I have to train as much as possible not and find out how the automatic gearbox works. So far, we have covered the first few kilometres, but going through turns will definitely be faster than with the manual. I suppose we should accelerate in the dunes as well.” But Martin expects other positives to come from the change that are not related to speed. “I’m a notorious control freak. With the manual gearbox, I almost didn’t take my hand off the gear stick. This had impact on my body, my back was blocked after Dakar from the continuous shifting. Now I will have my right hand free. The spine will rest, I will be able to focus better on driving, and, in addition, the navigator Frantisek will no longer have to feed me while driving,” Macik described the other advantages of automatic gearbox.

First races in sight!

However, changing the gearbox from manual to automatic has several pitfalls in addition to its advantages. “It cannot downshift on its own and I can’t influence the downshifting. This means that when I’m turning and brake, the machine will not downshift unless it is going full throttle,” Macik explained. Another challenge for team mechanics is the system of communication between the gearbox and the engine. The manufacturer of the part provides software that perfectly aligns the gearbox to the rest. However, some of the racing teams are working with the settings further. Big Shock! Racing team wants to test as much as possible, too, and use the experience gained in testing to optimize the performance of the race truck. Martin Macik plans to continue regular training with fans in the Sedlcany valley. But the ride will be much smoother now, so there won’t be much room for popular drifts and ‘donuts’. At the same time, however, Charles should gradually accelerate. In addition to training on the home off-road circuit, the truck crew currently spends a lot of time in the gym, where the physical training of drivers and others is focused mainly on strength, endurance and stretching back and neck muscles. The most valuable training for the Dakar, however, will be European long-distance rallies. All members of the Big Shock! Racing team are already looking forward to the adrenaline. They will not have to wait for long – immediately after the holidays (September 4), the driver Martin Macik, navigator Frantisek Tomasek and cabin mechanic David Svanda, supported by the team of Sedlcany mechanics, will stand at the start of Baja Poland.

Watch the video from the first test of automatic gearbox: