MotoGP Phillip Island – I’m back.

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I made it. The bike made it. I was pretty tired out and happy to make it back just as the weather started to warm up. I was in my touring gear, so 26C was warm. Later it made 30-35C so it would have been mighty uncomfortable.

In summary, it was a really good trip. I enjoyed almost the whole trip. I made several changes to my route that I had planned, I know I missed a couple of good roads, but I think the long day I had planned would have been a terribly long day.

The Daytona with the Kriega bags did well. It all fitted, though I stashed a backpack on top to carry my water bottle and some snacks. It also meant I had something for race day. I took too much stuff, a couple too many t-shirts and a hoodie I should have left behind.

Day One – Sydney to Canberra. 

I headed out from home after the kids left for school so we had a proper goodbye. I left the house unlocked. Oops. First I wound my way through the city and out to Stanwell Tops. I totally missed the RNP turn offs.

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A friendly set of campers took this one of me. Bald Hill lookout.

After that I headed along the coast, but I should have gone straight back to the highway. It would have saved a lot of time as I dragged along behind lots of sloooooww traffic along the coast. Eventually I was onto the highway again and headed for Mac Pass.

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Up the pass.

The Pass was pretty quiet and I enjoyed the ride up to the top. Here I found light drizzle, which in the end was the only weather worse than cloudy I had for the whole trip. As you’ll see, it was mostly blue skies for the rest of the week ahead.

After the pass I intercepted the Highland Way which travels from Bowral to Marulan, paralleling the interstate, but much more fun. This is the way I used to travel to Canberra, so it was fuel at Marulan and then on to Bungonia and eventually Canberra.

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I reached Canberra mid afternoon before heading to my friend’s for the night. I also met the guy I was picking my tickets up from. At this stage I reckon I’m now about a day behind most riders as even the Canberra riders will have mostly headed south already.

Day Two – Canberra to Bowna

The guy who I had picked the tickets from had recommended an alternate route over the Snowies, and I decided to try it. It’s the same distance (almost to the km) as the Alpine Way (the normal way up through Thredbo), but is further north through Cabramurra.

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When it gets high enough they start to use yellow for the road markings, presumably because it’s easier to see in snow. It’s the only time in Australia you see yellow road markings.
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And I assume the long red poles replace the short white ones to make them easier to find in snow as well.
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Tumut Pond Dam.

This road turned out to be pretty quiet, but very enjoyable. So, stash that away for future use. Apparently there is an option even further north, Elliots Way. By this time I realised that it was probably best that I was on my own. I was taking it very easy so my pace would have likely held most people up, but it also meant I could stop and rest or take photos whenever I felt like it.

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Just outside Khancoban. You can see Mt Kosciuszko as the only snowcapped hill in the distance. That’s Australia’s highest peak, a miserly 2200m. Your grandma could walk to the top in an afternoon. 

After an enjoyable ride, I reached the other side and turned back towards Khancoban to fuel up. I probably stopped for fuel way more often than I needed throughout this trip, but for several legs I was unsure of fuel and the Daytona at about 200km doesn’t have the longest range. Anyway at Khancoban, the only bike talk was several had been booked coming the other way (Alpine Way) but by this point I had not seen a single Highway Patrol.

From here I headed along River Rd towards the Wymah Ferry. This was another nice road, though the plague of bugs in the Murray Valley that I remember from 10 years ago was in full force, giving the bike and me a lovely covering! I reached my accommodations in Bowna without any troubles.

Day Three – Bowna to Melbourne.

First up, I changed my original plan of the epic ride south across the Alps and Gippsland. I figured that would be too much in one day and I would eventually get to Melbourne exhausted. I planned a route southwest, almost the same as my plans for the return trip. I needed fuel so I headed in to Albury and together with a bit of stuffing about in town I was a little behind schedule. I decided to run down the Interstate to Wangaratta, then turn left (east) and headed for some wiggly lines that seemed to start at Whitfield.

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Whitfield – Mansfield. Highly recommend this road. And for my trip, the road I saw the most other riders.

And wiggly they were. The Whitfield-Mansfield road turns out to be a popular ride. And I certainly enjoyed it. I reached Mansfield and fuelled up. At this point it was about midday and I was considering having lunch, as I hadn’t really eaten since breakfast at about 0700. I was trying to decide the next leg as I had been given a tip about a road south of Mansfield, but wasn’t clear which it was. I noticed only 2 bikes head south from Mansfield and the rest (about 10 at this stage) all headed west, but the south bikes were a S1000RR and a ZX10R. I didn’t expect they would be looking from gravel, so I followed.

I made a call to turn right just before Jamieson, now about 1230. I headed up this road, Jamieson to Eildon that seemed to be the one described to me. Sealed but it was about 50km of tight (usually 30km/h) turns seemingly all downwards right hand turns without any relief.

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Jamieson to Eildon, almost done by this stage and only keeping on because there was no other choice but to keep going. I was exhausted. 

By part way I was hating this road. And it was my own fault. I was exhausted as I had decided to skip eating at Mansfield. The tight road worked me hard and I was low on energy and high on fatigue. I must have stopped three or four times to eat some M&Ms (all I had with me, another error) and drink and rest (and rage against the road). I still wasn’t even sure if this was the correct one.

About 90 mins later, almost 2pm, I reached Eildon. I fuelled up, rested and munched on a sausage roll. I gave up my rough plan to head through the Black Spur, simply typing the hotel’s address into the GPS and letting it navigate. It took two more hours but eventually I made it. Time for dinner and a rest. The following day was related to other stuff, mostly study.

RACE DAY.

OMG the ride from Melbourne to the Island was long, uncomfortable and boring. After 1400km to get here, I almost gave up on the hour and a bit to the Island, it was such a drag.

But I got there and I figured I must be a bit early as there wasn’t really a huge number of bikes.

The racing was excellent. Moto 3 was epic, and Jack Miller (#43 from Australia) even led the MotoGP for a little bit. That had the crowd going. MotoGP was an excellent race as well with lots going on. The pic at the top is the view from my seat. Zarco’s epic crash was straight in front in the big gravel patch.

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Marks on the track from Zarco #5 epic crash at 300km/h down the main straight. Amazingly lucky guy to walk away.

Heading home from the Island I really felt that the bike numbers were massively down from previous visits. Instead of 4 queues of bikes taking up two lanes for as far as you could see, there was 1 line filtering down beside two lines of cars. Others I’ve talked to have commented noticed as well.

Day umm Six – back to Bowna.

Again I decided not to do the epic over the Alps ride. I think I will do that on another trip and stay somewhere closer. So I thought to head out through the Black Spur and find my way to Mansfield (I was still scarred by the Jamieson-Eildon rd, so ignored that option). From there it was up to Litchfield, then back roads to Bowna. In the end, I used the Interstate from Albury as it’s only about 20mins from there to Bowna.

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Coming through the Spur. A lovely piece of road.

Day Seven – Bowna to Canberra

Ok, today I had a choice to make. Back the way I came over the new (to me) road via Cabramurra or the Alpine Way from Khancoban. The Khancoban way I had come down about 10 years ago, thinking this would be awesome to come up. But there was likely to be cops, though I still hadn’t seen a single one (not including those on traffic control at Phillip Island of course).

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Wymah Ferry. Personal service 🙂

But that was later. I got on the road, back across the Wymah Ferry and along the River Rd, as I had on the way down. Fun road all the way to Khancoban. This was a fuel stop and decision point.

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You can see the dead bugs building up, again, on my jacket!

It really wasn’t until I was rolling out of the petrol station that I decided. 10 years was long enough, I would head up Alpine Way. Wasn’t a huge number of bikes about either, again I think was a day behind most by now.

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Picnic time on the Alpine Way. 

Alpine was a nice piece of road, long at about 90kms to Thredbo, but in great shape. I’m certainly glad I did it from Khancoban upwards, rather than Thredbo down. I was also glad to have bought some lunch at Khancoban that I stashed in my bag. It made for a nice picnic up in the mountains, giving me a chance to relax. I wasn’t going to repeat my earlier stuff up.

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Thredbo, looking up and back towards Kosciuszko

Out of Thredbo, it was basically a run to Cooma and eventually Canberra which I made in good time.

Day Eight – Home.

This was a rush. So I headed out through my usual back roads to Marulan and took the Interstate from there. I was home before the heat hit and before lunch. I was somewhat tired out by it all though. But home.

Other notes

NOT A SINGLE COPPER. That was weird. People went on and on about the cops in Victoria, but I literally didn’t see a single one.

Almost no wildlife troubles. All the roos and wombats I saw were dead. Almost collected a small bird that decided to cross the road but he swerved at the VERY last moment. Saw enchindas twice, that was cool.

The bike got too warm after stopping twice, involving it rejecting all its excess coolant. The level never dropped to concerning level, but it is annoying. I wonder if the cooling system is not performing as well as it used to, because this is a common occurrence in my commuting and I don’t remember it happening previous summers.

If I do this again, I will use a bike with a top box, and/or panniers.

 

 

 

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MotoGP Phillip Is – Departure Day

So it’s departure day. The main worry, the weather, has been slowly improving, even to the point that the Island itself to be cloudy but no rain. Yeah, I’ll believe that when I’ve lived it, the Island does have a well-deserved reputation for having all weathers in one day, even more than Melbourne is.

Anyway the weather has been getting better, still cool, but all the showers have been written out of all the predictions. That’s about perfect. Maybe a little cooler going over the mountains, but then it is the mountains.

Anyway almost time to wake up the family and get them off to school and such. Then I’ll be on my way.

MotoGP Phillip Island – Update

I am little disheartened today. It finally stopped raining and as I was cruising around the bike didn’t sound right. I headed home and one of the things on my to do list was to clean and lube the chain. Not a huge job and after the rain (even since the service) very necessary.

As I was cleaning it, I found that while at one spot it was adjusted well, there were several tighter spots around. I expected this as the chain is getting older, and was one of things I was partly expecting to come up in service. What I was REALLY annoyed at was that at one point, there was barely 5mm of movement. The chain is supposed to be between 28-38mm!

I’m not even sure that the shop checked it. I hadn’t for a month or so, but had been away and knew the service was coming up. But this is a basic activity. What other basic activities did they skip/half-arse? I am thinking that this is the sound and “feel” I had from the bike, but haven’t had a chance to test ride.

It only took a little adjusting and I had it nicely within specification the whole way around. Really glad I bought myself a torque wrench about 18 months ago.

I will catch up with the shop shortly to discuss. But after that I have had a closer look over the bike (I also haven’t really had time since Wednesday until now) and am happy that there isn’t anything else that leaps out as a problem.

WEATHER UPDATE

Ok, weather so far. Possibly some light showers Sydney and the coast as I leave. I will see what happens and I may not hit RNP and Mac Pass that morning. It’s predicted to be dry the day before, so it might be okay if the showers are light.

Further inland looks fine on Wednesday (though possible snow on the high mountains on Tuesday). Temps look mild too – low teens to low twenties (kinda almost perfect). So Bowral to Canberra, no problems.

The next day, cool and cold in the mountains. Dry though, so I think I will be fine. That gets me over to Albury. Layers will be the secret for clothing in possible single digit temps. Will definitely throw the winter gloves into the bag.

Friday over the Alps, currently dry and cool again on the northern side. Maybe some light showers on the southern side, through Gippsland and to Melbourne. Fairly typical.

I’m okay with this forecast so far. It will refine over the next few days and I’ll get some idea of race day and the rest as well.

I don’t think it will be shorts and t-shirt weather at the Island though! If it ever is.

MotoGP Phillip Island – Everything is ready?

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60,000km service completed. Brakes, chain and tyres have plenty of life left. Nothing else noted in the report. Sounds good.

Bags have been tested to capacity. Route is planned, accommodation is organised. Scored some cheap tickets to a grandstand from a bloke at work who can’t go any longer!

So Wednesday next week I’ll be on the road.

The only thing that’s looking bleak is the weather. Seriously, after months of very little rain its been raining almost non stop for two weeks and apart from a break this weekend, it isn’t looking good next week either.

At least in Sydney. The Snowies and the Alps might be okay, but Melbourne isn’t looking too great yet.

Still I can only see as far as Wednesday, so I guess we’ll wait and see what develops.

MotoGP Phillip Island – Planning Progress

Well I have a set of Kriega tail packs now. A US30, and 2 x US10. I have set them up on the bike and even used the US30 twice to get stuff to work. They will fit my gear easily, they fit nicely on the bike and it looks like it will all work out. Attached are the test fittings I did with my gear.

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Not a lot of weight in the bags as it’s mostly clothes. So I don’t think it will hamper the bikes performance much. That’s a big plus. It also seems to be pretty stable and well distributed, so overall I’m pretty happy. Have also had some glowing feedback on the Kriega’s performance on trips so it all sounds good.

The route has had some small changes. I now might head out via the Royal National Park and along the coast towards Nowra before heading inland to Canberra, intercepting my usual route. This has the advantage of avoiding the Hume. Possibly have some company for this part.

It looks like the second day I will head south to Cooma and then Tumut and Khancoban etc. Basically as before. The third day, by far the longest, is looking to be south through Mitt Mitta and then over the Alps. I also had some suggestions along Gippsland to take as well.

I am looking to stay in Glen Waverley area. There are some hotels there and it’s on the side of the city, closer to the Island and closer to the route in and out, so save me a little bit of riding, especially when I’m tired at the end of the longest third day.

Coming back, I’m looking at out through the Black Spur up towards Albury on some B & C roads, then across Khancoban again. Finally back my old route and home.

MotoGP Phillip Island – Early Planning

Slowly it is becoming more definite that I will actually get a chance to ride to the MotoGP round at Phillip Is. It’s been more than ten years since I’ve made it too the Island and I am quietly, extremely excited. I am also excited about the actual journey, which is probably more than half of the excitement. Mrs Mab, who normally puts a big wet blanket on this kind of idea, has tasked me with a couple of things while in Melbourne and she’s taken leave. These are positive factors that increase the chances.

I’ve started early planning. I have a rough idea of timings and routes. I’m currently trying to figure out how much to take, and how to carry it. Gear wise, it’s pretty sorted. Helmet, gloves, Dianese touring pants and jacket, touring boots. Comfortable, warm and not too bad in heat, along with waterproof, it will work in all weathers. And previous experience, a week travelling across the Alps and into Victoria and the Island, the weather could do all of those. I will take my neck sock, probably my winter/waterproof gloves and don’t think I will take the quilted liners. Instead I will use layers of regular clothing as then I can use that when not on the bike.

Gear depends so much on the expected weather, and while it is changeable, it’s unlikely to be super cold, so liners and winter gloves are the first to be eliminated. And I won’t put too much trust in the forecasts, it will give me a ballpark. The better the weather, the lighter I can travel.

Today, I put together a pile of clothes, a rough idea of other gear (tools, lube, electronics) in order to get some idea of what I might be taking. It works out to about 20-30L. Currently I have a 10-15L tank bag and a 10-15L tail pack. I WILL NOT take a heavy backpack, I may take a light one, but all of the baggage options also have shoulder straps etc, so an actual backpack is probably overkill. I don’t want to even take the tank bag if I can help it. So one option I can try is strapping a backpack to the backseat. Not the best option.

I’m considering getting a Kreiga tailpack. That was part of the reason to sort out the approximate size. Looks like a US30 will work. I’ve heard good things about them and being waterproof that will be an advantage. But I could also grab a smaller US10 (or 2) as well. I could use this on race day instead of dragging the whole pack there. Another advantage is that I can use this set up on other bikes in the future. As much as I would hope to have a VFR with topbox by the Island trip, that would need a Lotto win or something to happen.

The route I have pretty much decided. Sydney to Canberra one day via my old commuting route through Bungonia and Queenbeyan. Next day over Thredbo and down to Khancoban. The last day will be from Wodonga over the alps and to Melbourne. Coming back the same way. Staying with friends up and back, except Melbourne I don’t have any that I think would be willing to put me up for a few days, so likely stay in a hotel then.

So the planning continues, the excitement builds, but is kept in check by past history of disappointment. We’ll see and I’ll keep you posted.

BattleTech Update

I restarted a while back, but other priorities has meant not a huge amount of gaming time. Overall the restart is going well, and I am happy that I made the right decision.

I did a bunch of missions in the early game, building up cash. I didn’t really have much luck finding heavier mechs, but I think I picked up a medium before moving into the story missions.

Currently I’ve just completed the Liberate: Smithon mission that caused so much grief. This time I had a Jagermech, Dragon, Shadow Hawk and Centurion. Two heavies and two mediums this time.

I did abort and restart a couple of times. I initially gave them a LRM focus, but realised that when I used the same strategy as my previous success, I actually wanted a big short range smash down. I sit behind this hill in the corner (right hand side) and wait for the mechs to come around and into the pass, then they each get a face full from my lance.

It worked well, and soon eight mech were down to three. There was a tense moment in the middle when I had an almost cored Cicada, a fresh Jenner and Dragon come around the corner almost at once. This was just after destroying a Panther and Firestarter, so my lance was pretty warm. I backed off around the corner to give them a chance to recover.

The last three mech had figured out the trap but scattered, so I was able to chase them down individually. As I stayed so far back there wasn’t a lot of LRM fire from the turrets, so apart from a lucky hit from the Panther on my Jagermechs head (that didn’t take it off) my mechs were lightly damaged.

So after that mission, I have 2 heavies, a lot of mediums, and the cash to buy several more Dragons from Smithon if I wish. Argo has had a lot of upgrades already completed as well, so overall I am in a lot better position than last time.

Other games of note – I dropped in to take out a base and approached from a unusual angle. I sent the short ranged Dragon in to scout while my longer ranged mechs sat in a river to cover. Of course the enemy lance dropped in about 2 hexes in front of the covering mechs. So I had 3 mechs scrambling for minimum distance (against a bunch of lights) and another mech struggling to close the distance to join in. It was never in doubt, but it was a little mixed up.

I also did a similar obtuse approach in a 3.5 rated mission, my toughest by far. Again, assault a base, I circled around the map and approached from the rear. Here I discovered half the “reinforcement lance”, a Cicada and a Griffon waiting for their trigger. I almost cored the Cicada and damaged the Griffon before they activated, but hadn’t quite finished them off when the original lance of Panther, Hunchback, Shadow Hawk and Vindicator arrived, along with a Wolverine and another Cicada as the other half of the “reinforcements”. The Hunchback’s right torso was focused as soon as he showed up in order to eliminate that AC20.

It got pretty tense, and while I steadily wound back their numbers, the Dragon lost both arms, I ran out of LRMs on all of the mechs as well as most of the SRMs. My Griffon also lost an arm and torso. The Dragon took a Death from Above from the Shadow Hawk, but this exposed its back to several volleys from two mechs (but it still took a while, Shadow Hawks can take a pounding).

Soon after I had finally eliminated the mechs, while spending the whole time hiding out of LoS from the turrets. It might have actually been easier straight up the guts as I would have hit the lighter lance first and hopefully eliminated more mechs to start with. It wasn’t as expensive a repair bill as a I was expecting, but it wasn’t cheap.

Now I plan to hit up some more missions before the next story one on the moon.

BattleTech – Restarting

I have been struggling the last few missions to get anywhere. I seem to be always putting things back together and am still lurching from month to month, contract to contract. Even though I’m picking up only 2 skull rated missions (out of 5) I seem to run into mostly heavies. For my lance of mediums this is a big ask, and they’ve been found wanting.

I decided to go back to the start and spend more time in the early game between story missions, running missions. I figure this will get me a better baseline to start from.

Plus I can use the lessons that I have learned along the way to perform better than before.

But there’s no way to skip the first story mission so here goes nothing…

BattleTech – Setting out on my own

After Smithon I completed the next story mission. This went much better, though the game did hang just as I was about to win. I did have a halfway through save, so the next chance I got I started from there.

This second one went much better (strangely enough) and instead of being caught separated and out of position I was able to get the lance organised to destroy the reinforcements. This saved two pilots and mechs from destruction.

After this I decided it was time to head out and try to get myself a bit of a buffer of resources and see if I could increase my mech weights. I still have to run 2 or 3 mediums and 1 or 2 heavies, but I’d like to get some heavier mechs.

So picking up the Nav charts I picked a couple of high tech level but low challenge worlds and set out away from the story zone. The idea was to hit up a string of easier missions, sucking the money up and hopefully a few bits of mechs and weapon upgrades.

There doesn’t seem to be any specific advice on whether it is better to go all money, all scrap or strongly one or the other in the game. It certainly depends upon what has happened in your career. Remember you can have a 10/10/10/10 pilot in a solid mech and a headshot takes out the mech and the pilot in one shot. Or you can slug it out with 8 mechs and barely a scratch on your lance. The random number effect can be strong in this game.

So I’ve mostly gone cash, and thankfully it has been some time since I’ve spent all of my earnings (and more) from a mission. I’m still usually a month or two from bankruptcy, but I’ve been spending on upgrades (of my ship and on upgraded ++ weapons), rather than repairs.

My idea is to do this for a little while, then head back into the story with a bit of a buffer. Research shows I’ve completed 9 of 20 story missions, so there is a bit to go. But there are some tough ones to come if I don’t gear up somewhat.

Still enjoying the game. It’s giving me some sleepy days at work meetings!

BattleTech – Liberate Smithon

I’ve finally managed to get past one of the toughest story missions yet.

Liberate Smithon sees me drop against 2 lances of mechs, supported by turrents, with the intent to capture the supply dump from the Directorate. We also tasked with protecting as much ammunition as we can and intercepting two escaping supply trucks.

You drop in the southern end of a map, on a small rise. There are small passes to the left and right as well as the option to rush straight at the base forward. There are several light mechs in the front with several heavier fire support mechs to the rear. It is also a hot environment, playing havoc with your rate of effort.

Normally people suggest three things. Drop heavy, as heavy as you can. I agree with this. Take LRMs, and again I agree there too. Also ignore the supply trucks, they’re just a distraction, most definitely agree. The trucks give you almost no time to be in position and they take a beating. They also put you out of position to take on the mechs.

There’s two more suggestions. An ammo crate in the front right is situated under a turret. Blow this one when there are a couple of mech in the blast zone, but fairly early on as well. You can usually catch at least one mech in the explosion, and some have caught up to three. They end up heavily damaged, and the explosion will destroy light ones. Do this! The turret is a threat as well and needs to be removed.

The last suggestion is to go left.

I go right. The same reason, there is a hill on both the left and right, to use as cover from the back of the map fire support. But I like the right a little more (I have been more successful that way).

I move right immediately, baiting the light fast mechs up to the small pass behind it. Focus fire each as they come around into sight.

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So at the end of the first turn, my lance has moved right, heading behind the rise in front of them. This also puts you in easy reach of the ammo crate. Stay in the cover of this hill and burn up the mechs as they try to come at you.

You will need to soak up some LRM fire, but judicious use of Bracing at the end of turns will help a lot. And also help with heat management.

With the extra kill or two from the ammo crate, I don’t need to leave this area until the last two heavies are left. This is usually a Dragon and a Griffon. Focus fire these down. Done, 2 bonus objectives. Lots of cash.

I think the move left is similar. However it’s more difficult to hit the particular ammo crate from there and I think is a little harder to actually move to while remaining in cover.

In the end I used a Trebuchet, Hunchback, Centurion and a Vindicator. All except the Hunchback ran some LRMs. All suffered some damage. But they had much more luck than previous drops involving Jenner or Shadow Hawks for example.

Hope these tips help. I went off and worked some missions up before returning to this one. Story missions don’t disappear so you can take your time. This was probably the biggest difference, I was running a heavier lance.