London to Cape Town World Cup Rally 2012

The Long Way Down - Against the Clock


The Adriatic


Misty Mountains in Umbria.

Turn off the main road, thread your way through the Cyprus trees, and you begin the climb to the ridge of high hills overlooking the valley of Piobbico. We are in Umbria, it’s been a 5.0am start that followed on from the late finish last night, and we are all feeling somewhat weary.

But the adrenaline rush of another timed-to-the-second World Cup test-section quells any thoughts of early-morning fatigue and the competition is on again.

We had driven out of Florence through dense fog and patches of black-ice. It was to prove particularly unpleasant.  This was enough to catch out Rachel Vestey and Suzy Harvey who have been inside the top-ten from the start with their game little MG ZR. They braked into a roundabout, and slid straight on, clouting a concrete parapet.  This was sufficient to stuff the radiator and damage a lot of the front steering.  But having completed the Peking to Paris they know all about being resourceful and soon found Igor the Hammer, who began work sorting the damage. However, even Igor couldn’t fix the MG in sufficient time to catch the mid-day Superfast Ferry that carries us on over the Adriatic to Greece. The girls have missed the boat. However, they plan to catch another, sailing a few hours later, and reckon on catching up by mid-day tomorrow.

Also suffering again today was the crew of Car 44, the Peugeot 504 of Dave Gough and Richard Phillipson, who were pushed onto the boat within minutes of sailing after suffering head-gasket failure…this, on top of fuel problems that have heaped up frustrations since leaving Big Ben.

The long snaking gravel track this morning was in bright sunshine – the fog was rolling down the hillside  as Owen Turner and Matt Fowle set out in their 16000cc MG ZR. They were again to set a cracking time, to finish some 50 seconds up on the event’s second-overall Andy Actman and Andy Elcomb in the Toyota Hilux… the gravel was wet, and some sections were muddy, but the MG skips on with the two Andys finding that having four-wheel-drive is not much help here.  “We expected to gain on him this morning – what have we got to do,” was Actman’s first comment.

Best-performing car was the Porsche 911 of car 45, Joost Van Cauwenberge and Jacques Castelein, who dropped just 32 seconds, the engine of the Porsche echoing off the rocky walls… he overtook Caldwell’s  four-cylinder 912 in the closing few kilometres… car 10 was second, the Australian crew of Mark Pickering and Dave Boddy who dropped 45 seconds in their Datsun. Car 33, Owen Turner’s MG was third on 1m08s and fourth best, Alastair Caldwell and Hayden Burvill, appearing on the leaderboard for the first time, dropping 1m28s seconds, over car 41,  the Peugeot 504 of Guy Chriqui and Phillippe Thiolat from France, 1m36s, closely followed by Ben and Mike Dawson in the orange Escort on 1m39s.

The Porsches and the Australian Datsun have been taking it easy up to now – but show them a snaking gravel track over a ridge of mountains first thing in the morning, and the early-morning fog was rapidly replaced by rallying’s red mist.


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