London to Cape Town World Cup Rally 2012
The Long Way Down - Against the Clock
Kamena Voula, Greece
JANUARY 5TH, 2012
Snow and ice in the Greek Mountains
This is going to be a short report because the restaurant in the Galini Hotel here at Kamena Vourla has a marvellous spread of food set out… and not many customers.
Most are out in the carpark servicing their car while the food goes cold. The temptations have been a top chef producing a fine meal, or, meeting up with the service-teams of the Peugeot 504 rally-club of Greece... the cold night air in the car park has won.
We faced heavy rain from the moment we drove out of the hold of the Superfast Ferry and began the haul into the mountains of northern Greece. We climbed 1,000 metres in 100 kilometres. There is a re-group coffee stop at a roadside café just before the giant rock pillars of Kalambaka, where a James Bond movie was filmed with a daring climb to one of the monasteries at the top – monks used to do it regularly in a wicker basket.
We then faced the surprise of snow and ice, near Lake Plastiras, with so much snow the road became something like The Monte, and it was a good move to get the advance car out here early as they were able to arrange a nifty re-route around a snow blockage for a timed to the second World Cup Rally section. Everyone dropped some time on this one, some more than others, but Andy Actman in the big Toyota sliced the best part of a minute off the rally leaders in their MG ZR, he was to prove best-performance of the day on two World Cup sections.
There then followed what on paper looked perfectly simple – follow the Tulip road book to the next competitive section. However, it ran through several very narrow streets of tiny mountain villages, and finding the slots is harder than it sounds – some of the front runners are upset to lose several minutes on what was looking slackly timed and easy to follow. The village of Mesenikola at the top of a mountain has rocky narrow streets barely a car’s width.
The final test of the day was an Acropolis Rally goat-track and was to prove quite surprising – muddy, slushy, remains of snow and ice, it rose and fell over blind crests along a mountain ridge and then dropped steeply downhill… some took wrong turnings. Apart from the odd gulley across the track, it was fairly soft going to the Stirfaka finish. Alastair Caldwell and Hayden Burvill in the Porsche 912 were quickest on this test with the Impreza of Steve Blunt and Bob Duck 13 sceonds behind. These two crews were obviously not tempted by the wrong turnings.
Rachel Vestey and Suzy Harvey are here with their MG ZR, having caught a later boat.
Outside, car 44, the Peugot 504 of David Gough, is having a major engine overhaul including a new head gasket, having been suffering fuel issues since London. The engine is on the lobby steps in order to gain the most light. David Spurling lost a wheel on the top of a mountain but limped on with the use of garden chain, driving 60 kilometres into the arms of the Greek Peugeot Club. The two Datsun 240Zs have taken on a good service to their brakes – and one needed a cracked oil-cooler repaired. The Greeks are providing a service for anyone.
Tomorrow sees six World Cup sections on classic Acropolis ground. Survivors catch a late-sailing ferry for Africa, and dine at sea.