Rally of the Incas 2016

November 13 - December 9, 2016


NOVEMBER 25, 2016

San Juan to La Rioja

The Heat is On

Straight after breakfast Robert Wilkinson was seen out and about with Andy Inskip, and a tape measure. Naturally our curiosity was aroused, but the reason for this odd triumvirate was actually pretty humdrum. The Bentley’s low speed slide into a ditch some days back had not only bent a steering rod but it also affected the tracking. Andy was simply helping to get everything lined up again.

As well as an early start the sweeps had also enjoyed a late night along with Marco Halter trying to sort out the fuelling issues with his Ford Falcon. Jamie Turner diagnosed a dodgy carburettor and they're all hopeful that on today's run the crew will see an improvement.

While some were out spannering with the larks though the rest of the Rally was gathered around the breakfast table and, Len Treeter, a one time Canadian casino hand was describing the various ways that the house could defeat the professional card sharp via the dynamics of the four card shoe. This being a casino as well as a hotel, we couldn't help wondering if he'd tried his luck at a different sort of table last night.

The first test of the day came soon after leaving the hotel at the Autodromo El Zonda, Eduardo Copella, and the crews had to complete two laps of the track and against the dramatic and rocky backdrop of the Sierra Del Tigre. As the tyres squealed and the engines roared we saw Chuck Lyford, Graham Goodwin and Paul Carter trying their very damnedest to steal a second or two from each other. As vital as they are to a rally crew however, the navigators were reduced to the status of mere ballast for this section.

Once the chequered flag had dropped and the red mist had cleared it was then out across the dam of the Río San Juan and then, just for fun, onto a 19 km gravel road. There was then a long straight pull, due north, still alongside the Sierra del Tigre and thereafter to the Time Control and a welcome break in San Jose De Jachal. Here the espresso machine saw double duty for a couple of frantic hours before the crews began the drive to the regularity in Lunar Valley or Valle De La Lune if you prefer.

The drive to the regularity itself was a real delight, a narrow ribbon of tarmac due east through the Sierra de Mogna and passing by the Embalse los Cauquenes, the only standing water for miles around. This is dry territory indeed and, upon our approach basking lizards scuttled from the hot highway and into the brush while the cicadas ramped up their cheery chirping. Save for the meagre width of the road this could easily be mistaken for Arizona with thousands of priapic cactus littering the landscape.

The regularity itself was wide, three lanes in places and fast, with uphill, corkscrew turns and nothing but rally cars on it. The first time on this Rally that we've had a tarmac section such as this and what a way to start. Matt Bryson lit the blue touch paper as the marshal on duty at the start of this section while Chris, 'stop the clocks' Elkins brought proceedings to a halt some 20 km later and at an altitude of 1407 m.

This was a day of big wide open roads and the drag into the lunch Time Control at Patquia gave the crews plenty of time to ponder the scale of their surroundings; and decide what they'd be eating. Amin Hwaidak and Jens Jarzombek however had other things on their mind. Their Mustang had lost a rear wheel bearing almost 90 km out and we saw them, along with Jamie Tuner and Bob Harrod lending a hand and with Jim Allen, who loaned a gas burner to heat the ring, and the Toyota Hilux air conditioning unit to cool the shaft. With just the right amount of expansion, contraction and percussive persuasion the task was completed and the crew were on their way.

Marco Halter, as we heard, was pretty pleased to be rolling today, with a freshly repaired fuel system thanks to a liberal application of midnight oil, but, as luck would have it he also snapped a shock absorber during the morning’s run. Thankfully this was also quickly repaired with the able assistance of Jim 'sometimes a sweep' Smith. By the time he got to lunch he was hoping that things didn't come in threes.

Refreshed and refuelled then it was on to La Rioja, sitting under the Sierra de Mazan in the Region Norte this quiet little town was to be the venue for both the final test of the day and our night halt, and things were definitely hotting up when we arrived. The mercury had risen to 37°c and as at the San Juan track this morning, certain drivers were once again on fire, metaphorically at least, desperate to post the fastest time and to climb up the leaderboard.

Having completed their two laps the crews had a paltry 4.4 km left to go until they reached the hotel where a cold drink or two was consumed by some.

Syd Stelvio



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