Rally of the Incas 2016

November 13 - December 9, 2016


NOVEMBER 15, 2016

Bahia Blanca to Puerto Madryn

A Whale of a Time

A long day needs an early start, so at 7.30am crews began leaving the hotel carpark and making their way through the suburbs of Bahia Blanca, lined as it is with grain stores and truck parks. The wide and well metalled highway led us to the first of many fruit and vegetable controls and on to the Planicie des los Vientos, another salty, swampy swathe of pampas.

Soon enough though the first Time Control arrived at Pedro Luro on the estuary of the Rio Colorado where a signpost formally welcomed us to Patagonia and the second fruit control of the day hit us hard. Word had got out that we were in town and an Argentinian TV crew was waiting for the cars to arrive and to speak to one or two of the drivers. Luckily for them - and indeed us - we have the ERA Office Manager Eleonora polyglot Piccolo travelling with us this time and she was able to answer the reporter's questions and gave a short piece to camera.

Full of coffee and gasoline the Rally pressed onwards past fields under the plough and yet more skilful gauchos cutting, corralling and cajoling herds of recalcitrant young steers into the correct pens to await whatever was in store for them. After a journey under what seemed to be an endless blue sky we arrived at the venue for the two tests which had been planned for this morning. The Autodromo Viedma, just over the Rio Negro was where our medics, Dr Delle Grimsmo and Dr Louise Shanahan were tasked with starting the clock and flagging cars away, almost a case of a GP at the GP track if you prefer.

As has become the custom lately, and perhaps because they were still infused with the spirit of Fangio, there were many crews eager to push themselves - and their machinery beyond what could be described as  their comfort zone. Certainly we saw some of them giving more than 100% and some managed to do a pretty good job of controlling the inevitable oversteer and then the understeer, all within the same corner.

Pete Stone and Jim Smith who were manning the final timing point at the track, reported that they’d never seen so many white knuckles in such a short space of time. The drive to the Regularity along the fabulous and rugged Camino Costale, allowed any surges of adrenalin to dissipate as a herd of vicuña ran along beside us and the South Atlantic crashed and sparkled only metres away from us. The Regularity itself was named Moby Dick for it ran along the bleak but impressive coastline of the Golfo San Matia which is famous for spotting cetaceans and other marine mammals - there is a distinction. Today we had to make do with a couple of curious seals and a gull although tomorrow’s rest day promises more such opportunities on the Valdez Peninsula.

Some crews will be a little busy with he spanners though before they can think of taking time off. At the final passage control in San Antonio Oeste, a service station with decent coffee and a fine selection of alfajores we learned of one or two minor woes which had occurred along the road.

Richard Martin and Travis Cole, early pace setters had suffered an ‘electrical issue’ before the track test and, as a result were pretty much limping for most of the day. Travis however is a master of improvisation and repair having pretty much built and rebuilt the 240Z himself whilst on last year's Trans America rally. He’s also served time as a Sweep on this year's Peking to Paris, a role he found himself revisiting when we found him alongside Ronald Vetters and Ann Puts whose 1967 - Chevrolet Camaro was running a bit hot. Some power steering fluid had leaked as well so they finished the day on the end of a rope and will be looking to get things sorted in the morning.

Michel Leempoel and Francis Blake’s 1972 - Peugeot 504 Coupe’s points had closed up, but an intervention by the ace sweep team of Jamie Turner and Bob Harrod quickly got things sorted for them. Andrea Hammelmann and Paul Henschel’s 1964 - Jaguar MkII has what is most likely to be an alternator issue which will need looking at tomorrow. Brian and Colin Shields 1929 - Buick 25X meanwhile was running a bit hot towards the end of the day and was leaking a little oil from the axle but they’re confident that they’ll get this sorted.

The mood at the night halt in Puerto Madryn was just what you’d expect on the eve of a rest day - excitable. It had been another great day with John Crighton echoing the sentiments of many and was fulsome in his praise for the route, ‘especially that section along the coast’.

The concierge this evening was doing a brisk trade in whale boat bookings. Let's hope they put on a show for us.

Syd Stelvio



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