The Trans-America Challenge 2012
7th May - 8th June 2012
Car Collection Day
Day Zero - Pre-Start formalities…
Our first day together has seen the crews of 51 cars meet up for the first time, firstly with the process of passing through the formalities, including a whole-car X-ray in the hands of American customs officials, and then driving on to our hotel on the outskirts of the city, where safety checks, scrutineering and documentation, together with an hour long route-briefing, has kept everyone fully occupied. We then all began the hard task of getting to grips with the social aspects of historic-rallying - firstly with a group dinner, and then a night-session from the bar.
We have a route plan of over 8,000 miles that takes in some of the most breathtaking roads in America - so remote, the detailed route-book that has taken months to stitch together lists only one roundabout, and that is soon behind us on Day One. Blended into this mix are just over 1,000 miles of timed competition.
Crews from all over the world include the highly experienced, who have won outright past international events, together with first-timers on their first rally. Cars range from a 1923 7-litre Mercedes S which won a top award at the Pebble Beach Concours, to a 1967 1600cc VW Beetle, with the most popular marque of choice being Mercedes, with seven different examples, Jaguar, with six different examples, and five Bentleys. Among the later rarities, a Leyland P76 of Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson, a car we haver seen before on a long distance marathon.... the car is a replica of the works-car that figured in the epic 1974 World Cup Rally, the first double-crossing of the Sahara.
A few teething troubles concerned some crews who found the long sea voyage inside a baking hot container was hardly ideal conditions, and the three-strong team of mobile workshop mechanics have been busy fettling a broken exhaust on a Jaguar XK120 and several cars that had developed electrical faults.
There is a mood of mounting excitement as the day has now almost arrived for the flagging off with everyone keen to get underway. The hotel staff have never experienced welcoming a rally before and have totally underestimated all of us.... in the bar last night, the barman solemnly announced that we had drunk him dry - he had run out of beer.