London to Cape Town World Cup Rally 2012
The Long Way Down - Against the Clock
MBEYA, TANZANIA - JANUARY 21ST, 2012
The road to Mbeya
It was still dark when we left to make our way south from the corrugated iron roofs of the traditional Dodoma hotel opposite the run-down railway station unchanged since the 1930's, complete with noisy steam trains that fire-up at three in the morning.
Long gravel straights bore down the flat plains with bloated Baobab trees that stand to attention to salute our passing. Another day of World Cup Rally action is in store just a few hours away on the far horizon, where the Organisers' team if roving timekeepers are setting up their checkpoints to record progress.
First drama of the day involved the Toyota Hilux of Rod Taylor and Ian Morgan, who have been holding down an outstanding third overall - all the more remarkable because this is their first-ever rally. They rolled onto their roof after clouting a bank. The crew were unhurt... just a bit shaken. First on the scene was someone who knows all about this experience… Robert Belcher, driving the 400 bhp BMW X5, who tipped his car over the other day. Robert got out the tow rope and pulled the Toyota onto four wheels again. This upset changes the leader board.
Max Stephenson in the vintage Vauxhall, driving the full route, and doing better than many despite a 75 year old car, decided to quit today. He changed his mind five minutes later. The car was stopped by the road with a hole in an over-hot cylinder head. "we are out of it… shit happens…". He was then told it was a core plug that had come out, mixing water with oil. Andy Inskip gives him a stick from a flag pole and a plug is made. "we are back in!". If they ever make another mad max movie they must give a starring role to the real life mad Max and his one legged son, James, who does all the driving. We were going to tell you that we watched him pour a gallon can of engine oil into the top of the radiator, but you will only think we are making it up.
The rocky mountain climb saw Alastair Caldwell split his fuel tank, he slowed just enough to give Jane Edgington her finest moment so far… driving a Maestro in an overtaking sweep past the Porsche on a timed mountain climb. The Blunt Subaru was slowed by overheating… the Cauwenberge Porsche 911 was a remarkable sight lifting a front wheel while hanging the back out… and Andy Actman was smooth, whisper quiet and rapid.
The crew of Car 1, Richard Atherton and Rob Henchoz, want a mention in despatches - but when asked 'how goes it?', all your reporter hears is either a grunt or "nothing to report".
The top ten now reads: 1:Actman, Hilux; 2:Blunt, Impreza; 3:Cauwenberge, Porsche; 4:Tomlin, Land Rover; 5:Turner, MG ZR; 6:Beckers, Landcruiser; 7:Caldwell, Porsche; 8:Edgington, Maestro; 9:Atherton, Volvo; 10:Claeys, Toyota 73