9
DAYS

London to Casablanca 2009

7th - 16th November 2009

Event Reports

London to Casablanca 2009 - Day 1 - Wrotham to Le Mans

Over a year in the making, and the day has finally dawned. Here we all are, just down the road from Brands Hatch at our Wrotham hotel, and the overnight rain looks to have ended – dawn breaks over the forests of the North Downs to suggest a bright sunny day. 

Perfect conditions, as the tracks covered in a thick carpet of autumn leaves are now ultra slippery…and we have two Time Trials to cope with. The first has been set up by Andy Gibson and Brian Millen of Blackpalfrey Motor Club, and a strong team of marshals who have put together a four-mile testing session on in a wood used for army training, only a few miles from our hotel. So, cars are straight into some demanding competition.

The cars having been left out all night in the damp are coaxed into life, Bradley Mottier and Bill Hoff fire up the work’s replica Datsun 240Z, the ex-London to Sydney 1800 of Peter Robinson and Roy Stephenson, and the Lancia Aurelia of Marc Rollinger and Viviane Biel, make an unusual dawn chorus, joined by the timpani of the Banham’s Standard Ten and Tom Hayes on base, the V8 rumble of his Mustang being reluctant to join in.

The slippery conditions with pools of water covered in leaves, mixed with mud and slime, catch out a few and the ex-Paul Merryweather Jaguar S-Type of Mark Robinson and Tim Arthur give a front wing a hefty clout against a tree. Only Paul Heal, flying in the red 1400cc MG ZR, cleans this test, matched by the Daihatsu Sirion of Robin Eyre-Maunsel and Peter Scott, both in the Endurance class for 1400cc cars.

Onto Harrietsham, where Peter Rix and Julian Booty at the Lenham Sportscar garage in the main street have set up a pine table to run a time-control before Dover, we spotted that the postman and a milkman gave up doing their rounds to become the first spectators of the day. Up Charing hill, and onto the top of the North Downs, Mike Dawson and his team have set up King’s Wood, a Forestry Commission wood where rallycars have not been exercised for many years. Another four miles of Time Trial awaits, this however is different. The corners are more flowing, the track is more open, the sun has forced away the clouds by now, and while slippery, the tracks are harder, firmer. Tom Hayes slid into a ditch at the end of a long downhill straight of King’s Wood, but the Mustang shrugged it off and just powered out, a trick copied by Stephen Hyde in his Porsche 911 RS, less lucky was the Volvo of George Coelho and Margo O’Brien, who became the first customer of the day for a tow-truck.

A total of 13 cars beat the time set for this testing section, with Paul and Matt Heal and the former British Group One Rally Champion Robin Eyre-Maunsel with Peter Scott matching the performance in the 1300cc Sirion.

The field then made their way to Dover, to meet Ray Dale – who took Philip Young on his first rally in a Frogey Sprite in the Sixties – Ray was manning the Dover control outside Liberty’s Café. Everyone who started had made it to this point, except the Eyre-Maunsell and Peter Scott Sirion failed to catch the ferry, and were forced to take the next ship, still in mid-Channel.

Results of Day One suggest a good run by Clive Dunster and Cecilia Agger in a Lotus Cortina, who lead their class, with the 1800 Landcrab second.

In the car park, the Triumph 2000 or Richard and Jon Sandilands have tappet troubles with the six-cylinder engine sounding less than healthy. They are not alone, Andy Actman arrives having missed dinner and fears he has a head-gasket to change overnight, with the worry that a shortage of water during the run to Le Mans means more serious damage will be discovered once the top has come off.

And eventful first day, with chicken steaks for dinner for those who arrived at Le Mans before the chef called it a night, and the Banhams looking rather pleased with themselves, the shabby-looking Standard is here in 12th position.

London to Casablanca 2009 - Day 2 - Le Mans to Burgos

Your Scribe has spent most of the day trying to hunt down the perpetrators who decided to tune up their engines at 5.00am just outside the hotel bedroom this morning. We suspected Andy Actman given he was about to start on a head-gasket change, but he denied it, saying he was going to just “pop on a new one over breakfast, given the engine was too hot last night”.

The Triumph 2000 of the Sandilands seems to be purring again, a wayward nut that didn’t get an extra locking nut sorted the problem of a wayward rocker-arm.

It’s been another long day. The route via Bordeaux through rolling green countryside crossed into Northern Spain, and as we climbed up the top end of the Pyrenees, and the hills north of the Picos de Europe of “Basque Country” the weather changed. Torrential sheets of freezing rain fell for most of the afternoon. You wouldn’t want to be driving an open car in this, surely, but several did just that… heroes of the day being the two Vintageants, Charles and Nellie Bishop, in their immaculate Vauxhall 30-98, running Car Number One, and Car Two, the Oldsmobile 30E of Arthur and Anna Manners.

First car to arrive in Burgos is the smart Citroen DS of Dutchmen of Henricus Eijsbouts and Handono Hardjowisastro. We are all at the ultra-modernisque, avant-garde Hotel Silken (several people have commented that it’s a very nice hotel, but the food isn’t a patch on the three-inch chicken steaks we had at the ultra-basic Mercure in Le Mans so don’t add it to the list of must-do places to dine out. The Vintageants Heroes have gone through the freezing rain, so heavy they didn’t dare to look up at the mountains that we were snaking through, feeling rather the worse for wear. The Vauxhall arrived on three cylinders.

Where are the Sweeps? Where is the team of mechanics to fix things? Er, still back up the road, and, Andy Inskip has his own problems as the crankshaft to his Nissan Nivara decided to snap in half. So, they are playing catch up in a hire-van. Robert Kitchen is the last one in tonight having been on the roadside sorting a drive shaft problem of the Porsche 914-6 of Andrew and Sarah Mallagh.

Marc Rollinger seems very relaxed, but his Lancia Aurelia is parked on the pavement outside the hotel having told a policeman that “it flatly refuses to start, Officer, honest.”

Everyone else is either in the dining room or in the bar. Nothing much to report as today has been a “touring day” with no timing. We have another similar day tomorrow, with a run to Ronda in southern Spain.

London to Casablanca 2009 - Day 3 - Burgos to Ronda

We have virtually crossed the length of Spain today – crews had a choice of routes, and the Kim Bannister suggested route-plan was to go via Salamanca and miss the turmoil of the Madrid ring-road, and most chose this option. 

It was a scenic drive and the weather held.... the brooding storm clouds over Burgos as we left early this morning were beaten back by the dawn of a new day. Those of us who made an early start, setting out in darkness wondering what the weather was to offer, were nicely surprised. It was sunshine beating down for the rest of the run, arriving in Ronda in the early afternoon. The Parador hotel chain takes over medieval buildings, such as old monasteries and castles, and turns them into tastefully-transformed hotels and the Ronda example is comfortable. But the 50 car parking places underground are a tight squeeze.

Not much news to report other than the tiny Standard 10 of The Banhams is late arriving, the engine was running dangerously low oil-pressure, but after a spell of cooling off seemed to right itself. The other news item is that Richard Taylor has retired his red Saab with clutch problems. We are joined tonight by the group of nine cars who opted for the Morocco route only – competing for the Morocco Trophy.

Readers of yesterday’s report are no doubt left wondering how the Vintageants are faring. We saw the Oldsmobile fire up this morning, the engine gargling nicely as it pulled away from the hotel, followed by the Vauxhall now firing on all four cylinders, thanks to Rudi Friedrichs of Alvis fame, who spotted that the misfire might be caused by the fact that the large air-filter box had been fitted wrongly, with a backing plate not only back-to-front, but, also upside down, and so blocking essential breather-holes to the SU carburettors. The engine is sounding healthy again, after a three hour stint parked up on the pavement by the hotel front door.

But today saw a mega-long stint of driving, and even though the fine weather has proved a blessing, we think they are entitled to be late again for dinner. The orange marker-arrows don’t show up in the dark and the arrows tied to lamp posts won’t be much help – and the narrow streets of Ronda are pure torture.

London to Casablanca 2009 - Day 4 - Ronda to Meknes

A twisty mountain road snakes down to the sea, and with most of us on the road early, we set out for Algericas in darkness, only to be greeted by the orange glow of sunrise over the Mediterranean. The Comarit Ferry was sailing virtually empty, which meant that we had the ship to ourselves. We slipped anchor, and with lots of shuddering, the ferry chugged out past the Rock of Gibralter and into open waters.

Once on board, the lack of a bank to change money into Morocan Dirhams was a surprise, but this was to be the least of the hassles of the day. Passports were stamped by Immigration on board, but this fails to make amends for the chaos of the bureaucracy of the various bits of documentation in the port. 

We lost nearly two hours, which meant that once out into the streets of Tangiers and threading our way south, the hill climb we had planned would now have to be driven in darkness.

The village of Moulay-Idriss was the finish, having climbed up from Beni-Ammar where we turned off a main road, the Time Trial being a short taster of things to come set over just nine kilometres. Full-on S-bends climbed up through the olive groves and cork trees, getting more twisty towards the summit, with the added challenge that recent heavy rains have swamped much of the road with a thick coating of mud, which has now set as hard as concrete in the sun.

Best time was set by Andrew and Sarah Mallagh in their Porsche 914/6, something of a rarity in rallying. They crossed the line in 8 minutes 26 seconds, beating a hard-charging Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Peter Scott in the Daihatsu Sirion, on 8:32, the Porsche Carerra of Steve Hyde on 8:38, and The Heal’s MG ZR on 8:59, two seconds ahead of the Americans in the works-replica Datsun 240Z. Some flunked it – Andy Actman in the little Citroen AX lost its electrics just after the start line, and had to tackle the climb without lights.

Out in the car park, the ex-works 1800 Landcrab was receiving a new ball joint to cure a clonk in the front suspension, and the electrics of the black MGB of David Miller was receiving attention. The big Jaguar Mk7 of Chris Sanders and Simon Hatch flattened an exhaust silencer and its now rattling badly – being made of stainless steel it will be tricky if not impossible to weld locally, so amputation of a large section might be the only drastic remedy.

The yellow Corvette of Benedict Morgan and Richard Creitzman suffered a puncture tonight, a worry, as they have got here without a spare wheel. Robert Kitchen has repaired it with an inner tube, and the crew certainly don’t appear downhearted.

Of the eight cars competing for the separate Morocco Trophy, Rudi Freidrichs is leading in his ex-Peking Paris Alvis Speed 20, with Jose Romao de Sousa second, MG Magnette, and Mark Brook and Jonathon Burford third, Porsche 356.

There are five Time Trials on a 400 km circuit into the hills south of here tomorrow. This could shake up the results, which tonight shows Robin Eyre-Maunsell leading the 1400cc Endurance Category with the gap widening over the Heal’s MG by nearly 30 seconds, the Datsun of Bradley Mottier heading the Classics Class, with Stephen Hyde and Janet Lyne second in the Porsche 911, followed by Clive Dunster and Cecilia Agger, Lotus Cortina. The Skoda Fabia of Miles Pearce and Simon Jacklin moving up, having had a good day, is now third in the Enduro class.

The Vintageants are in, and arrived looking happy in time for the start of dinner tonight.

London to Casablanca 2009 - Day 5 - Meknes to Meknes

It’s been a beautiful day – it really has. Firstly, for those back home shivering in the chill of a typical November day, just consider this: The temperature climbed to 25C by 11.0am, that’s around 77F in classic-money. 

Also, there was not a cloud in the sky, and, also, we hardly met another living creature all morning. Apart from the eagles soaring on thermals a few hundred feet above, and a rat-pack of noisy children walking home from school, today has been a day of utter peace and tranquillity for the marshals who have trekked out to lonely spots to work their clocks.

But first a few factoids: Today has been a circuit over bumpy, remote, hardly used roads that only a few years ago were dirt goat-tracks. The day lasted for 405 kilometres, starting from the hotel gate and finishing back here in the car park of the Hotel Menzab Dahlia , and to put you more fully in the picture, it consisted of no less than 50,000 corners. Before anyone dares to suggests this might just be an exaggeration, bear in mind that on route-recces, we not only take notes of every blade of grass as well as measuring distances from junction to junction, we also get a lasting impression of the severity of the challenge. Yes, this day was always going to be “full on” and ultra-demanding.

The day was divided up into five Time-Trials, or, as some prefer to call them, Selectifs, and while these were run on open roads the traffic south-west of Meknes these days much prefers the main roads that by-pass this region. So, we had lush green rolling hills – it could be the Sussex Downs – all to ourselves. Some steep climbs, here and there, but, nothing you could say resembles mountaineering.

It was tarmac all the way, but, of the kind that is dusted with fine marble-like grit that will catch someone out, the edges of the tarmac have to be avoided as they are all jagged edges and easy for those who try to straight-line the corners to rip the inside edge of a tyre, and then there is the odd pothole…which always can be found just round the far side of a tight corner.

The first Time Trial was a short taster of things to come, at five kilometres, mostly uphill, then the next, an awesome 51 kilometres – no misprint – followed by a road section that took crews to a 9-kilometre all-downhill string of hairpin bends… well, there is no point in having all the competition going just uphill – and then a couple of middle-distance tests with bends that are more open, free-flowing, but with totally open drops, no fences, or guard-rails, and ending with a 25-kilometre section, again timed to the second. So, a full day at the wheel, with drivers dining out on the red-meat of Morocco’s finest.

Several crews report brake problems – overheating, running low on brake fluid – and this effected Stephen Hyde in the fearsomely rapid Porsche 911 RS, who reported no pedal pressure just before the final Time Trial, but he was not alone, the Lotus Cortina Mk 2 of Clive Dunster has also had bothers with overheating brakes, then found the day ruined on the same final Time Trial by collecting a puncture nearly 10 kilometres from the end.

The final test also claimed another victim, with the Porsche 914/6 of Andrew Mallagh discovering that the repaired drive-shaft joint wouldn’t take any more of this punishment, and sidelined the Porsche. Spares arrived today and were waiting at the hotel… the car only had to survive a short run back to Meknes, but now its beside the track up in the hills.

The second Time-Trial saw two cars literally slide down the leader-board. The Porsche 356 of Xavier de Marmol slid on a gravel patch and ended up sliding to the edge of the road, but, fortunately, no further, and was able to recover under its own power. Not so the hairy Datsun of the Americans, Bradley Motier and Bill Holt, which performed a sort of low-speed flop down a gulley beside a bridge, an act only best performed when the driver is trying to not only negotiate a tricky narrow concrete bridge with one hand, but adjust the brake-balance with the other. The 240Z came to rest beached, with its nose down a concrete gulley. The pictures look dramatic but, in the car park, we struggle to find a scratch on the car. A local farmer took pity and tugged the car back onto the road – you don’t need to speak either English, American, Moroccain or even French in these situations, and a tip that amounts to a week in wages for tractor drivers in these parts simply does all the talking necessary. The car then set about trying to catch up lost time.

So, with the Datsun messing-up this morning, the Lotus Cortina on a go-slow, the Porsche 911 RS joining the Cortina in sympathy, and the Porsche 914 giving up it’s drive, changes aplenty were made to the leader-board. The ex-works 1800 leads the Classics Class up to 2-litres, with the Triumph 2000 second, the Porsche 911RS keeps the lead in the over-two-litres class, with Warren and Jean Chmura second, and the big Jag Mk7 third.

It’s been a good day for Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Peter Scott who continue to extend their hold on the Endurance 1400cc category, but, they have front tyres that are almost down to the wires, and clearly the car is not going to put up with this sort of pressure. The Heal’s MG, and the Skoda of former Middle East Rally Champion Miles Pearce and Simon Jacklin are ready to pounce…. the Skoda looks as fresh as it did when it set out for Dover. And Alastair Caldwell and Catriona Rings have begun to go to work in the Peugeot 205, enjoying a fault-free day and moving up to second in the Enduro class, pipping the Heals.

David Spurling enjoyed his run today in the venerable ex-Peking Paris Morgan, with surprisingly few mechanical worries, which is not like him, Richard Martin and Travis Cole in the Jaguar XK150 have had a good day, and Peter and Betty Banham are back in the hotel with the little Standard Ten with only a thirst for brake-fluid to fret about, and Betty reckoning this has been “just about the best day’s rallying we have seen in years.

London to Casablanca 2009 - Day 6 - Meknes to Midelt

We arrived late afternoon in the dusty, scruffy and run-down town of Midelt, high up on the plateau of the Atlas Mountains, after a spectactular run from Meknes. We climbed up through the twisty, remote back roads through the cedar glades with five Time Trials.

Communications are rather fraught at the best of times, as getting a signal to send you news is more than a little tricky in these remote parts. And these are not the best of times. Competitors arrived to hear the tragic news that Warren Chmura had died while at the wheel of his 1967 Citroen ID19.

Warren well known, well liked, and highly experienced. He has competed for a number of years, and enjoyed driving something that not only was totally different from the norm, but also looked it, too, as he had it sprayed a deep shade of pink. It certainly stood out.

Warren came to Morocco because of what was ticking deep inside of him – a strong desire to get out and see what the world was made of, explore remote parts, while enjoying a classic car that gave him a sense of satisfaction, in the company and camaraderie of like-minded enthusiasts. For him, just sitting at home, stuck in a rut while the years rolled by, never doing anything remotely unusual, interesting or even now and then downright exciting, only reading Old Stager magazing and taking in the odd classic car show and boot-sales on Sunday, was not an alternative life-style option. When the yellow entry form was put under his nose, he was one of the first to sign up for this. So, Warren was different, and, let it be said, rather special – and what motivated him to prepare his car for this, is shared by the rest of the 100 competitors who are here tonight…that life is just too damned short not to.

I was the first to arrive as soon as the news reached where I was standing at the end of the final Time Trial of the day, and when Andy Actman said I ought to go back ten kilometres down the mountain climb, I set off with a sense of foreboding. I never expected to have to clamber down a grassy bank some 60ft to discover that it was Warren’s Citroen that had gone off. Warren is one of the most experienced drivers on this event.

It would be totally wrong to speculate. We may never know what went wrong. We know no other car was involved, there were no other cars on this road other than the rally, so it’s very unlikely that Warren had swerved to avoid a local. Nor was the corner at all difficult, if it was, it would make this less of a mystery, it was nothing more than a gentle open left-hander, Warren had driven hundreds like it during the day. He was sitting upright in his belts, and as I clambered down, his wife Jean was walking around the car, and had to be persuaded not to try to walk back up the banking.

Help was rapidly organised, and rally doctors Paul Rees and John-Paul Carpenter – both experienced trauma specialists – were helped by local ambulance paramedics. Jean was taken to a hospital about an hour back down the route and then, after initial check-overs, taken on to Meknes Hospital for x-rays and scans, while accompanied by the two rally Doctors. Jean is stable, and slept most of the night. So, a sombre mood of quiet reflection and sadness descends on the rally.

Two crews stopped to help, George Coelho and Margo O'Brien, who drive the black Volvo Amazon, and Marc and Viviane Rollinger, in car 7, the silver Lancia Aurelia. Marc helped us liaise with the local Gendarmerie and Margo joined us at the local hospital. So, penalties for the last Time-Trial of Kerrouchen, along with the final time-control of the day were naturally cancelled.

Today, we set out on a shortened run, through some remarkable scenery – David Lean came this way for some of the film-sets of Lawrence of Arabia – we lunch in the Todra Gorge, where 300ft cliffs of red rock seem only a car-width apart – and then drive on with the fringes of the Sahara out over our left elbows to the market town of Ouarzazate. There are no Time-Trials today, and checkpoints are reduced to just the start out of Midelt, the lunch stop and the end of the day. This is out of respect for Warren – although you can bet that if he could have had hand in the decision making he would have voted against shortening the day or cancelling the competition – and the fact that our highly experienced medical team are still in Meknes, who now have a tremendously long drive to rejoin us all.

On the route-survey this time last year, bitterly-cold winds rattled the broken window panes of this little hotel, Kim Bannister and I shivered as we stirred our bowls of vegetable soup. Fortunately, Midelt has not proved quite so freezing-cold, but there is a dusting of snow on the mountains.

It’s another day, and like all the others that have gone before, promising to be totally different to anything we saw yesterday. Driving on… it’s what Warren expects us to do. We know he’ll be cheering.

London to Casablanca 2009 - Day 7 - Midelt to Ouarzazate

We left Midelt behind us, heading south, and climbed up a twisting, tortuous mountain climb, on refreshingly good tarmac, and down the other side to Rich. Here we turned right, with the morning sun on our backs, heading West and into a vast open valley. It smacked of Monument Valley at times, with dramatic rock-scapes of swirling volcanic magma that has propped up the side of vast cliff faces for millions of years.

So, a dramatic run then, with relaxed timing all day with the chance to drive under big skies, down a ribbon of tarmac that stretched to the far horizon. The odd little village, but basically hardly a soul in sight and totally traffic free. A few dried up river beds, and we then found ourselves at the entrance to the Todra Gorge. Vast high cliffs on either side, and at the end, we all had to walk over three scaffold-planks to cross a stream in order to reach a small hotel set into the cliff face on the other side. Lunch, and a Time Control, were laid on here.

Western films have been made here, so have Biblical Blockbusters, just about everything from Cleopatra to The Adventures of Asterix have been filmed in this grand canyon, along with bits of Mad Max, The Mummy, and lets not leave out The Mummy Returns, with Indiana Jones cracking his whip on horseback and Lawrence of Arabia riding a choice of camel.

Then followed a long haul up an empty main road to Ouarzazate, capital city in Morocco of the Film Studios. Our cars are lined up in the street outside the Berber Palace Hotel.

Results have just been published for yesterday: Andy Actman who dropped to 39th continues to be the Fight Back Kid and has gained a few more places, now up to 14th, in his 85 bhp Citroen AX. Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Peter Scott continue with a cushion of several minutes clear at the top of the leaderboard in the Endurance 1400cc Class, over Caldwell and Catriona Rings. Dutch father and son team Mark and Benn Munne in a works-lookalike Peugeot 205 have done well and now up to third overall in this class… their best effort by far.

In the Classics Division, Stephen Hyde continues to dominate with his Porsche 911 RS, the American duo in the Datsun 240Z appear to have collected a bucket load of penalties for booking in early in their bid to try to make up for lost ground.

Paul Bloxidge and Dennis Greenslade are now 12th in their Volvo, and report usual Volvo reliability. The Datsun 240Z of David and Alison Ring has developed a chronic misfire…. it could be a plug lead breaking down or fuel-filter issues maybe. The Standard 10 of the Banhams holed the sump yesterday, after Peter took the sump off to improve engine cooling, slipping down to 30th. Richard Sandilands has had mechanical bothers with the Triumph 2000, and also dropped down, and David Miller’s MGB was being given a Sunbeam Tiger style raised bonnet in the hope this will improve air-flow as its been over-heating all day. We also hear that a Porsche 356 of Mark Brooke and Jonathan Burford, still with the original six-volt electrics -how original is that - has a failed dynamo, and is rather desperate for a spare.

Today we spotted the yellow Chevrolet at the roadside with carburettor issues causing a misfire, and, you won’t believe this but we will give it to you anyway, four cars were delayed after collecting a tank full of diesel at the hands of a dozy petrol-pump attendant.

It would be far too insensitive of this Diary to name names. No, we can’t quite understand it, either, except to say that Simon Ayris, Andy Inskip, and the Two Robs have had another hectic day pushing along the mobile-workshops.

Tomorrow, we have several long mountain climbs, two downhill tests, and finally, the grand-daddy of them all, the awesome Tizi-n-Test, which if you could put the Stelvio on top of the Turini and the add on top Mont Ventoux, you might have some idea of the enormity of this sting in the tail.

I’ve got to go now, the buffet here is tremendous, and before you groan “oh, not another rally-buffet” this one has to be seen to be believed. The spread is gigantic, and it even has an Italian section, a hot roast turkey spit, and salad stuff that covers four tables… the Chef came out and said “I can't believe your party are going to eat this lot”. Clearly he is a newcomer to cooking for marathon rallies.

Finally, before signing-off, an item of comforting news: Jean Chmura has been discharged from hospital, and will be on her way home in a day or so.

London to Casablanca 2009 - Day 8 - Ouarzazate to Marrakesh

Roger Allen and Maggie Gray are leading the pre-war cars class in their 1940 La Salle Coupe

A long day, taking in a remarkable mountain climb, a roller-coaster ride up and down through long swooping bends for some 30 kilometres to the summit… where it was deemed too rough to go on as the tarmac runs out at the top, so, cars waited for the last man, with large jugs of coffee being laid on while navigators swopped times and took in the view.

This was like nothing else that has gone before, super-smooth top-quality fresh tarmac, a road no doubt built as a result of a development-grant, but is in all reality a road to nowhere.We had left Ouarzazate early, each being given packed lunch boxes and bottles of water. It looked like another warm day in bright sunshine.

Best time to the top was set by the rejuvenated Porsche 914-6 of Andrew Mallagh, with an 11.42, Robin Eyre-Maunsell – aged 70, lets not forget – was best of the rest on 12.13, in the Daihatsu Sirion, with Alastiar Caldwell just two seconds behind in his ex-Richard Burns Peugeot 205.

The mountain was then run down-hill, again the Porsche 914 proved quickest, 11 minutes 47 seconds, Eyre-Maunsell taking 12.17, with Caldwell third on 12.19...... Steven Hyde’s Porsce 911 managed 12.40, possibly nervous of his brakes that have been overheating over the last few days. Down-hill tests might be slower but, they are never without drama and Robert Belcher’s VW Polo slid wide, then flopped gently over the edge, the driver picking his way between rocks, finding a goat track further down, and then powering back up again further on, the lucky excursion into the undergrowth cost him over seven minutes.

A second similar mountain road at the village of Taliyube proved to be a series of tighter, full-bore hairpins, Eyre-Maunsell clocking 11:50 for this one, and in the needle-match with Caldwell, who headed the Sirion by 13 seconds with a time of 11:37. Once again the Mallagh Porsche 914 set the best effort with 11:03.

Charles and Nellie are back and drove all the tests today, but they are in a rental car after suffering engine prolems with the Vauxhall 30.98. Rudi and Helga Freidrichs in the Alvis Speed 20 head the leaderboard of cars who compete for The Morocco Trophy – the cars who joined us in Spain for the Morocco section. The ex-works 1800 of Peter Robinson and Roy Stephenson leads the classics up to 2-litres class, and while there is no overall general-classification on this event, is in a notional 8th-overall position, the car having run like clockwork for the past week.

Peter Banham in the Standard 10 – the car cost, including preparation £1,500 – collected penalties for a jump-start on the selectif test-sections all day but continues to go well. It has Herald front discs, but retains the standard rear lever-arm shock-absorbers. Tomorrow is a half-day – we then chill out at a prize-giving ceremony with a difference, as we are off to some Bedouin tents for an evening meal and traditional entertainment. 

With some gaps between the front runners that are separated by less time than it takes to change a wheel, anything could happen.

London to Casablanca 2009 - Day 9 - Marrakesh to Marrakesh

Final Stop…. And All Change!

A half-day was the plan, a late breakfast, start at 9.0am, up to the lower levels of the Tizi-n-Test region south of Marrakesh, take in a couple of test-sections, and back to the Hotel Mirage in time for lunch. That then gives us plenty of washing up time with the results and we are all off for a totally different style of prize-giving, set in Bedouin tents, about half an hour from here in the desert, with belly dancers, traditional music and Morocco-style entertainment.

But the first Time-Trial of the day changes things for the Endurance 1400s, as the leaders with five minutes in hand, Robin Eyre-Maunsell and Peter Scott, setting a cracking pace, had a coming together with a Toyota HiLux. Other than pride, nobody was hurt, but the collision was enough to suddenly end a stirling effort of the Daihatsu crew. So, at a stroke, this incident handed the winner’s laurels over to Alastair Caldwell and Catriona Rings, the fourth time this particular 205 has won a long-distance rally.

In the Classics Category, the pressure at the front was intense. Standing under a lemon tree by the hotel swimming pool after breakfast this morning, Peter Robinson and Roy Stephenson in the ex-London to Sydney 1800 reckoned that after rallying hard for over a week, his 1800 was just eight seconds ahead of the big Jaguar Mk7 of Chris Sanders and Simon Hatch. Out in the car park, the Jag was having new front brake pads fitted for the final fling round the mountains.

The morning run sorted things – Steve Hyde in the Porsche clinched the Classic category win outright, with the 1800 second, and the Jaguar Mk 7 third.

It’s been a good rally for the Lotus Cortina crew of Clive Dunster and Cecilia Agger, after ten days, they win the up-to-2-litres class in the Classics Category by one second, with the Volvo crew of Paul Bloxidge his veteran navigator Dennis Greenslade, second, and George Coelho and Margo O’Brien third in class, with a Volvo 122S.

In the over-two-litres class in the Classic division, Richard Martin and Travis Cole win in their Jaguar XK150, Barry and Roma Weir are second in a Mercedes 280SL, and the two lads in a Sunbeam Tiger on their first rally, Owain Lloyd and Adrian O'Niell, third.

For bringing the smallest, cheapest car on the rally, and preparing it as he went along, while still finding time to help out plenty of other competitors, The Banhams collect the Spirit of the Rally award. Rudi and Helga Friedrichs in their ex-Peking Paris Alvis win the Morocco Trophy, and Andrew and Sarah Mallagh who broke down, flew in drive shaft couplings, repaired the car, got going and continued to set fastest times on the hillclimbs go home with the Against All Odds trophy.

Andrew and Sarah Mallagh won the Against All Odds Trophy – after going out to repair their drive shaft couplings, they re-joined to set up a string of best times on the hillclimbs.

The Vintageants was won by the steady drive of the big La Salle coupe of Roger Allen and Maggie Gray.

The hectic ten days – Mereworth and King’s Wood in Kent suddenly seem an age away right now – are best summed up by some of the crews who were not winners, but who received their finisher’s awards under the big chequered flag being waved by Heidi out under the palm trees of the hotel car park.

It’s hot here in the sun and to cool down and chill out, Alastair Caldwell removed a box of chilled boxes of lager from the boot of the 205. “I’ve been carrying these around as the extra ballast helps the handling,” he joked. He was not short of willing helpers to drink it.

It’s been an eventful week. In the world of historic rallying, nobody has ever achieved much in an 1800 Landcrab, but the result of Peter Robinson becomes the best international finish for the model since Andrew Cowan won the Southern Cross Rally in 1969. And for the Big Jag Mk7, it’s the best rally result since Irishman Ronnie Adams won the Monte in 1954.

Just some of the comments that sum it all up:

“A brilliant, fantastic experience, with stunning roads and with every day offering something completely different,” – Paul Heal, MG ZR.

“Totally special, and with so many events dumbing down these days, this event stands out.” - Andy Actman, Citroen AX.

“Fantastic – one can only imagine the months of paperwork and planning that went into making all this happen,” – Travis Cole, Jaguar XK150.

“Beautiful, truly stunning,” Alison Ring, Datsun 240Z.

“I’m in awe at those team-drivers who drove a car like mine round these roads in the old days, what an eye-opener this has been, a terrific experience,” - Bradley Mottier, Datsun 240Z.

“Glorious…surely the best roads this side of Mongolia.” – David Spurling, Morgan.

“Wonderful experience, hard rallying in the old style, all so nicely organised,” – Richard Sandilands, Triumph 2000.

“Bloody brilliant, and to think I very nearly didn’t enter!” – Robert Belcher, VW.

“Nobody will ever forget this week. “ – Margo O’Brien , Volvo 122

 

 

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