The Sahara Challenge 2015
Madrid to Marrakesh - October 5-14, 2015
Day 3 - Tangier to Fes
An action packed schedule had been set for the first full day in Morocco. We were to take in a test, an Atlas time control section and a regularity on the way down to Fes.
The first action came within 18km of leaving the hotel, the Wind Farm test also known as the Route des Eoliennes. This was a fantastic gravel hill climb set among the massive steel pylons and the whirling blades of the generating sets.
As well as a great view we were treated to the delicious scent of acres of wild herbs, mint, thyme and sage, it was at times like walking through a kitchen garden.
This was a section well suited to the Porsches and both Gavin and Diana Henderson and Edmund Peel and Sarah McDonald seemed to be flying up the slope although in the final reckoning it was the Mighty Mini of Turner and Vestey who took the laurels once again. The Vintageants were led home by Bill Cleyndert and Jacqui Norman in the silver Model A who really seem to have got the bit between their teeth now.
From here the Rally turned south, through the Rif mountains to another agreeable coffee halt in Chefchaouen whereafter the route rolled over the bridge at Pont de Loukkos which historically separated the two parts of Morocco. The French side and the Spanish side.
Soon after taking in this little piece of history, it was back into hills for the first Atlas time control section and on the way there we passed through more stunning scenery, sleepy villages and donkeys carrying water to remote farmhouses up seemingly impossible slopes, a crowd of cheering schoolchildren had even turned out in one town to wave the Rally through.
Once through the mountains and the Atlas section we passed through the town of Ouazzane where turkeys and guinea fowl shared the road with us.
Shortly afterwards we came upon Richard and Catherine Phillipson who'd lost a mounting bolt for one of the rear brake calipers of their Opel Kadett. As Catherine pointed out, "There are worse places to be stuck. There's coffee toilets and clean flat concrete to set the jack on". They didn't have a bolt to fit in their spares kit and despite the efforts of one time sweep Jim Allen they had to wait until Andy Inskip arrived with his big bag of nuts and bolts before they could get back in the road.
One of the cultural highlights of the day was a visit to Volubilis and the Roman ruins. Crews were allowed some time away from the wheel to take in the sights of this ancient monument now in ruins but still well worth a visit.
Morocco takes road safety very seriously and has invested a considerable amount of time money and effort in policing the highways and byways of this fine country. Today we saw this in action and the Rally encountered more radar activity than Heathrow airport on an August Bank Holiday.
It's been a day of mixed fortune for some of our crews. Michael Strasser and Arno Schenk have retired their Rolls Royce due to another issue with the fan. Jan Pettersson and Katre Helena Ibrus are looking for brake pads for their Ford. Peter Thornton and Robert Maxted have retired after their Ford Coupe had a slight altercation with an earth bank while avoiding a local bus that was on the wrong side of the road and Nicholas and Barbara Philips were slightly delayed when one of the wheels on their Ford Model A collapsed.
Charles and Nicola Stuart Menteth arrived at the night halt on the end of a tow rope due to clutch failure. Andy Inskip and Tony Jones were in attendance and there is hope that they'll be able to restart later in the morning.
The Classic category leader board now stands with Owen Turner and Rachel Vestey still leading by eleven seconds from the evergreen Gianmaria Aghem and Rossella Conti in their bright red Lancia Italia. Ludovic Bois and Julia Coleman now hold third place in their Volvo Amazon. Jean and Anne Steinhauser lead from Bill Cleyndert and Jacqui Norman in the Vintageants with Jo Robillard and Matt Peckham still in third.
The Hotel Palais Medina served up another Moroccan feast this evening and after dinner many crews were seen departing for bright lights of downtown Fes.
There's a later start tomorrow so they might just get away with it.