The Sahara Challenge 2015
Madrid to Marrakesh - October 5-14, 2015
Day 10 - Marrakesh to Marrakesh
The Day of Reckoning
Some of that end off term feeling definitely “hung over’ certain Rally crews this morning as they put away a good five star breakfast before taking to the hills again for the last half day of the Sahara Challenge 2015,
We’d been given special permission by the Wadi of Marrakesh to hold the finish in the fabled Jemaa al Fnaa. The main square in downtown Marrakesh and a Unesco Masterpiece no less. It’s only a stone’s throw from the manicured tranquillity of the Sofitel hotel but a world away in terms of the real Morocco.
Police had closed down the junctions into the square, the authorities had provided us with secure parking and our local agents had laid on gallons of traditional mint tea to wash away any lingering Atlas dust.
As the crowds gathered to watch, cheer, film and pose with the cars, Fred Gallagher, the Rally Director deftly split his time between waving the flag and speaking to the local media.
The joint Clerks of the course Anthony Preston and Georgina Clark were also on hand to congratulate the crews and take over the flag waving when necessary.
As well as wives and sweethearts we had other well-wishers in the crowd at lunchtime as well and it was great to see our old friends Danny and Rabia Schlatter for example, currently residents of Marrakesh who popped across in their beautiful Peking to Paris Bentley for a quick chat before lunch.
Dave Gough who took part in the 2012 London Cape Town Rally with Richard Phillipson in a Peugeot was also on hand to cheer in his old team mate as he crossed the line in an Opel.
It wasn’t all pomp and circumstance though, there had been some real driving this morning, two circuit tests on the Circuit Moulay El Hassan and a trip up into the mountains for a brace of regularities.
Once they’d made it under the finishing Arch and collected their finishers awards the crews descended on the mint tea which had been laid to catch their breath and reflect on what they’d just achieved.
Rally Director Fred Gallagher was delighted with the event and commented that “Coming at the end of the busiest year the ERA has ever had this event been exceedingly well received by all of the competitors. There’s been a wonderful spirit among the crews from the moment the flag dropped in Toledo right until the very end here in Marrakesh. We’re delighted to see so many of our old friends with us once again and thrilled that we’ve been able to welcome so many new ones to the world of Vintage and Classic Rallying. Anyone using this as a Peking to Paris shakedown will have taken away some valuable lessons regarding car prep, navigation and the Rally way of life”.
The poolside Gala Prizegiving Dinner was a happy affair indeed. Many of the guests had decided to adopt local costumes or arrived in fancy dress and as the Volubulis wine flowed and the steak was devoured the talk on the tables turned to next year and the new challenges already planned.
Despite the morning’s sport, the leaderboard hadn’t changed at all by the time we reached the finish line so it was a very happy Gianmaria Aghem and Rosella Conti and Bill Cleyndert and Jacquie Norman who respectively revved and chugged their way over the finish line. For both of them, long standing ERA competitors, with tens of thousands of miles under their wheels from the Gobi to the Kalahari and now the Sahara, this was a maiden win and probably all the sweeter for that.
The full list of prize winners is too long to include here and can be found in the results section of the website but a couple of notable special awards were also presented. Firstly, the Sweeps Medal for the crew who troubled them least was given to Malcolm Lister and Barry Nash in the Rover P5b.
The Spirit of the Rally went to Charles, Nicola and Sophie Stuart-Menteth in the Vauxhall 30/98 whilst the against all odds went to David and Jo Roberts for getting their slightly sick Triumph TR250 all the way to the finish line.
It’s been a great event. Thanks to all