The 2006 Classic Safari Challenge
February 25th - March 20th 2006
Running Report 1 - Dar es Salaam to Lilongwe
The 2nd Classic Safari has reached Lilongwe in Malawi, after a fantastic string of roads swept us into Africa from Dar Es Salam. The roads have been the biggest surprise of all - all good quality smooth tarmac, and hardly a pothole in sight, with very light traffic. Today's run into the capital from Mzuzu saw virtually no traffic, and all competitors are here, safe and sound.
Car 11, the 1937 Chevrolet Fangio Coupe Cabria or Catheriner D'Andrimont and Xavier de Marmol from Belgium has developed gearbox problems today and arrived after a long tow, the 1913 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost of Gerhard Weissenbach was late setting out on the road after an hour of servicing at first light, suffering from a lack of pressure in the petrol tank due to a small leak, but goes well. The second Fangio Coupe of David and Sadie Williams continues to wake the dead with a noisy exhaust that the driver explains is authentic Fangio, and the big 1929 Mercedes 630K Sports of Detlef Heyer and Carsten Kastroll suffered fuel-feed problems.
The Minister of the Interior came to visit the rally last night at a Government sponsored reception, the first time she has greeted 13 different nationalities at a motoring event, and sat in Roger and Gillian Goodwins 1929 Bentley this morning for the first few miles out of town - national TV guaranteed.
The weather has been brilliantly hot, big blue skys, mountains, and lots of greenery. Milawi in particular has been stunningly beautiful with is lush green countryside. Tomorrow we head for the Zambian border and Lusaka.
Running Report 2 - From the Victoria Falls
Reporting from the rolling green lawns of the Livingstone Hotel on the banks of the River Zambesi, 50 yards from the spectacular Victoria Falls, sipping a Sundowner and watching an orange sun sink over the palm trees.
All the cars have made it to Livingstone, except car 11, the Chevrolet of Catherine D'Andrimont and Xavier del Marmol. It stayed in Lusaka to use the help of the Zambia Motor Sports Association who reckoned a new bearing could be made to get the car going again - having stopped when the prop shaft came away from the back of the gearbox.
Sunday has been a rest day so a chance to take a dramatic helicopter flight up between the narrow cliff faces of the Zambesi gorge at crocodile height, go white water rafting or just relax on the Africa Queen. In the car park a few cars are having running repairs and servicing.
The Larry Davis Saab has a noisy gearbox bearing and is causing some concern, the Riley 2.5 RME of Michael and Anne Wilkinson has welded up the rear shockabsorber mountings, and David Williams has solved his mis-fire for the Chevy Fangio Coupe, he was the second car to arrive here right behind the Finns in the Mercedes 230SL, Marti and Pirko Kirka. The 1913 Rolls Royce needed a tow rope from the Banhams but that was only to get 500 yards into the car park having run out of petrol in the driveway to the hotel.
Now we sit back and enjoy a gin and tonic under a balmy African sky. Tomorrow we head for Botswana using the Kasangula Ferry into Botswana where light aircraft take us from Kasane to the world's greatest wetlands of the Okavanga Delta where we take time off to relax in three different Safari camps - mighty tough, this long-distance rallying, eh?
Running Report 3 - Mozambique
Here we are on the Indian Ocean sipping a beer under the belting sun, relaxing under a palm tree, waiting now for over an hour for a Caesar Salad so if its quick service you appreciate most don't bother with the old Colonial Polana Hotel in Maputo. It's the most luxurious place in town, wonderful big pillows, super linen sheets, and antique ambience, where time stands still - it certainly does in the kitchen.
We are currently missing Detlef Heyer whose vintage Mercedes had piston trouble in Francistown a day or so ago in Botswana. He has opted for a rental car and will follow on but the terms of hire were such that after crossing Crocodile Bridge today he reached the border of Mozambique and could go no further. Everyone else is going great guns. The heat was almost up to the 100 degrees (old money) that we first experienced in Tanzania and its been a blistering day as we wrestled with chaotic border officialdom.
The roads have been great so far, and the last two days were spent on graded gravel in the Kruger national park, perhaps the best Safari camp so far, where we glimpsed more lions, more elephants, more leopard, loads of impala crossing the road in front of us, lots of Zebra, and, this is a first, several rhino. The Kruger certainly impresses, and this was two of the very best of days you could possibly wish for. Time off, lazing around sort of days (except for Peter and Betty Banham and Andy Inskip, but by lunchtime they were so short of something to do they were seen wandering off to the pool).
The Saabs are still going well, the Rolls Royce continues to impress - it's 1913, no front brakes, but was clocked by a policeman doing 65 in a 60 limit but didn't bother to stop when you've no front brakes you don't waste energy on speeding tickets, frankly its too hot for arguments.
Results: Here is an Index of Performance. We have had a Medal Section, and the results of this 12kms of gravel fun were as follows:
1st classic: Paul and Sandra Merryweather, Mercedes 230SL; 2nd, Flying Finns Martti and Pirkko Kiikka in another 230SL, and third was the Jaguar Mk2 of Ralph Auchincloss and Hilary Cheese.
First in the Vintageant Category were David and Sadie Williams in the green Chevy Fangio Coupe 2nd, Roger and Gillian Goodwin in the 8-litre Bentley, 3rd Catherine d'Andrimont and Xavier del Marmol in a Chevy Fangio cabrio. The Chevys went well on this one but there are a few more en route to Rourkes Drift.
Must go-the beer is getting warm.
Running Report 4 - To Swaziland
From the Five Star hotel in Mozambique to the Five Star hotel in Swaziland, to here, another Five Star hotel, but set in the Drakensberg Mountains, and the best of the bunch. We are at the Drakensburg Sun and this is set in breathtaking scenery. Remember the first time you rallied into the Dolomites? Distinctive, breathtaking, unforgettable. This is like that, but better. Its Colorado canyons but greener, set in lush rolling hills and craggy table-top mountains that make this region unlike anything you have rallied before. Everyone is agreed on one thing - the day to here was the best day's rallying so far.
There was a lunch stop in the simple little cafe at Rorkes Drift, with time to wander around the chapel that was the old missionary, and the museum,, which was once the hospital. Here you can see the hole in the wall where the likes of Hook and other heroes crawled through in the hand to hand fighting in one of the most famous battles of the Boer War, when nearly 100 Welsh soldiers fought off 4,000 Zulus. Bits and pieces from the battlefield have been collected up, and a walk around this remote little knoll overlooked by the craggy hill where the Zulus looked down banging their shields made a rather special checkpoint for the rally.
There were two Medal Sections on long gravel mountain climbs. Medals were won by Roger and Gillian Goodwin who won the Vintageants Category in their Bentley, hard pressed by Xavier del Marmot and Catherine D'Andrimont in the Chevvy Cabrio, and the Classics section saw Paul Merryweather set best time but as he has already won a medal, the award went to second placed Martti and Pirkko Kiikka - both in Merc SLs.
Glorious sunshine, gravel roads, ending with overwhelmingly beautiful mountains of the Drakensberg with Rorkes Drift for good measure made this another great day.
It was no so great for the green Chevy Coupe of David and Sadie Williams, who clobbered a cow when cresting a climb. The cow didn't come off too well from this confrontation, and the Chevvy was also limping badly into the hotel, after first-aid from The Banhams who had to fibreglass the radiator leaks and pull and wheel so that it was roughly pointing in the right direction. The crumpled wing doesn't look too good but still very Fangio.
A rest day by the pool soaking up the sun today, before we head off south to the Indian Ocean and a rather different hotel, little bungalow-lodges by the beach.
Running Report 5
Simple log cabins on a dramatic headland jutting out into the Indian Ocean near St. Johns made for another memorable night's stay, and it was back on the road again to the Safari Lodges of Shamwari - one of the longest hauls of 500 kms from the coastal village of Mbotyi to our final and perhaps most luxurious safari lodges of all.
We left the sights of white-Rhino, antelope, giraffe and elephants to pound down the coastal road to Knysna.
There have been two further Medal Sections, which saw Paul and Sandra Merryweather set best time on the first in their Mercedes 230SL again but on the second, a long, twisty uphill gravel section, Martti and Pirkko Kiikka, also in a Merc SL, set best time by ten seconds. Ralph Auchincloss and Hilary Cheese continued to do well in the big Jag Mark Two saloon, and the final results of the Classic Category now have Paul and Sandra leading with no loss of penalties, the Jaguar second, one minute behind having incurred road penalties, and Richard and Judy Ingham now slip to third having been second in their big Mercedes 450SL. Martti having had an unfortunate first medal section that saw navigation problems mount up some penalties, are now fourth, and Richard Auchincloss in another Mark Two Jaguar is fifth.
In the Vintageants, Roger and Gillian Goodwin had held the lead in their 6.5 Bentley, but trouble hit them early on this morning when they suffered mechanical gremlins, and Etienne and Lidy Veen in their ex-Peking Paris Mercedes 630K Sports Tourer are now first overall, with the Goodwins second. Herman Layher and Marcus Kern in another Mercedes 630K are third, Dirk Lindenbergh and Esther Van Vooren are fourth in their Bentley Speed Six.
Hero of yesterday was the performance put up by the Rolls Royce 1913 Silver Ghost. Anna Nun had to pump hard to keep up pressure in the fuel tank, working the brass lever under the dash constantly for 300 kilometres after a small fuel leak was enough to cause a drop of pressure in the tank. They got in, refusing a tow from the Banhams, and then had the mobile workshop crew take out the tank and repair it, requiring clever use of a leather washer, made up of chopping a slice out of the Rolls Royce's luggage strap, and a bit more from the leather trousers of Herman the German. Germany helps rescue Rolls Royce, says Herman - just another example of Germany helping the enemy.
Michael and Anne Wilkinson roll onwards to Cape Town with no more troubles with the white Riley, Jean Claude Tourn was up early this morning to swim in the pool at the Shamwari safari camp while others were out game watching, The Finns also took an early morning dip, and out over the stretch of scrub, we could just make out the sight of a lion chasing a buffalo for a breakfast kill as the morning sun forced its way over the mountains. Action all around us then with yet another long day under our belts. We are now off to a gourmet dinner in the Pezula Resort we don't expect to see Richard Taylor and he was off on the golf-course as soon as he arrived but the rest of us are fit and well, looking forward to trundling down the Garden Route tomorrow to the Stellenbosch for perhaps the finest hotel of all.
The two Saabs dropped penalties today because a game of golf took precedence, and tomorrow could see this diversion repeating itself.
Detlef Heyer is marshalling for us in a hire car having re-joined the rally, the Bentley of Jan and Marleen Dingemans sounds great but inches over the rough-stuff rather slowly, and is in fifth position in the Vintageant category, and the Incredible Hulk - the green Chevy Coupe of David and Sadie Williamson looks the worst for wear, but the looks have been improved with a mystery artist painting a cow on the side of the right hand door with a large cross through it - Herman Layer has seen this and says Battle of Britain customs could be revived with a row of RAF Roundels appearing on the German Mercs before Cape Town. Someone should tell him we'll have the rest of his trousers if he doesn't stop mentioning the war.
There is one more Medal Section tomorrow to look forward to, so the results could change some more although a lot will be needed to shake the commanding lead in the Vintageants Category of the Veens, who lead by something like an hour and half, but there is a needle-match to be sorted in the Classic Category, with the Jaguars putting in a surprise performance.