The 2nd Trans-America Challenge 2015
7th - 28th June 2015
Day 1 - Halifax to Moncton
A Wild and Distant Shore
Cometh the hour, cometh the man they say and, at 8.01am precisely, the flag dropped on a dry, chilly and clear morning in Halifax. Those who'd accepted the Trans America Challenge 2015, were sent on their way at one minute intervals by Fred Gallagher with a cheery wave of the Maple leaf, or the l’Unifolié.
Ahead of the 45 crews who pulled out of the Halifax Citadel lies 22 days and around 10,000 km of the best driving roads of North America.
Sharp eyed rally fans may have noticed that we have three defending champions with us on this event, Peter and Zoe Lovett won our recent Road to Mandalay, Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown hold the Peking to Paris trophy whilst Richard Worts and Nicola Shackleton are looking to hold on to their Trans America silverware from back in 2012. Add to this mix Alastair Caldwell who took top spot in our 2005 World Cup and the 2012 Flying Scotsman and you can see that this Trans America might just shape up to be quite a tussle.
Time is of the essence in the rally world and today's sport was to be found initially on the rolling gravel at Mooseland. A regularity set up to gently ease the crews into their stride and it Jean and Anne Steinhauser in the Mercedes 280SL who showed that they’d got the measure of things.
Hard on the heels of this came the Atlantic Motorsport Park.... a superb little 'rollercoaster' race circuit. There were two visits scheduled to this venue, one either side of a very agreeable lunch at Shubenacadie where the very same Fred Gallagher was to be seen chipping and clocking for all he was worth as those around him tucked into fresh salad, roast chicken, beef and salmon.
The morning, or pre-lunch, circuit session was timed to the second and gave the crews a chance to open up the throttle and blow away any lingering cobwebs. Clint and Dawn Smith posted the best time here in their Jaguar E Type while the Aston Martin of Alan and Tina Beardshaw were snapping at their tail pipe in second. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown took their Triumph Stag to third.
Back at the circuit for the afternoon, sensitive to the digestive needs of the drivers, was a slightly more sedate but still brisk regularity test that saw the yellow Porsche 911 of Gavin and Dianne Henderson achieve the best result
A small crowd had gathered to watch proceedings both times with the Rolls Royce of Hok Kiang Sia and Eric Kuan Rong Sia getting the biggest cheer which absolutely befits what must be the biggest car on the Rally.
Once out of the race track environment it was back on the highway for the drive to Moncton, motto is “our tide is rising’. This is big blue sky country and the land we were lucky enough to be driving across was surely at its best today. Small neat settlements, widely spaced property - no need for fences - muddy creeks and fast flowing rivers. There are big tidal bores around here and some of the rivers we crossed experience a bore twice daily, with some reaching up to 3m in height.
For a while we motored up the 104, the Miners Memorial Highway which cuts right through Oxford County proud of its claim to be the Blueberry Capital of Canada. Turning off the freeway we took a beautiful gravel road around the Bay of Fundy and the Cumberland Basin on a spectacular route which led us through low forest, over scrubby marais and along a sun soaked seashore past the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, a Unesco World Heritage site.
We’re sharing our hotel in Moncton this evening with the English and French Women’s national soccer teams. They’re taking part in the Fifa Womens World Cup and tonight China play their Canadian hosts, in the first match of the tournament. Let’s see who scores first.
The Francophone influence has been slowly making itself felt today, indeed on the approach to Moncton we even passed through Dieppe albeit via Dorchester.
Although the day has been a resounding success for most there was one crew who suffered a misfortune when their head gasket failed. We came across them by the side of the road suffering from a lack of power early on in the day but tonight we hear that Richard Martin and Travis Cole along with Alvis Speed 25 are on a truck heading to Quebec and hope to rejoin when the car is fixed.
Mike Armstrong sadly didn’t even make the start line though, personal reasons meant that he had to leave the Rally and fly home to Australia even before we’d started. We wish him well and hope to see him back with us soon.
At the end of our first day then we have Phil Garrat and Kieron Brown in the Triumph Stag in first position followed by Alan and Tina Beardshaw second and Clint and Dawn Smith in third.
Tomorrow we leave for New Brunswick and get the chance to enjoy some of the 68 intersections controlled by traffic lights and 1,803 stop signs in the Moncton area.