The 2nd Trans-America Challenge 2015

7th - 28th June 2015

Day 14 - Rapid City - Rest Day

Tales from the Car Park

Today dawned bright, clear and fresh after a spectacular electrical storm last night complete with rain and hail but very little thunder. We awoke to the busiest car park scene we’ve encountered so far on this Rally, perhaps not surprising as we’ve had six straight days of driving. Long days with lots of dirt road driving takes its toll on both man and machine and, while the man can be repaired with a cold beer and a hot bath, the machine needs bit more care and attention.

So it was this morning then that air filters were being set out to dry, oil was changed, coolant checked, brakes were adjusted and tyres rotated. Richard Worts, our defending champion, fitted a new trip meter probe. Nicola Shackleton his navigator is a stickler for precision and on such a tight event as this she knows that they need to be inch perfect and to the second.

For most then the day ran smoothly, Colin and Mark Winkleman lubed and checked their Porsche. Maria Ensink polished the windscreen of the big red Mercedes and Andy Inskip helped Jan Woien and Jan Hansen to make a bracket to fix a loose mudguard on their Alvis. So far so good; busy but controlled.

Things were about to go wrong for one man though. Martin Hunt had the rest day from hell when a routine maintenance job went awry. While rotating the tyres as per the approved Medcalf Service Schedule, his big Bentley rolled off the jack and, upon impact cracked the differential housing. After kicking himself he quickly set his mind to a repair and, with the help of Peter Lovett found a Knight in shining armour. Chris Knight to be precise, a local welder whose father happens to be British. He saved the day with a neat bit of aluminium welding and the Bentley lives to fight another day.

Travis Cole was also hard at it under his car also rebuilding his differential, although for very different reasons. The Datsun 240Z that he and Richard Martin bought to replace their Alvis was always a bit of an unknown quantity and, they took it on it knowing that they’d be working on it every spare minute that they had. Last night, he and Richard found a breakers yard who stripped the right parts for them before delivering them to the hotel carpark. They worked for as long as they could into the night only stopping because the storm forced them indoors. With the dry dawn though they were back on the spanners.

So another heroic day from the sweeps then but today they had their own guardian angel in the shape of Jo Roberts who gathered their laundry had it washed, dried and ironed before delivering it to their respective rooms.

Over a well used box of tools, our Rally leaders Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown took time to tell us a little bit more about their car. ‎They’ve had it for 25 years and have used it for less intense European events in the past. But, while competing on the Peking to Paris 2013 (in which they topped the Vintageant category) they struck up a conversation with Rally Director Philip Young. Philip was lamenting the lack of Triumphs on ERA events and, when he found out that they owned a Stag and were doing Trans America he put two and two together and came up with a Rally leading formula.

As some of you may well know, in its day the Stag had a reputation as one of the most troubled of British Leyland’s cars from the 1970s, so no wonder many eye brows were raised at the prospect of such a car competing on an ERA rally. Indeed our records show that this is the first time a Triumph Stag has competed on an international endurance rally.

So it is indeed something remarkable that a Stag had not only reached Day 14 but it has also dominated the top slot of the daily results sheets so far. The car has been well prepared though by EJ Ward Motor Engineers who have sorted a lot of the inherent problems already built into this car when it left the factory.

The question on this rest day, as we see the boys lying under the car in their overalls, is whether this will be the first Stag to both start and finish an Endurance Rally never mind winning it.

Tomorrow, we’ll be one step closer to finding out.

Syd Stelvio



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