REPORT ONE – Buenos Aires, November 2016
Hello everybody, we’ve just finished the last of the formalities.Today we started with scrutineering, I think it went very well. The scrutineer asked if we had prepared the Car ourselves, yes we replied, and after a short discussion about the things we had done he only took about five minutes to give us the stamp of approval that meant we could go on to Documentation. Then to the signing on, many declarations, many signatures. Next to the route books, maps, timing sheets and all the regulations the pile was about 100mm high. Also the $350 first aid medical kit that sounds so complicated we don’t want to break the seal and open it.
So Ken and I sat down and started to read all the information and tried to get our small brains around how all the different timings, tests and regularity section worked together, it’s not easy. About two hours later we started to feel we had our heads around the system. Then on to the main briefing with all the usual warnings about what will happen to you if you are bad boys. Now we are rearing to go and looking forward to the start at 9am tomorrow morning, we are start position 25 so we start at 9.25 am.
Day One started with torrential rain, thunder, lightning and high winds. We had a small misdirection as we headed for the Autoroute out of Buenos Aires. At this stage a car with a roof and windscreen wipers was just fine by us. It took only about 5km to see the first Bentley with the bonnet up in the pi**ing rain and some poor sod spraying with the CRC. We arrived at the first test track it was still pi**ing down. Ken took over and peddled the car at an astonishing speed for the conditions.
Then on to the first regularly section. Well we expected rough dirt roads and yes that is what we got. Dirt and clay with no shingle and massive ruts that if you get a wheel in them gives you some testing moments. The average speed was set at 70 km/h over the distance but you do not know where the finish will be. So they hide around a corner and you get about 10 seconds to stop, and that may be anywhere, through what might be a 20 km distance. You have a set of tables that show you distance against time, the navigator has to keep telling where you are at all times as the finish may be just around the next corner. 70 kph was a challenge but I loved it. Finished 2 seconds fast! Then on to a BBQ Lunch at a Cattle Ranch.
The second regularity was also at 70 km/h on a smoother dirt road with smaller ruts but still a challenge. We got held up by another car at the check point so were 15 seconds late. Many expletives. Transition to the Hotel in Mar del Plata. 524 kms for the Day.
In the morning the notice board said Car 35, that’s us, in 8th position out of 38 cars in the classic section – we were just chuffed. Many seasoned veterans of these events were well behind us.
A 7.55am start with a timed drive to the Museum Juan Manuel Fangio in Balcare. What a great Museum to the man; Mercedes Benz and many others who have been part of Argentina’s rich car racing history.
Then on to the circuit Juan Manual Fangio for tests on both the small and main tracks. Ken pushed the car to the absolute limit. Boy you could smell the brakes at the end. His times were just amazing.
Lunch at a beach place, just coffee and water, too much food! On through passage controls to the Hotel in Bahi Blanca. Again our timing was perfect so no penalty points. 518 kms for the Day. Tomorrow we have an early start as we travel 796 kms.
Well as there were no regularity stages on Day Two we dropped down to 10th place but this is an endurance rally not a sprint. We are not unhappy about it as the number of track tests drop away and more regularity stages are coming.
Day Three was a big day. We left Bahia Blanca 7.55am with a 120.9 km long transition to a time control, then a new transition to a test at a circuit at Dromo Viedma 161.14 km long. Ken did the track and went really well. This circuit suited the more powerful cars but we are boxing well above our weight. Then a further transition to the big regularity section for the day. Yay we were back on shingle much like the roads at home. The section length was 52.72 kms with a control speed of 80 km/h. Ken and I set up a new system of average speed timing that gave me as the driver better speed control and Ken as navigator more time to get the route correct, and the timing easier for both of us to understand where we were in the section to within 10 meters. The finish was about 18 kms from the start and we nailed it one second late, in the top three cars. Then a long drive on shingle along the coast; the wind just got stronger and stronger the further south we got into Patagonia. Back on tarmac and long straight roads south through timing and passage controls. We estimated head wind speeds up to 90 km/h meaning we were pushing the car through 200 km/h head wind. Your foot was well down on the peddle to maintain 110 km/h and we estimate we used a third more fuel. After 769 km we clocked into time control at Puerto Madryn at 6.20 pm. No time points lost.
A rest day in Puerto Madryn. Everybody including us are working on their cars. We cleared all the stones out of the top of the belly pans that had got wedged under the exhaust pipe, looked at and adjusted the brakes. Replaced an exhaust hanger rubber. Adjusted fan belt, washed the car. Some of the other cars had much more to do than us. The Endurance Rally Association (ERA) who run this event have 18 people here, Rally Director, Clark of the course, time keepers, two doctors, mechanics and sweeps, plus eight specially set up verticals.
We are still in 10th place but our starting position has changed from 25 to 41. The slowest cars go first and each car goes at a minute later so we go at 41 minutes after the control time. They do this so the field bunches up and the sweeps do not have to wait for the last car. If it was the other way around and the field expanded out. So to go later is recognition that you are faster that all the other cars in front of you. We started with a 75 km transition to the Autodromo Mar Y Valle where Ken did another good time. Then on to Gaiman to the TY GWYN Welsh Casa De Té for tea and cake. Very good. After leaving Gaiman we rejoined Ruta 25 for the long 159 km transition to the next passage control then time control.
Things started to go wrong! The fuel station at the passage control had run out. We had already put our all spare fuel in the tank. Everybody was in the same situation so we just had to carry on towards the next fuel station driving at 50 km/h as economically as possible, knowing we were not going to make it. We made about 30 kms when the sweep arrived and we managed to get eight litres from them, just enough to get us to the time control with only six minutes to spare. We were out of jail so we had an ice cream and learnt a lesson about fuel, and not assuming it will be available all the time.
We are still on sealed roads but heavily pot holed. Next was an 84 km transit on shingle, long straight and dusty. Then Regularity Pampa De Agnia 70 km/h speed on rough hard sharp gravel. Our system is working well we are running about 10 meters ahead but the finishing line timers were hiding in a gully the bastards and we were one second late. Another long transition 111 km on shingle to Regularity Colon Conhue two seconds early. 22 kms then on to the Hotel at Esquel. Very late arrival 692 kms, much on shingle. No time point lost.
We are now in 11th place and working hard to stay there. Left Esquel transit 123 kms to the Regularity Bush Cassidy. Good shingle at 70 km/h but got caught out with another sneaky finish line six seconds over. Then to a Steam Train Station for lunch. On to the next Regularity El Maiten going well on shingle, very dusty, got tricked by the finish around a very sharp hairpin bend, late by four seconds.
We decided to use the Garmin GPS in future and monitor the shape of the road up to 500 m in front us to see if we can start to predict were the finish will be before we arrive at it and compensate accordingly. Then to a test, a small track Kartodromo Lewis, Ken peddled it well. We are now in the picturesque part of Patagonia with many lakes and in the lower mountains. We came off the shingle and transitioned to the Hotel Llao Llao in Bariloche. The best Hotel of the event so far, it will be hard to beat. Please check it out.
A rest day. We worked on the car, changed the plugs, we think we had a bad one, checked the fuel filter and the air cleaner, found a crack in the flexible pipe between the air filter and the throttle box and fixed it with a surgical glove with the fingers cut off. Found screws missing from the mountings for the extra radiator fan. Found two of the three and refitted them with a tape cover to hold them. Went to wash the car but all the car wash places had closed, being Saturday, so we found a place where we could back the car down by the lake and washed it with a canvas bucket I was given at an event in Sonoma some years ago. Tomorrow we go to Chile.
I ended the last report at our rest day at Bariloche. During the day and after working on the car we went for fuel. On our way back to the hotel Ken sees out of the corner of his eye a Red Mercedes Benz Uniimog Fire engine. We both yell ‘Fire truck! Fire Truck!’ It had an Avendre (for sale) sign in the window and as many of you will understand this was like a magic find for Ken. A long discussion about how to get it home, would it be over 3.5 tons, would it fit into a 20ft container, but upon closer inspection it was decided that there was just too much missing from it. The transfer box was not there but if it had been at home Ken would have owned it by now.
Day eight took us north as we passed the last of the lakes of northern Patagonia then onto very rough gravel and the first regularity hill climb, Passo Del Cordoba. It was rough, steep and twisty, with only a 50 km/h set speed which was impossible for us to maintain; we were 34 seconds late. We just about drove through the finish as the bastards were hiding in the bushes with their vehicle up a side road. Many got caught out. Two transition sections followed with time controls as the rally controllers tried to keep all the cars together.
The second regularity was cancelled as word was about that the crossing to Chile was going to be time consuming. The road up to the remote border at Paso Manuil Malal was rough. You knew you were up in winter snow country by the marker posts on the side of the road. The passing out of Argentina into Chile took about two hours. First you, then the car. Then a short 1 km to the Chilean border. First you queue for immigration, then you queue for customs, then you queue for the car, then you put all your bags through an x-ray, then you are good to go. What a contrast! The road now sealed with curb and channel. An 84 km transition to the Hotel in Pucon.
Ken drove out this morning. We passed through countryside that reminded us of the Waikato on transit to the first regularity at Flor Del Lago. Set speed 60 km/h and Ken is driving. Very rough and slippery, Ken over-cooked a downhill hairpin bend, could not stop and hit the bank. BUGGER. We got the car out and set off for the end, time lost 60 seconds. We pushed the right front guard out with a log of wood and the power steering.
We are in volcano country at the entrance to the Conguillo National Park. We pay an entry toll and head into a magic area of lava flows, ash, spectacular volcano views, and green water lakes with petrified tree trunks sticking out.
The road was extremely rough and soon we had the most horrific noise from under the car. A sway bar bush I said, just like the noise I had in the Catlands on a rally years ago Eddy will remember. I looked at the bushes and all ok so we travelled on but it just got worse. In the end we had to stop in the middle of a lava flow, jack the car up and get under to see that one of the studs that hold the back of the belly pan had dropped completely out. We found a replacement in Ken’s ice cream container of spare bolts and nuts and were on our way in about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, I had my photo taken holding the OK sign upside down; it somehow got on to the Auckland MB Club Facebook page and has now gone viral.
On through two time controls to the second regularity at Valle Del Clenco. Garry driving, very rough and slippery, spun the car sideways and ended sitting across the road. We got ourselves out and back facing the correct way but got to the finish late so max time 60 seconds. We have decided to back off a little. This event is a marathon and we want to be at the finish in Lima. Transition to the hotel in Concepcion. Four days to cross South America from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Day ten started early, the first car out at 7.30 am. We are the 40th car to go so we start at 8.10 am. Very rough and fine dusty roads to the first regularity Rafael. Within the first 2 kms and the first logging truck we knew we had no chance of making the finish within the 60 seconds, so just crossed through to get finish points. Most cars did the same with one car driving past the finish line as there was a logging truck going past it at the time and the dust was so thick there was no visibility. We then started the long 634 km haul north to Vina del Mar. Through three time controls and a passage control. Past vineyards, apple and fruit orchards, hectares of kiwi fruit, paper mills, pack houses and heavy industry plants, to arrive at Vina del Mar about 6.30 pm.
Today is a rest day we have completed ten of twenty seven days. The rally has lost two cars. The garage this morning was a hive of activity with radiators being taken out for rebuild and major maintenance work being done. We worked on our fuel problem and feel we have done the best we can to keep the car’s idle from not surging. Other maintenance was done to keep the old girl the best she can be. Tomorrow we go back to Argentina over the low Andes.
We finished the last report at the rest day at Vina del Mar. Over the last two weeks I have had the privilege to talk with many of the entrants in this event about the cars they have at home. You start to get the feeling that there is an incredible list of people here, it is just astonishing. I will not go into it now but so far I have found five 300SL roadster owners.
Day twelve started with the threat that the border from Chile to Argentina will be closed by a customs strike. Luckily it was just reopened that morning so all was go. The first regularity was cancelled so extra time would be allowed at the border. The climb from sea level up to the border in what they call the low Andes was interesting but uneventful, but things were about to change.
In Chile and Argentina the fuel has 12% ethanol. This has a tendency to cause vapour lock. The higher you go up and the hotter your engine gets, and the worse it happens. As you round the bend at the foot of the Paso de los Liberators you say to yourself, ‘My god I have never seen any road as intimidating as this climb’, 25 switch-backs up what looked like a vertical rock face. At the bottom the car was going ok but down on power. As we climbed we started to lose cylinders one at a time until we were down to three and hardly moving. We were about half way up when we were stopped for road works. This was a godsend as it allowed us to bring the engine revs up to three thousand without load and slowly we got all six back.
When we started to move again we progressed on towards the top of the staircase and reached the top on four cylinders. Again we stopped and ran the engine at three thousand rpm. Once satisfied that we could proceed we got in behind a truck and bus and moved in through the Tunnel de Cristo Redactor at 10 km/h to an altitude of 3475m. Once out of the tunnel you simply drove through Chilean customs and then on through 12 km of no man’s land to the Argentina border post. The line of cars, trucks and buses banked up from the day before meant that it took more than two hours to get us, our car, and customs inspections through the system. It was downhill from there to the time control. On to a passage control were we could choose to take a direct route to the next time control, or take a rough but spectacular route. With the fuel issues we had we decided to take the direct route. Then on to the hotel at San Juan. We were back in Argentina, a big day with many challenges but we made it all on time.
We are now starting at position 36; there are now 46 cars left. A short 13 km to a track test at the Dromo El Zonda. Ken nailed it at 4.19 minutes, better than some of the Porsches. It’s called late braking. It’s hard on the floor on the passenger’s side but a great ride. We are both amazed at how the commercial van tires hold on and perform.
It was then on to a 22 km transition on shingle and dirt. This was the most difficult road we have been on so far in this rally, with many dips that were washed out where you had to approach the washout at 45 degrees to get through. Our car with the independent rear suspension worked a treat. Many big rocks gave the belly plate a hammering.
On through a time control to the regularity Luna Valley. Ken is at the wheel today so it was a hill climb on a sealed road. With the usual late braking and fantastic driving he nailed it at four seconds too fast. A great result and ride. We then transitioned through the most spectacular high desert landscape with many geological features.
On to the next track test at La Rioja where Ken did it again with a spirited performance that is starting to be noticed by the crowd. The heat was an incredible 37 degrees with a wind blowing like a blast furnace. For the first time we travelled with all windows down, with the quarter light windows open just enough to stop the buffeting. Ken has to take his hearing aids out so a lot of shouting goes on.
A fantastic day of endurance rally experiences. A hopeless parking situation at the hotel with many cars parked on the foot path, a big commotion when the tow trucks arrived. We had a great spot right outside the front door.
After Ken’s great efforts yesterday we are back to 11th place. We left La Rioja at 8.36am as we are still running at number 36 start. It’s still hot and got hotter as the day went on. The first regularity was canceled as the road was just too rough after recent rains. So it was transitions on through time controls and passage controls. A long days driving through northern Argentina mainly flat scrubby country. The one regularity of the afternoon was a hill climb on a sealed road. Only three cars made the time within 60 seconds, so all the rest of the fleet got a max 60 seconds penalty like us, so we can say we were 4th equal. For the first time in the rally we had some wet riverbed crossings but not deep enough to test the air inlet snorkel. A long hot 516 km day to the Sheraton in Tucuman.
The next report will be from Chile. For those of you that are interested you can go to the Endurance Rally Association website to see all the results plus reports and extra photos. Our reports are regularly updated here on the MB Auckland Club website, or the MB Auckland Club facebook page.
During the night we had a brilliant lightning storm and rain. Day Fifteen started with rain and misty overhead conditions. The first regularity at Cerros Tucumanos started in the mist and rain on a very windy hill climb through what felt like a rain forest where the tree top canopies join up over the road. We went well and finished by only 43 seconds over. We then had an uneventful transit to a time control called El Jardin for coffee. By this time the rain had gone and it was clear sky.
The next transit was a 117 kms on a dirt road. You could choose to take an alternative route if you wished but most, including us, took the dirt road. Well this is what adventure car rallying is all about! Legends and stories will be told for years to come. Mud, mud, glorious mud, in a river valley they called the Reo Sin Nombre (the river with no name). We arrived through moderate mud to our first major river crossing. Cars were stacked up in a line as some were having problems. Ken got out, took his crocs off and waded over to the other side with the camera, others went through and then it was me. The snorkel we fitted to the car worked well but we had left the coil very exposed. Water was picked up by the bottom fan belt pulley and sprayed by the fan over the coil. I was about 3/4 across when we came to a very undignified stop, much to the amusement and pleasure of all the cars waiting behind us. Up with the bonnet a quick rag wipe and a CRC spray and we were away.
The mud got deeper and the ruts became our friends as we slid from edge to cliff face. The road was cut into overhanging cliff faces. The line of cars came to a halt at a very muddy steep hill section; cars were going up one at a time. If you got stuck or stopped people would push or pull you to get you going, some had to be pulled by 4wheel drive to make it. Then it was our turn the crowd waited in anticipation. I took a good run at it in second gear, held the revs at 4000, we slid, we skidded, we stayed in the ruts, we sprayed mud over ourselves and the bystanders, but we made it up! On through many river crossings, more mud and more mud. What a fantastic experience, both Ken and I loved it. Finally, on to a time control and track test at Salta, Ken did 5.13 mins just behind a Porsche with a 5.12 time. No time point lost. We ended the day in 10th position.
Day Sixteen was billed as one of the most difficult days of this rally. We are still starting at 36 that is 36 minutes after the first car goes. To the regularity at El Alisal – 70 km/h average needed. It started on a wide shingle road with fine round stones. It was very slippery. On through a river gorge, as the corners got tighter there was little grip so we were sliding the car through the sweepers. Then we got held up by a car in a narrow windy section and dropped back, went like hell and finished 26 seconds late, we were pleased with that.
On to a time control and the start of the longest transit section of the rally – 255.88 kms. It was only 41 kms in and we were on to the rough gravel. The climb into the Andes started. At 28 kms we reached 4369 metres, the doctors were there checking people. We struggled to get the car up this high and had one stop to reset the air fuel mix. We had also cut a 5 litre oil container in half, placed it under the fuel filter, tied it up with electrical ties and filled it with water, placed rags around the fuel pipes from the filter to the injection pump, and poured water over these all in an attempt to keep the fuel cool. The 12% ethanol in the fuel vaporises at 60 C. So at the last part of this climb we were holding the car at 3-4000 rpm in second. Over the Alto Chorrillo and into the start of the high Atacama. 120 kms on to the border into Chile.
This was a very remote crossing that on some days only had four cars so to have 50 cars and eight support vehicles was a struggle, but we were through in about one and a half hours. At the border we were down to 3800 metres. On into Chile and the slow climb up to the highest we will ever go, 4575 m that is 15009 feet. Handshakes – we had made it so it was all downhill from here. The high desert is spectacular. The scenery is like nowhere else on earth, mountains and volcanoes all around with no snow at all. No vegetation, just rocks and sand. Many dry salt lakes, lamas, and alpacas. Then to the passage control at Socaire. Back on tarmac and down to the time control at San Pedro de Atacama. We then went on to the Alto Atacama Desert Lodge. Check it out.
What a day! My Lungs, Kens Lungs, and the cars Lungs had made it.
The rest day in the Hotel Alto Atacama Desert Lodge was most welcome. The big day before and reaching 15009 ft took it out of us a bit. Rooms with large doors that could be left open at night for the cool desert breeze to enter the room with overhead fans worked well for a long uninterrupted night’s sleep. We worked on the car most of the morning routine maintenance mainly, washed the mud off and went into the town for fuel. That was an experience; Garmin to find fuel and Garmin to find the hotel.
Day Eighteen started with a climb out of San Pedro De Atacama and on through the most stunning high desert landscape through the Valle de Luna named for the incredible rock formations which look like the surface of the moon. We are now losing altitude. We pass the town of Calama, home to the largest open cast copper mine in the world, through a passage control to a Regularity at Sin Nombre. I drove; it was short, windy, and rough. Seven seconds late so we are through, that was ok. The next passage control was at Tocopilla, We were at the sea (the Pacific Ocean). On to the next Regularity at Desvio, Ken is driving. A slow set speed of 45 km/h. It needed to be – very rough, steep and windy with bluffs that were very close to the edge. It was long but Ken nailed it, just one second late. Only eight seconds lost for the day. Then a transit up the coast to the Hotel at Iquique. There is just no life in this desert. No bugs on the windscreen, no birds, no flies, no mozzys. Not one blade of grass or scrubby bush, just rocks and sand and heat.
After leaving the Hotel it was a short transition to a track where Ken did his now usual magic. Then a climb back into the Atacama Desert to a time check at a historic saltpetre mine at Humberstone. It was an interesting day in the desert. Just hot, brown, grey and tan. Rocks and sand. Hurter Chile is not a pleasant place, why anybody would like to live here I do not know. Poverty and subsistence living. We reached the Hotel at Arica in good time so all time points ok. We are on a beach Ken went swimming!
Day Twenty started early at 5.30am so the rally could be at the border at 7.30am, which was 5.30am Peru time. The border crossing took forever with long lines to get out of Chile. Not only is there the usual immigration and customs but you have to export the car and then import the car into Peru so it took about three hours. As we finally got all the documentation correct with the four stamps on the release paper the day from hell started.
At the final barrier the car stopped and we had to be pushed through. We finally got started and proceeded to the first test about 20 km at a track. As the car was not going well at all we waited to be last to run the track. Ken got around ok but at the finish line the car just stopped. We pushed it under some shade, it’s 11 am by this time and getting hot. The sweeps came along to help. I will not go into the detail of the next two hours but it included things like removing the tappet cover to check valve clearances. During all this time the distributor was eliminated as we had replaced it on about Day Three. Finally a check of the points showed that they were too close, readjusted, the car started, and we were away!
We decided to follow the route in the hope we could catch up time but by about 40 km along the coast we were down to about 40 km/h. The sweeps arrived, we knew that our troubles had to be in the distributor so off with the cap to find points all out and fine metal all around. Out with the old distributor, fitted it and wham we were back in business. Big lessons learned. We are now over three hours late.
We press on along the coast going north getting the car up to 120 km/h at times. Then we turn east and start the climb into the interior. It’s about 2 pm by now, just water and a fruit bar since 5 am. The climbs were long and hard, convoys of trucks traveling at 15 km/h blocked progress to the point that any hope of making up time was lost. As we started to approach Arequipa it started to get dark real quick. The route book showed a diversion for road works but they were not there so we carried on through the traffic. We got terribly lost, the Garmin would not pick up the Hotel or the street address. Just then we saw one of the Bentleys in the same situation as us. Both stopped at what looked like a convenience store and after three attempts found a taxi who knew where the hotel was to take us there. We were in a very dodgy part of town, back streets, massive pot holes, mad traffic, trying to follow the taxi and the Bentley. I got very aggressive road rage, on the horn, Ken with the spot light shining it into the eyes of barging traffic but after 30 minutes we finally made it just on 8 pm. A shower, some dinner and in bed.
A very hard day. This is an ENDURANCE Rally run by the Endurance Rally Association. So with two time checks and a passage control missed we will lose points!
Day Twenty-one we are back into it. Having had such a bad day yesterday we were now back in 28th position. Hero to Zero in one day. The objective is now to get us and the car to Lima. We will be conservative but be competitive if we can. The day started with a difficult exit from Arequipa, mad traffic and out into the desert we are starting to climb. Over the Zone de Vicunas pass at 4110 m, the car stopped once but we managed to get going again. There is a sweet spot at about a third to half throttle that works, so we try to keep it there. We make the time checks. We climb on and make it over the Lagunillas pass at 4528 m, we and the car are still going, many are not. On time at the next control. Some lunch and then a small Regularity test through a subsistence farming area. I drove and went ok, just 13sec early.
Back on to a rough road over another small hill and we stopped for fuel. We are up high now. I put my head down to talk to some people in another car and as I stood up straight felt a little dizzy. Ken took over and drove on towards Puno and Lake Titicaca. As we arrived we overshot a turning and had to turn back, a 9 out of 10 for disruption U turn was executed with me jumping out of the car to stop traffic. The hotel is on the shore and has panoramic views over the lake. Some people took a boat out to the reed islands but we opted to have a good look over the car after the events of the last days. Nuts missing and loose bolts on the back engine mounting replaced and tightened could have been a major problem if we had not found it. Ken and I are really tired. Altitude has an effect, in bed and asleep by 9.30 pm.
Day Twenty-two started with an easy exit from Puno. That was about to change. At about 40 km out we entered a town called Juliana and into the centre of a Sunday morning market! What chaos, it is difficult to describe – buses tuktuks, push carts, dogs, a convoy of rally cars, some overheating and stopping with bonnets up and doors open to the traffic chaos, hot Ford Falcons with their nascar engines all fouling up and having to rev them up as they would not idle. Lanes changing from one way to two way, just chaos on a grand scale, you could not have seen it any better it you had been in the middle of Calcutta. We got a gouge along the passenger side door from a tuktuk in the mallay. Finally we were through but were 12 minutes late at the control. Everybody was late.
On to a Regularity at Pico Mocco. It was a hill climb on tarmac so we decided to do it. You can only be 60 seconds late and the car was going in its sweet spot. Ken is driving; we were painfully slow up the climb over a minute late at the top so he set off downhill like a man possessed! I had a couple of tense moments but he gained time and came in at 26 seconds late. Transit on through time controls and the Abra La Raya pass at 4338 m to a pleasant lunch place and time control. A long transit over many speed bumps to the garage at Cusco and a shuttle to the hotel. What a hotel! Check out Hotel Monasterio. We are here for three nights, off to Machu Picchu tomorrow.
Just three rally driving days left until Lima.
After three nights in Cusco it’s back on the road.
Day Twenty-five was always going to be tough, 664kms through the Andes. This was a transition day with only two passage controls and no time controls. Cusco to Nazca. We started out at 6.45am. The climb out of Cusco was difficult but ok after the car had warmed up and we were out of the city. The first two hours were quite magic, the high Andes at its best, you felt you were driving on top of the world. At 157 kms out we climbed over the Abancy pass at 4011 m; it was slow progress but we got over.
On to the first passage control at 295.67 kms. We tried the coffee but it was undrinkable so we started out for the next climb, this time to 4552 m. We climbed most of the way at 3500 rpm in second gear doing 39 km/h but were down to first for the last km at the top, the car just made it. We thought that was it but as the day wore on we had many more climbs. At times the Garmin screen was 90% yellow as it showed switchback after switchback. There were high plateaus with about 20km of relatively straight road and then you drop down into a valley only to climb out on the other side. The day started at 3380 m, got up to 4552 m, and finished at 303m. One of the navigators monitored the climbs all day and says added together we climbed over 5000 m. After the second passage control we had an ice cream to celebrate and carried on, starting to lose altitude now, to drive to the hotel at Nazca at 6.00pm; 11.5 hours of the most demanding driving of the whole rally. Many of the cars did not make it until after 9pm. Luckily the traffic was light and bugger, I hit a pig, it was a real thump, it was a small one, I saw it roll away and get up in the rear vision mirror so just carried on. There is a small modification to the front number plate! It is now bent around the front bumper.
Day Twenty-six was always going to be a slower day and yes we needed it. Many took an early flight over the famous Nazca lines, we along with many others decided that a look from an observation tower about 20 km north of the town of Nazca would do. It was interesting but I think over rated. Many who went on the flights were of the same opinion.
Then to the last Regularity of the rally at Rio Grande. I was to drive. It was a short hill climb on tarmac. We were third in line to start when an MGC GT that was just about to start burst into flames. The driver and his wife ran from the car thinking that it would blow up at any moment. The Marshall jumped in his ute to move it away from danger. Everybody was panicking; the paint was blistering on the bonnet. Ken said the fuel tank is in the back, it’s not going to blow up. I said grab our extinguisher! He did and ran to the car; luckily the bonnet was blocked up 30mm to help cool the engine so Ken was able to get the extinguisher nozzle in the gap. After a good minute of spraying the fire was out. Meantime the owner was in the back of the car trying to save their passports. So Fireman Ken saved the day! He was shouted many drinks at the bar later. The sweeps rebuilt the hoses and carb linkages and the MG was running about two hours later.
So back to the Regularity. Just as we started a van passed us and then held us up for some time as we approached a tunnel and I had to follow it through the tunnel. I got around it and pressed on. I was only 12 seconds late at the finish which was good in the circumstances. The car is running the best it has been all rally. Back at sea level and fuel without alcohol. We drove on north through the Grand Tablazo de lca desert with a strong westerly wind blowing sand across the road to arrive at the Paracas Resort Hotel early afternoon. Ken and I went swimming in the pool, my second swim of the event, very rash for me. After dinner the sweeps held their traditional sweep’s car park party with drinks served from the back of their utes.
The final day saw us starting at position 16 so that meant 9.16 am start. Onto the Pan American Sur highway north towards Lima. Time and Passage controls to keep us on the ball, we made one by only two minutes. I was driving, Ken was saying ‘press on Garry’, so there was some aggressive driving around the trucks and buses. Ken then took over for the transit to a track test about 40 km from Lima. He did well on both the long and the short track. Then I took over for the drive to the finish in Lima. Again a bit of what we now call rally drive, weaving our way through the traffic, using the horn to attack the barging taxis and buses.
On time at the finish and on to the arch and chequered flag outside the Lima Country Club at about 2 pm. There were tankards of cold beer, big crowds, laurel wreaths and champagne showers for the winners. We finished in position 22nd. Both pleased to have made the finish and sorry that it is all over. Of the 50 cars that started in Buenos Aires 38 had made it to Lima. In 27 days we had experienced temperatures from 41C to 5C. We had climbed a total of 62940 m and descended 66311 m over a total of 9989 kms. Passed over the Andes three times, gone through four border crossings and achieved our main objective, to make it to Lima! The presentation dinner was held in the hotel with a fantastic video taken throughout the event, speeches and presentations.
Finally, would you do it again? Yes, at the drop of a hat.
Garry and Ken
Copyright images in this post with thanks to Rally photographer Gerard Brown.