The 5th Classic Safari Challenge 2014

1st - 26th  May, 2014

Classic Safari Reports

Safari Diary from Mossel Bay - May 2

A crystal clear morning with an empty blue sky breaking across the top of Table Mountain pulled away the white table-cloth of misty haze just as the band started to play. The deep baritone bassoon-note of a six-cylinder Bentley engine firing into life, followed by the drumbeat V8s of  a brace of Ford Falcons joining in, started the 5th Classic Safari with a noisy send off.

Ahead are 24 days covering 8,000 kilometres of some of the finest driving roads on earth, stopping each night at top-notch accommodation which is either luxurious, quirky, eccentric and different from the norm, or, occasionally a night of all four. Conceived by the Endurance Rally Association's Martin and Sue Clark as something radically different, the Classic Safari blends great driving by day with culinary extravaganzas by night.

This the first day saw, us drive through dramatic passes with high cliff walls as a narrow road corkscrewed its way up from Cape Town and into the Karoo Region in time for lunch at Clarke's Restaurant (call it a cafe will earn you a remonstration from an owner who is not to be argued with. Mike Clarke sports a drooping moustache and rather looks like a gunslinger from Wyatt Earp's gang of deputies). The entire Rally rocked up here for lunch, hitched their horses by the water trough, and sat out on the boardwalk where a variety of different dishes had been prepared for us all.

The route today consisted of long gravel sections cutting between rolling hills, a rocky road that dived between tiny remote homesteads of whitewashed walls and corrugated-iron roofs. The route proved sensational in one outstanding respect - we drove for several hours and didn't meet another driver. Totally traffic-free, apart from a lonely biker on a big BMW. It was a long day in bright warm sunshine that ended on an uphill dirt hill limb for our first timed Medal Section, a timed to the second test.

Best performance was the red and white ex-London-Sydney 1800 Austin "Landcrab" of Bill Cleyndert and Jacqui Norman, which romped over the dirt with the engine screaming its nuts off due to its ultra-low gearing, pipping the replica 1964 Monte Carlo Ford Falcon GT, a rare car we have not seen before on an E.R.A. event. Dennis Varni had the big V8 growling so hard the sound echoed down the valley and could be heard cresting the summit by those lining up for the start of the test back down by the river.  Third best classic was the Porsche 911 of Peter Lovett. Best Vintageant was Bruce and Judy Washington in their Dodge D5, just beating Peter Lambert's Lagonda M45.

Our day ended overlooking the sea at Oubaai, back on the coast and a little further along from the sharks in Mossel Bay, in a luxury golf resort. Only one car is being worked on out in the carpark, the Ford Falcon estate of Larry Hursch has found the roads really do call for stronger suspension, and their car needs two shock absorbers. As it's a late start tomorrow the crew have time for some early morning shopping in town before we re-start. Car one, the Vintage Crossley, had a tough day today but is here in time for dinner, having suffered some overheating issues - the bonnet side panels can't be removed to aid airflow as someone has welded them permanently in place. We love this great old car - it was a Crossley that became the first-ever car to motor the length of Africa from Cape Town, taking 12 months to reach Egypt in 1924. That car's lady driver, Stella Court-Treat, arrived into Cairo with her clothes in rags. Today's Crossley crew of Andrew and Gina Long are dining in style here tonight - no sign of the period rags though.

Syd Stelvio


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