Rally of the Incas 2016
November 13 - December 9, 2016
NOVEMBER 14, 2016
Mar del Plata to Bahia Blanca
An early start today, but a relaxed one as well if that's not too much of an oxymoron. As the sun rose over the sea any hint of last night's tempest had disappeared and the sky looked promisingly blue.
Most crews took on a light Sheraton breakfast before firing up their engines and making the short hop to the Fangio Museum in the town of Balcarce. With a generous endowment from Mercedes this museum is internationally renowned for both the quality and quantity of its exhibits with many priceless racing cars from every era on display. But, in a case of all that glitters isn't gold, the Chevrolet Fangio Coupe rally cars stood out for many of us as a pair of mud encrusted jewels amongst the sea of shiny Mercedes, Ferrari and Maserati metal.
There's a great cafe within the museum as well and the busy baristas knocked out gallons of excellent coffee while the gift shop doubtless did a brisk trade in Fangio fridge magnets. Throughout our visit to the museum, one of Juan Fangio's nephews came along to see the cars and mingled with the crews. He showed a particular interest in the Morgan Plus 8 as he's building one for himself so he and Philip Macwhirter swapped email addresses and no doubt a few Malvern factory secrets.
Two hours had been allowed for the crews to visit to the museum and to soak up the atmosphere and once back on the road they soon got the chance to see if any of the Fangio magic had rubbed off on them with two tests at the kart track and the Autodromo Juan Fangio.
The tight and twisty kart circuit was first and served merely to sharpen the appetite for the second test on the much larger and altogether more grown up 4.5 km circuit which climbed to the dizzy height of 210 m. In an area as flat as this, believe me, this is worth mentioning. Later in the day however the Rally would hit a low point, literally, when we found ourselves at 17 m below sea level on the run in to Bahia Blanca.
With such a playground at their disposal it was hardly surprising that everyone made the most of their track time and Joost van Cauwenberge in his 2012 London - Cape Town Porsche 911 barked and howled his way from apex to apex while Gavin Henderson, no stranger himself to a circuit race, slotted his own Tuthill 911 pocket rocket with effortless grace from brake to throttle and back again. In both cars, their navigator wives had nothing else to do other than to hang on and enjoy the views. So keen was Joost’s wife Christine that she begged him not to drift too much through the many corkscrew turns as this would only cost him valuable time. Dirk de Groen and Alexandra Lespinasse meanwhile toured through the test in their 4x4 rental car. Their well travelled Mercedes Ponton being stuck somewhere on the high seas between here and the last hurricane.
Amid the watching crowd, three trackside bomberos nodded and clapped at all the right times and murmured muy bien almost continually.
This sort of morning is well known for bringing on a hunger, so the lunch at Necochea was a welcome sight and in the car park of the beachside restaurant the open car crews rounded off their meal by slathering on plenty of factor 50 sun cream and adjusting their headgear as the mercury climbed to 30°c.
The afternoon featured a long hot trek across miles of flat and sometimes swampy pampas with roads lined with clumps of eucalyptus trees shielding the isolated estancias from the worst of the wind though offering nothing in the way of shade to the traveller. Traffic was very light though and the road was good, so progress was rapid.
A passage control at Tres Arroyos - at the halfway point - gave the crews an ideal opportunity to compare their tan lines and other heat related afflictions. Philip Noble for example was heard complaining about certain dermal adhesions in the, ahem, gentlemen's department. Mary Healy admitted to nodding off briefly in the lovely white Peugeot 404 so she took the opportunity to take on a shot of coffee as well but sadly for Nicholas Pryor and Lesley Stockwell their tea drought continued ........
With little in the way of distractions on the dead straight highway, some of the crews took to looking at the wildlife and along the road today, our sharp eyed Clerk of the Course John Spiller had spotted a couple of good looking birds and was keen, along with another noted ornithologist Rikki Proffitt, to discover if anyone else had spotted the flightless rhea.
Tomorrow's another long day, the longest in fact and there’ll plenty to do and see along the way.