London to Cape Town World Cup Rally 2012
The Long Way Down - Against the Clock
DODOMA, TANZANIA - JANUARY 20TH, 2012
Up the Jungle
It was Carry On Up The Jungle today, and what a carry on. It was hard and relentless.
The day started with a mud-bath, with all traffic pushed off the road for exclusive access by the Chinese road builders. The problem with that is that overnight rain combined with the rich red earth produces sticky mud-filled axle-clogging ruts.
First drama of the day was when the official diversion was blocked by a bus meeting a truck with both stuck fast. Some nimble footwork saw the word passed down the line to get up onto the new road - some got the message, mostly two-wheel-drive cars, and everyone made it to the first time-control. The road quickly climbs to 1,500ft, it's slippery in places with full-on hairpin bends thrown in, just like the old photos of the Stelvio Pass in Italy.
The dense woods give way to jungle where trees are trying to reclaim the road. Timekeepers - some, like Jim Allen, are dropped off for hours on end to work on their own - take in all sorts of strange noises from the surrounding trees while awaiting a rally car.
Today saw some intensive competition on a 100km World Cup Section - the Porsche 911 of car 45 made it look easy completing the day penalty free. Joost Van Cauwenberge in his green polo shirt and shorts turns a mountain climb and a string of time-controls through thick vegetation into a run to the shops.
Another penalty free crew today is the Grant Tromans and Simon Russell, Datsun 240Z. In Nairobi they fitted special modern shock absorbers because they were the only ones available. Non-period components on their classic category car incurred a 1 hour penalty but todays run suggests the modern shocks are working well.
At the head of the field both Andy Actman and Steve Blunt dropped a couple of minutes so they maintain their positions.
Behind, it's a grim struggle for survival. Mark Pickering and Dave Boddy are still out there... They were not at dinner tonight for the first time just because of a rubber band failure. They changed a perfectly good fan belt in Nairobi. Somehow, the old one shrunk - who out there has ever heard of that happening - or, the wrong belt found it's way into the boot of the Datsun. When the new belt failed, the old one would not go on. Andy Inskip suggested cutting out a rubber band from an inner tube, but this also failed - the Datsun from Australia was seeking a tow from a local truck.
We are also waiting for the Mercedes 280 of Owain Lloyd and Peter Scott delayed with broken steering.
Francis Tuthill had better luck. When the axle failed on his Toyota Hilux yesterday, he found a secondhand spare from a breakers yard... The crashed donor vehicle had only done 200 miles. The axle was quickly fitted ready for the morning restart.
For some, bad luck comes on an African spade... for others, it's served with a dollop of jam.