Sunday 5 February 2012

Rally Reflections

A few days have passed now since the end of the Rally in the great City of Cape Town, and what a rally it was. The 4 hectic weeks seemed to go by in a blur so I was pleased with myself that I took the time to keep up with my blog - at least as much as I could due to work on the car and technical difficulties with the Blackberry.

I suspect others are the same but I'm taking some time to recover, lots of dozing and I'm still dreaming of the rally - mostly of breaking down near the end. After 2 days of sightseeing in Cape Town and sending the car safely home in its container back to the UK, it was back to reality. The rally seemed to create a cocooned little world for all those taking part; people could leave their normal lives behind them for a time. When families arrived in Cape Town, people changed; back to their home norm I suppose. As I found when I returned, it is difficult to explain to family and friends, what it was like and the experiences we had all shared. On the day after I returned to the UK, I had to travel up to London in the commuter slog to the City in freezing conditions. Africa seemed like a world away yet only a few days before, we had been bashing through Namibia and South Africa in 40 degrees heat.

Time to add a few postscript reflections to my blog on the 4 weeks to end Jan 2012.

Firstly, on our choice of car and how it stood up. Our (non-turbo) Subaru Impreza 2.0R was, I think a good choice. It is well-built from the factory with all lines inside the shell which is always an advantage. It has a rally heritage and strengthening parts such as mounts are readily available. I had no idea how much punishment it would have to take and neither had Gawaine and Jason at Langworth Motorsport in Lincoln who did most of the prep work. In retrospect, we should have put extra beefing up on the rear turrets (though the damage was caused by putting on longer but too soft springs in Nairobi). The guys did a good job though on a tight budget and when we lost some of our guards (like the wheel arch liners on a heavy dip in the final days), we saw that extra extra guarding had been placed over vulnerable areas like the underside of the fuse box.

The simple monoshock Bilstein dampers lasted well to the end and we were one of only a few cars that finished on mostly original dampers. We only changed one rear insert in Nairobi due it going slightly soft but it was still fine as a spare.  The fronts remained on the car for the whole rally, though the left one more of less gave up the ghost on the final day, causing us to slide off on the penultimate section (that's my excuse anyway).  As we found out from African Rally Championship contender Ashish Patel in Zambia, the exact same dampers were recommended to him by Prodrive for his Subaru as simple and effective for African conditions.

I would probably add a limited slip diff to the rear to give some more traction on rough tracks and would look to improve the brakes which were standard - 2 pot fronts and single pot rear. With the weight we were carrying, it was a lot to ask of them and pad wear was heavy - even with competition pads. They never completely gave up the ghost though and the Mintex pads did their job. I would also take out the air con radiator to give maximum airflow over the main radiator. I'm sure this was causing our cooling problems in the heat and altitude as the air con radiator became blocked with mud and insects. When we took it out in the last week (with the help of Simon from car 28), we were able to push hard in the hills without problems (just as it hit 42 degrees).

When we finished the final section on the last day, the car really wasn't capable of driving another  competitive mile - impeccable timing but a close run thing. Our front brake pads were down to the metal (we had used all our spares), a rear wheel bearing was about to give up the ghost and one front damper had gone with the other was well on its way out. Our tyres were also just about shot (but 4000 miles is not bad for a set of gravel tyres) and the whole car creaked, groaned and rattled due to play in suspension bushes and top mounts. To cap it all, our fuel gauge started to play up. We had put 30 litres in to raise it to 3/4 for the final morning sections and run to fuel. We later discovered it had just over a quarter of a tank in it as it ran out 50km after the last competitive section.  Perhaps that made the difference as we were running a lot lighter than we thought. The Land Rover of Nick and David (many thanks to them) towed us the few miles to the nearest fuel (interesting doing a twisty downhill road section without any power steering or working brakes) and we were up and running again - limping to Cape Town.

A word on tyres. I made a lot of the Continental Vanco 6 tyres we used in Europe and to Nairobi in my earlier blogs. They were well suited to most conditions as a compromise and seemed impervious to any puncture in the tread pattern, even when negotiating the unreal rocky Marsabit road. We put commercial sealant in them, but there was no evidence that any puncture had been sealed. The only puncture we had was in the sidewall and that was their vulnerability when pushing hard and with the car sliding more. I think we made the right decision in changing to Africa spec Dunlop gravel tyres in Nairobi and we wouldn't have won had we not done that. The sidewalls of the Dunlops were extra-reinforced to the extent that tyre fitting machines struggled to get them on/off. It allowed us to push hard at the end without fear of punctures. Oddly though, they seemed more vulnerable to tread pattern damage and we had a couple of slow punctures that were fortunately easily repaired overnight.

Looking at the event itself and the organisation, I was told before the event that Philip Young's rallies were a bit different to those we had done in the past like London-Sydney. Philip's vision is to run events more like they used to run in the 60's and 70's - with World Cup competitive sections on open roads (though usually isolated and little used).  The timing of the competitive sections is designed to maintain competition but not compromise safety and this is always a difficult balance for the organisers.  Set slack target times and the competition will be restricted as crews will clean the sections. Set them too tight and it can develop into a road race. Overall, I think they found the right balance and most crews kept a bit in reserve. The pace in the final few days did pick up as we fought for the lead with Andy (and I heard that the South African officials were slightly concerned at the pace) but there were no local accidents and I didn't feel unsafe at the pace we drove (and Joost had cleared most of the locals away by the time we arrived). Some application of penalties was a little difficult to understand at times relative to the published rules but the idea was to keep everyone involved and competing and not discourage them by 2 hour penalties for getting stuck in Greece or Egypt.  Still the penalties on occasion left little advantage to those who had pushed their cars hard through rough sections and sustained damage rather than not bothering and taking the penalties so I think they were too generous at times.

Philip himself is an enigmatic and slightly eccentric character who was determined to see this rally through after the cancellation the year before. It was a mammoth exercise in financial planning, perseverance and organisation to see it through and he deserves great credit. As he said himself though at the prize giving (and all the more reason to do the rally), this could be the last such long distance international event through Africa. The financial commitment and planning is very risky with so much regional political instability. The passage through Egypt for instance would be unlikely to happen now - just a few weeks later due to further troubles.

What were the most interesting countries to pass through? All had something different to offer but Ethiopia and Namibia stood out for me. The support from the Ethiopian public on the rally route was unbelievable - thousands lined the roads several deep in all towns and villages over 3 days from one end of the country to the other to cheer us through. Policemen and women manned each junctions and snapped to salute when each car passed. I'd never seen anything like it and neither had any of the other crews. The country itself was also beautiful and in most places green and lush. They were obviously grateful for the rains this year.

Namibia was a contrast, massive by European standards yet with a population of only 2m. It is more arid  yet beautiful in its own way but is criss-crossed with wide gravel roads (think 4-lane highway wide) which made for some great driving. We did a 600km day (one of the most challenging of the rally) - all on gravel roads and maintaining a relentless pace to stay on time.

South Africa also deserves a mention. Cape Town had all the amenities we needed to end such an exhausting marathon event and the twisty competitive sections for the last 2 days were fantastic - better still that they were suited to our car.

Of course we saw some heartbreaking poverty on our travels. Gerard the event photographer took some great photos of people en route. Some obviously had little or nothing and it is easy to see how a shortage of water for a time can have such a calamitous effect on daily lives so quickly. Most had little or nothing in reserve as far as I could see in some of the outlying rural areas we passed through. We did see lots of schools and happy school children but we also saw lots of school-age children begging and selling fruit for pennies by the side of the road. The sight of a young boy of 5 or 6 leading his very elderly blind and disabled grandfather or great grandfather round those passing through the Kenya/Tanzania border begging for a few pennies was deeply saddening. Emaciated, dressed in rags and looking ill they made a truly pathetic sight. What life chances does that small boy have, attached to his elderly relative and begging in the street? Of course, I gave them something as did others and a cynic might say they were just very good beggars but I don't think so. We were just passing through on the trip of a lifetime. Those we passed are there every day eking out a living as best they can.  In some areas we passed through, life expectancy is under 40. It made raising funds for African Revival which is addressing just these issues by bringing schools to poor rural areas to encourage self-help, all the more poignant. Without knowing that we were making just a little contribution (and hopefully difference) to such problems, it would have been much harder to witness.

Now, the crews on the event. What a mixed bunch. From wealthy businessmen to keen and talented enthusiasts on the tightest of budgets with us somewhere in the middle. All sharing a few things in common; a sense of adventure, a love of driving cars fast and a keen competitive spirit which had all crews fighting hard for positions wherever they were in the placings. This is what drew the crews together and all helped others out if they could. A genuine cameradie developed across all teams who shared the experience of the driving, the conditions, the hotels (some great and some not so) and mucking in to help each other out if they could.

The crews of the classic cars had the hardest job as their cars required the most regular work. Some looked exhausted well before Cape Town. We only had one late night and that was enough for us. Some had late nights repairing and rebuilding for several nights running. When the Escort of Ben and Mike broke a stub axle, it took them 2 days to fabricate a new one locally to get them back on the road. They then had to drive 2 days to catch up the rally down the notorious Marsabit road, some of it at night on dangerous roads.

There were 3 classic Datsuns on the event - 2, 240Zs and an Aussie P510. Grant Tromans in one of the 240Z's was relatively new to classic rallying being an accomplished circuit racer. He was accompanied by Simon, his mechanic and navigator who kept the car together with his mobile workshop and spares. In fact Simon kept several cars going at different times and helped us along the way too for which we were very grateful. Grant also gave us some of his valuable advice on matters such as our cooling problems and was always right so I owe him a beer too. I think they both learnt a lot about an event like this and were a pleasure to do the event with.

The other 240Z was crewed by Alex and David who just kept going after their car was seriously damaged in an accident in Greece. They flew it to Jeddah to catch up and had problem after problem. We saw them on several occasions having work done on the car in several countries. On one notable occasion, we shared the services of a roadside welding shop on the Kenyan border with Tanzania when we were getting our strut turrets welded up and they seemed to be getting most of their car welded. They were always good company and have raised an immense amount for charity. The target for the car doing events is £1m and they will keep doing events until they achieve it - though I suspect they might need a new body shell to do that after this event. An absolutely brilliant effort for them to reach Cape Town and they just would not be discouraged.

The Aussie P510 of Mark Pickering and Dave Boddy was a quick car well driven. But they had accepted penalties at the start for non-period suspension and had to run down the field (seeding being done on placings rather than speed). They were therefore disadvantaged by being behind slower cars.  Had they been higher up the seeding as they should have been, they would have been contenders as their car ran faultlessly. They backed off at the end to make Cape Town such were their penalties.

The classic Peugeot guys were the heroes of car repair on the event. Most of them had some of our 2-pack epoxy filler at various times holding together some part of their cars. Yet they all reached Cape Town and looked great all lined up as a team. Some of their crews looked fit to drop. Similarly Owain and Peter in their Mercedes suffered a series of problems in what could have been a winning car had they had more time for testing to iron our potential problems.

The lesson for me from this (similarly in the last London-Sydney event incidentally) is that modern cars are built much better now than cars were built 30 years ago, they are stronger and more reliable.  We did nothing to ours except bolt on Bilstein dampers, Eibac springs and underguarding. Engine, ecu and drive train were totally standard as were the basic suspension layout and brakes. Admittedly, if we had had an electrical problem with all the Canbus electronic complexity of a modern car, we would have been in serious trouble but we had no such problem. It ran as sweet as a nut throughout. Perhaps it's time for rally organisers to run an event for ordinary modern cars in the same spirit of the 1970's - such as N3 2 litre fwd production class. After all, the World Cup rallies of the 1970's didn't attract cars from the 1940s, they were a rugged test for modern cars of that era. Perhaps the problem is that it might not be much of an endurance test. Most modern cars would last the course and the pace may be too fast. But it might well get manufacturers interested again in long distance rallying rather than WRC high speed sprints in multi-million pound hand-built cars that rightly appear as different from production cars to the public as a Bugatti Veyron to a Ford Fiesta.

The modern 4x4 crews had an easier time. Whilst obviously not rally cars in the usual sense, their cars were built for rough terrain and being diesel turbos, chipped for extra grunt and with rally-raid suspension, were a good 'low maintenance' choice for an event like this which was very rough in parts. Whilst heavy, for hillclimbs and at altitude, they had an advantage relative to the asthmatic low-slung non-turbo petrol cars. Andy Actman in particular drove his hard and well consistently throughout the event and could easily have won had the final sections been better suited to his car. The steady and experienced hand of Andy Elcomb as his navigator was also a great benefit.

Rod (Tell Laura I Love her) Taylor and Ian Morgan also had a good run in their Toyota until they rolled it towards the end. They were back up and running in a few hours and said their car ran better afterwards. Stuart and Colin in the no 19 Nissan (and our team mates along with Andy), were also steady performers. Admittedly, they could have gone faster had Stuart not spent so much time driving with one hand whilst filming with the other but they got to Cape Town in good order all the same.

Owen Turner in his MG was the best driver (possibly the most naturally gifted driver on the event) and chief mechanic for the MG team which kept him busy for most of the time. The smaller fwd MGs were not best suited to some parts of the event (soft sand in Egypt or the moonscape of northern Kenya) but they just kept going changing parts as they went. Jane and Jill in the Maestro (both highly experienced) also had some trials to put up with but were very quick when the car and conditions allowed. If any car had vulnerabilities, this event found them out and it only took a couple of problems to push a car several places down the order and make it difficult to recover. By the end of the event only Andy in his Toyota and our car had not had any major problems or penalties and that made all the difference.

A special mention for Tim and Dominic in their 1400 MG - not the most obvious choice of car for the conditions we experienced and they had their share of suspension and other problems. But, they just kept on going to reach Cape Town.

I have referred in my earlier blogs to the beautiful Tuthill 911 of Joost and Jacques - 'the professionals'. They even had Frances Tuthill himself along to look after the car; himself a real gentleman of rallying and experienced competitor in his own right.  They were clearly the fastest crew in the event in the 911 but lost a lot of time in the lanes of Kent on the first night and were further penalised for non-period suspension which made it impossible for them to catch up unless the leaders had problems. Still, to hear Joost flying off the line like a rocket every day and attacking the competitive sections was a real pleasure. They were great sportsmen too, helping us without question with a puncture to ensure we didn't lose any time. Their team also carried their 'rations' and many a night we would be welcomed into the car park with a gin and tonic and nibbles after a hard day. After they saw how much gear we were carrying, they even offered to carry our sand spade which they did for the last 10 days. I'm sure they found the event frustrating and not quite what they expected but the event was much better with them in it. I can also thank them heartily for the champagne we sprayed at the end.

Then I have to mention Penny, the 1923 Vauxhall 23/60 vintage car, piloted by father and son Max and James.  Although obviously not designed for speed Penny was built for the unmade roads of the 1920s and was unfazed by most of the road conditions thrown at it. We drove alongside them on the road to Marsabit and Max and James were quite happy at the same speed as us taking full advantage of their longer suspension travel in their open-air cockpit. They had planned to drive Penny back up the route to visit some of the places we had zoomed past but a broken diff in the Cape Town Hotel car park (of all places after nearly 10k miles) put paid to that for now. The car attracted attention wherever it went and even by the police in South Africa after a late night jaunt with a few on board threatened to put James in a cell for the night.

I think I said early on that this was an event for navigators and Bob was one of the best on the event if not the best. Even though I had no road rally experience for Kent, Bob more than made up for it. As shown with other crews, losing a lot of time in Kent effectively put them out of the running. We lost 3 minutes only when stuck behind slower traffic but it still put us up with the front runners which meant we were not affected by later incidents of getting stuck in mud or sand behind others. Bob is a key reason we did so well on the event. We were mostly in the right place at the right time when it counted.

So the end of an amazing event of excitement and adventure which we were privileged enough to win by a whisker. What a great experience and a great bunch of people to meet. It will take quite some time to re-acclimatise to ordinary life again and then sort out what I can do with a very bruised standard 2 litre Subaru Impreza. Maybe I'll put it back onto ebay as 2 careful owners and less than 30k miles....


Monday 30 January 2012

A few Photo's..

Arriving winners in Cape Town

Brake pads after final competitive section. 

Sunday 29 January 2012

Day 29 - To the Wire

Day 29 - To the Wire

I'm tapping away having arrived in Cape Town - just. Better still, we arrived in the lead and have won by 36 seconds after 29 days of competitive rallying. Pretty tight. 

The first section this morning was always going to be the decider after we took a 3 second lead overnight. This was because it was to the second so if Andy could grab back the lead and could then clean the next 2 sections (which were to the minute - and which he did), we couldn't take any time back and he would win. We had to throw everything at the first section to prevent him re-taking the lead. Despite the creaky state of the car, we had to go for it which is what we did. When he heard at the end of the section that we had been 33 seconds faster than Andy, he must have realised that he was up against it. If we cleared the next 2 sections, we were home and dry. 

The first part of the second section was a sharp mountain climb followed by a rapid decent. Everything was going to plan until the front left damper let go and we lost grip and slid off on a slippy bumpy right-hander and over some rocks. We reversed out (thank goodness for 4x4) and we shot down the rest of the hill (brakes by now fading badly). Bob said we could still clean this if we really go and that's what we did, just making it. 

Straight into the second section with a damaged damper and weak brakes which became a blur of revs, sliding round bends (with extra care due to the damper) and flying over crests. When we arrived at the control within the allocated time (ie cleaned it), we were congratulated. We had done it. Andy was one of the first to congratulate us; another example of his (and Andrew his co-driver's) sporting approach to our battle for the lead. 

What we didn't know was that our fuel gauge was faulty and was showing more fuel than we really had. We had put in 30 litres to top-up to 3/4 the night before and now it showed half. 

50km later we ran out of fuel, with the gauge still showing half a tank. Fortunately, the Land Rover of Nick and David was right behind and we got a tow to a nearby petrol station. Because a few car had passed us, the word at the next control was that we were in trouble and were fighting to fix our car. We were able to give everyone a cheery wave as we arrived at the control well within our allocated time. 

The car now though was struggling in several ways. Both front dampers were damaged, the front brake pads were worn through to metal and a rear wheel bearing was making an horrific noise. The drive to the final control of the rally on the Cape Town sea front was the longest 25km I have ever driven. Owain and Peter in the no 20 Mercedes kindly offered to follow us in (indicative of the real camaraderie that has developed between crews) and we finally made it unassisted to a champagne welcome at the Table Bay Hotel. 

We are here another 2 days so I plan to give a few more considered thoughts about the event which has been just a fantastic experience, visiting some amazing places yet being one of the most arduous marathon motorsport events ever devised since the 1960s. It was a privilege just to take part in such an historic event. The fact that we won it (only earlier today after a few scares) is still sinking in. I am now dropping off the sleep as I type......

Saturday 28 January 2012

Penultimate Day- Namibia

Wow - what a couple of days. Yesterday, was a mammoth day of gravel driving in the Namibian desert where 4 lane highway wide gravel roads criss-cross vast areas of desert and farmland. Today, more of the same split by passing into South Africa for 2 fabulous competitive sections encompassing fast open sections with very tight and twisty parts including a downhill slalom run overlooking long drops and with failing overheating brakes!

After 2 full days of chasing Andy Actman in his Toyota (who has fought tooth and nail for every second), we finally caught him today after throwing our all at the last 2 twisty sections of day 28 or 29. We picked up 1 min 19 to lead by a wafer thin 3 seconds and with 3 more competitive sections to come in the morning both Andy and I will be going flat out in cars that, after 4 weeks of hard driving, are squeaking, groaning, knocking, rattling and rolling. Either of our cars could expire tomorrow (and neither of us would be particularly surprised) but both of us will be going for it in what is the most exciting ever finish to a long distance marathon event. After 4 weeks of rallying over 14,000 km, the 2 leading cars are just 3 seconds apart going into the final day and both are going for the win. 

Andy is perfectly capable of taking back time when the conditions suit and the vital first section favours his car; a rough surface hill climb where mid-range grunt and good suspension travel come into their own. We are going to have to peddle very hard to hold him off as we can't match his engine power or ability to climb uphill over rough surfaces. 

One way or another, we'll be in Cape Town tomorrow afternoon and win or lose, we'll have given it our best shot on what has been a fabulous event. 

More to follow when I have more time to catch up with the last 2 days of highs and lows and give more considered reflections on events and what I might have done diff

Thursday 26 January 2012

Day 26 - Namibian Heat

A tough day with 300 miles, mostly on ranch gravel roads. These are mostly well graded and fast. 

After a 100km run-out it was into the first test, a fast section of long straights and the odd twisty bit. We dropped a few seconds from the target and Andy beat us by one second, so much of a muchness. I suspect we were faster on the twist bits and he on the straights with the benefit of his turbo. As were at 2000 metres and with temperatures already mid-20s by 8am and rising to 35, the Impreza was feeling a bit asthmatic on any climb. 

There followed 2 fast road sections (gravel roads) with fast average speeds to maintain which all the front-runners cleaned. 

After a spot of lunch and re-fill of petrol, it was off for more gravel tests. These were to an even tighter time and over twistier and hilly terrain. This usually is not our forte and we tend to get hammered on any hill-climb due to relatively high weight and modest power. In some parts, it was painful slugging up hills, by now in 35 degree heat. In order to get up the hills at any decent speed, it was essential to fly down the preceding downhill stretch as fast as possible to gain momentum and keep going flat out whatever was in the dip before the next rise began. Sometimes this was a sharp dip and sometimes a large muddy puddle a foot or so deep. There were also cattle grids at regular intervals and these had to be taken flat out whatever their state to keep momentum. Flat out in our struggling 2 litre meant no more than 80mph (fast enough for grid), though we might have hit 90 downhill. Still, we were airborne at regular intervals over the grids. 

We also had some overheating problems as did others in the relentless afternoon heat. Heat, altitude and hills don't mix well with small engined cars carrying too much weight. On further exploration, and pooling views from Grant and Simon in the Datsun, we decided to take out the air-con rad which had started to get blocked with mud and insects of a very colourful variety. Also, damage from small stones had blocked air-flow to the main cooling rad which sits directly behind it. At normal road speeds, there is no problem but in competitive sections when revs are higher, it always seemed to struggle and we often had to put the cabin heater on full to keep the engine temperature down. This meant running with the windows open, and we would get covered in dust, as we did today.  

The mod means, we no longer have aircon for the road sections, but we can live with that if we reduce the chances of engine damage. 

I was sure Andy must have been faster in his turbo diesel but seemingly he suffered as much as we did and we probably picked a little time up on the twisty sections in between the hills. That left us some 40 seconds closer to him, the gap now being 1min 24 with 3 days to go and all cars feeling the pressure and carrying the scars of 26 days of hard driving, including some of the roughest roads in the world.   

At the end of the day we arrived at Windhoek. We were so grubby and covered in dust as was everything in the car that we just had to get the car cleaned. Car washes here start the cleaning process with someone with a high pressure air hose blowing dust out of the car - and did it fly. It took several sessions to disperse it but worked a treat and a vacuum gets rid of the rest. Just a 3 hour spanner check of the car to look forward to and a few jobs to complete before dinner at 10.  

Tomorrow is perhaps the hardest day of the rally, starting at 6.30 with 850km, nearly all on gravel roads and some very tightly timed sections. 

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Day 25 - Into Namibia

A long drive today of over 1000km to Tsumeb in Namibia from Livingstone in Zambia. The Hotel we stayed at in Livingstone (Zambezi Sun) was fantastic and I would highly recommend it. 

1000km might sound like a lot but there were only about a dozen bends on the whole route - mostly an arrow straight empty road as far as the eye could see for hour after hour with the occasional village or town to top up with petrol and grab a drink.  Temperatures reached into the 30s again until we hit some heavy thunderstorms in Namibia to dampen everything down. 

I liked Zambia, mostly green and lush with likeable helpful people and I suspect some of the best holiday venues. 

The passage through the border into Namibia was pretty straightforward and not too busy. We had to be disinfected though as part of a vetinary scare. This was also repeated twice en route. It consisted of our wheels being sprayed and having to wipe our feet on a disinfected towel. 

We had hoped today to see some elephants near the road but we were told later that they usually appear only in the morning or evening when off to find a water hole. Despite signs warning of elephants for much of the way, we didn't see anything other than some baboons and a variety of colourful birds. 

As we drove further into Namibia, the landscape changed as more large scale farming became evident. I was told that some white farmers moved here from Zimbabwe when their farms were taken from them. 

Later, we moved into a hilly area surrounded by cultivated land and the wealth of the area seemed to become more apparent compared to the smaller villages of huts on the road from Zambia. More expensive cars on the road, better filling stations and better stocked road-side stores and fast food restaurants. The influence from South Africa seems clear here and even the Namibian Dollar shadows the Rand at 1:1. Indeed, the currencies seem interchangeable and you can spend either in shops. 

Tomorrow, we are back into serious competitive rallying with a punishing day of tight timing on Namibian gravel roads. 

Day 24 - Lusaka to Livingstone

A day's bash to Livingstone today as the temperature climbed into the mid 30s. 

We started the day with a trip to Ashish Patel's GM garage to give the car a once-over on a ramp and pick up a new rad cap. Really nice chap and couldn't do enough for us including showing us his own highly successful Impreza rally car. Lusaka itself seems to be a developing modern city with clean well-built buildings, plenty of business going on and polite and reasonably patient drivers (a real rarity in the Cities we have travelled through so far)

The 40km drive itself was uneventful through beautiful countryside down to the Zimbabwe border at Livingstone which sits on the magnificent Victoria Falls - a World Heritage Site. The Zambezi Sun Hotel is 5 minutes walk from the falls and is beautiful. The first shock was to see Zabras grazing in the Hotel grounds. There are also Impala and Giraffes. They are all wild and wander through. They even have crocs In the lake nearby and served croc stew as one of the dishes on offer for dinner. 

The falls themselves are simply stunning and at their most magnificent at this time of year. 

Tomorrow we have a 1000km day into Namibia. Kick-off at 6.30 and unlikely to arrive before 8pm. Then we have 4 really hectic days of competition to Cape Town on the 29th. This is going to be a real test to the finish with 13 World Cup competitive sections left and many long ones still to come to decide the result.