Dash to Marakesh and a little of the away back. From Keith Clements.
Some of you have seen bits of the film at the A.G.M., so here is the start of the book. The film is available for hire from the club.
I intend to recount the tale in no particular order over a few episodes. Amy had intended writing her account in freshers week when she returned to Uni. but the dreaded polluted water made her sick for a couple of weeks. My dose ruined my enjoyment of the holiday with Jenny, Moises and Meli on the return through Spain and Portugal as well as most of the social life during the event in Morocco.
The overall and class results.
We finished 38th overall out of 67 that finished and 10 that did not. There were also 13 pre-war cars that were not in the general classification.
We were in the historic sports car class (pre-65 and up to 1650 cc) and came 7th. There were 4 MGAs and 3 Porsche 356s in the class. The winners ( John Buffum and Neil Wilson) drove a 1964 Porsche. The Stretton/Rood MGA finished one place and 13m36s ahead.
I received a cup as an Ancient Marathoneer along with Willy Cave. I do not know if it was a hint to stop while we were ahead or as recognition of the Classic Marathons we have done. But at least I got a pot!
Regularity Test results.
The first test was a baptism of fire for Amy. The Halda distance-measuring device failed just before the start. Luckily it was simple to fix, but it adds to the panic. Two kilometers into the test and a sensation like a front puncture lost 4 minutes while I discovered the front suspension lower trunnion had popped out of its location in the chassis. Driving with little steering or brakes we overtook the 3 cars that had passed us and slid into the time control late by 18 seconds. Some of the overtaken maneuvers on the single-track gravel road were not intentional but caused by lack of braking! Horn and lights sufficed to push a big Rover, with mother-in-law sitting in the back, out of the way.
Some hard standing just after the finish allowed me to examine the damage. Amy stopped every car and asked if they had a big bolt. The 6 inch bolt had sheared but not dropped out. A local (French) farmer took it home and welded it up. The rally service crew arrived and we decided to get to the main control at the end of the day where the sheared bit in the trunnion could be removed more easily. The wishbone was chained into position while we drove in the dark for 30k. Amy went to find the hotel while we struggled to drill out the stud in situ. After two stud removers broke, we decide to try to remove the wishbone. Yes, it can be done with engine in place but you have to take off the clutch pedals and rod and expend a lot of energy and expletives. At midnight, having drained the drill batteries and unable to get the thread clean to accept the bolt, we were close to giving up, when a man and a dog offered in sign language to help. Off went Tony from the service crew with the wishbone and trunnions. One hour later he returned with a newly tapped metric hole and bolt repaired by this French ex-Paris/Dakar mechanic. We were not finished, as it is not at all easy replacing the torsion bar with the engine in place. Six tired hands and three very tired brains achieved it. Amy had somehow relayed some instructions to me on how to find the hotel that was across the other side of town. I somehow recalled them and crawled into bed for a couple of hours of sleep. Up before dawn for a spanner check and then a 200k drive to the first time control. Welcome to rallying, daughter! All that and we only lost 18 seconds on the day.
Amy was now determined to make up for it. With good navigation, team-work and my experience of pacing the car we were joint first on the next 8 tests and did not receive any penalties.
The tenth test, called Timlaine, on the edge of the Sahara and Atlas Mountains was a long steep twisting climb. We dropped 15 seconds but remarkably came 6th. Josephine Jupiter was really singing sweetly.
The eleventh test, on the main road from Ourzazate to Marakesh, was a 5 part regularity. We cleaned four of the stages but were stuck behind a lorry and coach on one, only overtaking them 200m before the time control. Amy did well to calculate the error and get us into the next control on time. Another 18 seconds lost to penalties.
We were joint first again on the next test. On the final test (13) at Tichka Moyen Atlas we lost another 18 secs. I do not remember why, although I do know overdrive had gone because of some kind youths that took great pleasure in putting a boulder on a yump. Luckily I had fitted a sump guard which took the main force and shattered the bolder. However, fragments flattened the exhaust and two chassis tubes a bit, cracked the exhaust manifold and caused a short in the electrics that operated the overdrive and temperature gauges. I have looked at Amys notes during the test and, as far as I can see, we were on time. Perhaps Amy should have queried it, but she was well tired, and so were the marshals, and it would not have altered the result. She did manage to have three queries upheld and one denied though, her legal phrasing paying dividends.
So what does this mean. We came 9th overall on the tests. Some result for a novice navigator.
The special road sections.
The first at TCS 13 (120k from Tangier) was cancelled because many people stopped to help an accident involving and Aston and a local Mercedes that had ignored the marshals suggestion and driven against the rally traffic. It was a very tortuous gravel road with little to prevent you from taking the quick way down. Luckily the cars hit head on and did not take a glancing blow. Even so, it was a great stage that taxed the car, driver and nerves of the co-pilot. The brakes started to fail so I had to slow down (a bit). I must find out whether it was the linings, the silicone fluid, the ambient temperature or the unventilated wheels. I will have to go back and do it again. From memory I think we were about 20 seconds down, but I do not know what position we would have come. That was Amys first special stage! How she held together I do not know. We all drive knowing the road is not closed and this was the only collision apart from a Daimler that scraped a side of a lorry.
On the next stage (TCS14) we lost 37 seconds over 17k and came 31st. Once again the brakes needed coaxing to work. Then at TCS16 we lost 4m3s over 19k and was 25th and at TCS 18 was 34th with 5m10s of penalties over 24k. Frightening roads with lots of work for the co-driver on the horn characterised these stages. The front wheel was put in the gullies at the side of the road to assist cornering as the cars in front had covered the road in marbles of gravel. Plenty of stone throwing youths through this hash growing area claimed bodywork, windows and worst of all the head of Tom Noor in his Mercedes. It is a shame that such brilliant roads have these dangers. The next day we threw sweets at them so they scrabbled for them rather than attack us.
TCS 23 was the desert stage where I lost 4m45sec probably because it took me some time to realise that the faster you go across the rough desert piste the smoother it is. The danger is that when you are flying you do not know where you are going to land. With pot-holes you could sleep in and ridges that send you into orbit, more than four cars ran out of luck and left their exhausts or suspensions in the desert. Navigation was also difficult with lots of dust and nothing more than bushes to recognise as turning points. The stage was postponed from the previous day because of a sandstorm that also stranded Moises and Meli Escola overnight in the Café de Sud on the edge of the desert. More of them later.
TCS 28 was the very rough 44k piste. The organisers set an easy time but it still took it out on you and the car. 13 cars failed to finish (or probably attempt this stage). We completed the section with 15minutes to spare and time to empty and fill. Also it allowed us to clean the windscreen that was muddy after splashing through the wadis that had filled during the storm the previous day. Good to do now as these pistes are rapidly being tarmaced. The rough roads did not help the many that were now suffering from the Ifrane adulterated bottled water.
The last competitive stage of the rally was TCS 35 through the Foret de Cedres, 21k of tarmac and gravel left by the preceding cars. There were a couple of drivers who lost it. We past a Cortina that had just extradited itself from the rock wall. I was missing the overdrive that gave me extra speed out of corners. The video shows us sliding around a corner, the commentary deriding the Jups handling. Well, I had seen the camera and, anyway, we only lost 25 seconds and came 14th on that stage. But I will check the suspension out as it was a bit skittish. Amy did well, telling me how far I was down every k, sounding the horn and acting as co-driver on the right handers. No chance of calling bends with Moroccan maps! That was the most enjoyable stage but the experience vote must go to TCS 23 or 28. -------------------Next month the road sections.
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