I'm relaxed, grateful, and optimistic: a quick recap of notable points from the past 18 days
- First night in Kent: superb performance marred by me clocking in late at the final control unnecessarily: pales into insignificance later!
- Ligurian Hills in Italy, a night rally from the 70's: high speeds on the hairpins, wet but not icy. Richard denies it, but I counted 5 cigarettes that he lit up in quick succession after the final control
- Greek Hills, got stuck in the mud briefly on an early section, then a truly superb top 3 placing on the icy mountain passes.
- Egypt, and we bogged down in deep soft sand in Snake Valley: decision error on tyres, we should have let them down to 15psi before the section: our Avons are prodigiously strong, and we now choose any tyre pressure we like irrespective of the terrain.
- Tedium through Saudi Arabia, but it was the only way south!
- Sudan, horrible 750km run south in the dark, pot holes, bit ridges in the road - not enjoyable.
- Ethiopia: wow! What a beautiful country, affable people, and perfect road surfaces: wish Suffolk County Council could emulate their tarmac.
Then came the World Cup Sections: around 100km of very coarse gravel surfaces where our lower wishbones sheared their shock absorber mounts. We removed the front shocks entirely, and did another 100km up & down the mountain passes until we came across a window frame artisan, who reinforced the wish bones, and we were on our way again. Sadly we missed the Addis Ababa control, giving us 60' of penalties.
- Having risen to 6th overall and 1st in class for 2 weeks, this knocked us down to 15th.
- Crossing into Kenya, and the beautiful tarmac became appalling potholed corrugated dirt tracks.
Then came the next big challenge: The Road to Mars (Marsabit in fact), described by Philip Young (who has driven the Peking/Paris route many times, as the worst road he has ever seen. Boy, was he right.
Richard drove with a wary ear for the front shocks over the horribly rough first section, getting ever quicker. As time progressed we were passed by 2 cars, then passed them a little later as they limped from damage, and went on to pass others. We were feeling good. Then came another 200km of rough to traverse, sometimes not managing 20kmh, lots of 2nd gear 1000rpm work.
But we hit tarmac eventually, and those 7hrs of pounding noise became gliding quiet, we had to press on to get into the Nairobi control, but we did clean it and arrived to the Belgians giving us a rousing reception: we had truly earnt it, and felt like heros.
Now today, there are many cars (it's 1830 right now) with many hours of work left to do, the Datsun 240's particularly, and Owen is working hard to get his brood of MGZR's back into a full compliment of shock absorbers and rear beam axle bushes.
We spent the day at Amazon Motors, who are the Volvo dealers in Nairobi. I cannot express how grateful we are to
Meshak, David & Nicholas
who charged us a paltry fee, and gave us ample workshop space & assistance to get the Camel back into full fighting fettle, before they cleaned and valet'd!
In detail, here's our worklist...
- Replace rear shock absorbers: this was an elective procedure, since the old units are perfect. All the rear suspension bolts were pleasingly secure.
- Remove front shock absorbers and check the repair/reinforcements: perfect.
Returned John Bayliss' unit to him which we had borrowed, and fitted the unit that we had had bushed from an old tyre section in Moyale (photo) - we shall have to keep an eye on that, but I suspect it's better than Bilstein's original.
- Replace the LH engine mount, which had failed entirely: the LandRover units are superb, but it was simply the nature of the terrain we have encountered.
- This had caused the fuel hose to the carburettors to split, so that was replaced and we should now have an untainted atmosphere in the car!
That's it, we're back in competition tomorrow with a taut 144 again: I think we've climbed our way back to 12th overall, and guessing 2nd in class: Alastair Caldwell's Porsche 912 is not unreachable!
But, I may have to return to Nairobi with a container later in the year, since Amazon Motors have a heap of obsolete stock including 140 rear wings, bonnets & doors, plus a rather perfect Jensen P1800...