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London Lisboa 2019 - Day 5. Dax to Logrono

Stephen and Alexander Chick who started the day with a 33-second lead have now extended it to 37 seconds, even though a rear suspension breakage nearly ended their rally. They managed to wobble through the last test at the Circuit de Navarro kart track, then nursed the injured Austin Healey to the night halt in Logrono where technical assistance crews came to the rescue with a fix of wood and chains to hold the leaf springs in place.

London Lisboa 2019 - Day 5. Dax to Logrono
Leaders hit problems as the Pyrenees takes its tollAs teams climbed out of the French and into the Spanish Pyrenees this morning, cars have started to suffer as the mountains have taken their toll on the machinery. The endurance element of London Lisbon is starting to take effect as the Chick father and son’s car broke both it’s rear spring hangers. The technical assistance team have put wood and chains in place to hold them. Said Stephen Chick, “we were pretty worried as the car was moving about a lot so we have had to take it easy, we’ve been losing time as a result. When we got to the last test at the track we weren’t sure what was going to happen.

“Ken and Charlie have made a great fix but they have told us not to put too much weight in the boot and to take it easy, then it might last!”

The second place crew of Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte in the Porsche 911 were unaware of the leader’s issue as they arrived at the final control of the day; Elise; “I really didn’t know they had a problem, that’s a real shame as I have been rooting for Stephen and Alex, it’s been great to have someone different out front, but they can still win by keeping it steady with really good timing.”

Swiss Daniel Gresly agreed with his navigator; “ they can still do it, they are so good on the timing, they also have good basic timing equipment in the car, none of the new technical kit just a normal trip and a clear dashboard. They do a great job. I was very careful across the Pyrenees roads today as there were some hikers, I think we all took care past them, otherwise it was a good day.”

On the family battle between the Whyte sisters and father and son, Daniel and Max. Daniel and Elise are still ahead, plus they are breathing down the Chick’s necks now as we go into the second half of the event. Said Seren Whyte who is in fourth place navigating for driver Max Behrndt in the Datsun 240Z; “Max is a great driver but as I usually drive, navigating can be a bit harder. I don’t have the experience to deal with all the tricks. At least I was equal with Elise on penalties today at 39 apiece although she is a bit further up the field than us!”

Regularity three was a hum dinger, but not if you were scared of heights! The Col d’Aharza climbed up high into the Pyrenees, the narrow sinuous road winding it’s way to the top and back down again via some very tight hairpins with some very long drops. The surface varied from tarmac to stone, some loose but with rocks and gravel over tarmac in places.

This was not the place to meet traffic coming the other way or to get held up by farm vehicles. At the start of the regularity it seemed that both the first and second place cars of the Chicks and the Gresly, Whyte crew would encounter a small truck but it turned off.

Bernd and Christiane Dannenmaier from Germany in their Porsche 911S, Pat and Gerardine Neville’s Volvo 144S, Mark Shipman and Mike Tarr’s Aston Martin and Drexel and Pat Gillespie’s Sunbeam Tiger were all badly held up by a large agricultural vehicle towards the end of the regularity, but fortunately they had crossed the last Timing Point.

The team with the most work to do and the scariest task on regularity three were Simon Arscott and Andy Wilson in the 1927 Bentley 4.5 litre Le Mans. It was quite a spectacle watching Simon wrestle with the big car on successive acute hairpins on the descent but alarming looking at the drop as he tried to hold the car with the big brake to change gear into reverse, each hairpin was a minimum of a three point turn!

Simon was really having to heave on the wheel. Some following competitors had to wait for the big Le Mans car to finally turn which worried virgin navigator Andy Wilson and Simon Arscott which is why they went to apologise to the organisers!

Regularity four, Orgambide was to further push the reliability of the classic rally cars. It was incredibly steep and narrow but with some amazing views across the valleys below. Australian Max Stephenson, a recent award winner in his Rolls Royce on the ERA Flying Scotsman, is driving his 1956 Austin Healey 100M here on this event with Englishman Mark Bramall navigating. The car was stopped at the top of the mountain with it’s OK board out but the radiator was out of water. “ She got a bit hot coming up the really steep bits plus she is losing a little bit of oil.” Max switched her off before she blew.

The media team, then Karl Eisleben and Joan McCabe’s original Shelby Mustang GT350H, (the H being for Hertz as it was one of the original rental cars) both stopped to give water allowing Max and Mark to complete the regularity.

Another rescue surprise was the return of Peter Myles and Jonathan Shepherd in their 1975 Saab 96 V4. It had was last seen on Saturday morning alighting from the St Malo ferry in a cloud of smoke after the water pump failed. Jonathan explained; “ We got the car back on a ferry to the UK and luckily found someone who could fit a new pump on Saturday night. We were back on a ferry to France on Sunday, then drove 670 kilometres straight yesterday to catch back up with the London Lisbon today, now we are back in the rally!”

There were some crews held up by road traffic today, the worst affected was Stephen Owens and Ian Canavan in the Porsche who dropped to fourth at lunchtime as a result.

Jayne Wignall was held up too but only briefly as she powered on to keep third place with Kevin Savage navigating in the Sunbeam Tiger. She had to be patient as some large but beautiful mountain cows decided they would get closer to the action. Meanwhile, Jayne’s husband Paul has continued his climb up the field now lying 10th in the 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint with Annabel Jones.

At the night halt in Logrono, there was quite a queue of cars waiting for attention from the mechanical assistance crews. Chris and Sue Green in their beautiful MGA 1600 FHC needed some wheel bearing checks; “she is sixty years old and still going really well, but there is a lot of noise from the bearings. I just think with all the hard braking over the mountains and the dust and dirt in there, it’s causing the whining. It’s better to get her checked though.”

Stephen Owens fifth place Porsche 911 was in line for a check-up of his steering when Max Stephenson arrived in the Austin Healey to try and sort the oil leak and check his water system!

It’s was a great day’s motorsport but the Pyrenees had taken it’s toll not just on the mechanicals of the car, but also on the rubber which was wearing out quicker than expected. Max Behrndt was furiously making calls to try and find new tyres for his fourth place Datsun 240Z, whilst Drexel Gillespie had the same task but he drove off on a mission around town to find rubber to fit his Sunbeam Tiger. They will need it, tomorrow on Day Six we head to the hills again!

Words by Tony Jardine

Photos by Will Broadhead

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