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London Lisboa 2019 - Day 9. Covilha to Tomar

The fourth Regularity of the day, Urraca, proved to be the defining action of the long ninth day of the London Lisboa 2019. It contained no less than eight secret timing points across a variety of terrain that even included a steep cobbled incline with a timing point at the top! Crews arrived at a control afterwards for a quick refresh after the heat and dust of the winding, climbing roads with tales of a real challenge.

London Lisboa 2019 - Day 9. Covilha to Tomar
Mammoth Regularity tests the crews on penultimate dayNeil Ripley navigating Graham Platt’s Austin Healey was sitting in the shade recovering from the sheer concentration in the heat; “It was relentless, after five timing points you think that’s it, it’s over, but then there were three more! It was hard work just trying to concentrate.”  Annabel Jones navigating in the Alfa Romeo Guilietta Sprint with Paul Wignall agreed with Neil as she clutched her road book containing many scribbled calculations in the right-hand side of the pages; “ There were so many speed changes, triangles, and deceptive blind turns to catch you out that you had to keep recalculating so quickly!” Neil added; “that’s the challenge when you have so many timing points, you have to be so accurate but that’s endurance rallying.” Of the cobbled incline leading to yet another control, James Ewing who is navigating Michael Moss’ Fiat 2300S Abarth Coupe said; "We had done really well until this steep cobbled hill. With no chance of a run-up, she just wouldn’t go up!"

Annabel Jones added; "I understand the Chicks may have only dropped four seconds over the entire mammoth Regularity, if they did that would be amazing, we thought we did well on twenty!”

The penultima day had started at 8.00 am, the 44 cars climbing back up the pass they descended last night to just above the town of Covilha high in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. It was nearly time for the oxygen masks as the rally climbed to a rarified 2000 meters above sea level past bizarre rock formations shaped like long pillars with round rocks perched on top! The prehistoric landscape overlooked the valleys way below as crews checked in at a passage control right at the top of Capela da Torre, Portugal’s highest mountain.

Cars had left in overall classification order meaning Stephen and Alex Chick were first at the control, their 1959 Austin Healey silhouetted against the already blue sky in the cold air. Snow still lingered in many places although the ski lifts had been packed up for the impending summer, this allowed crews a quick chance of some photos or just time to admire the stunning views.

Six Regularities awaited the teams. Not just top places were at stake in the London Lisbon Rally but also valuable points in the HERO Cup for drivers and the Golden Roamer Award for navigators. There was a strong feeling that the penultimate day could have quite a sting to it.

Then came the sad news that popular crew of Simon Arscott and Andy Wilson had been forced to head back north and out of the rally with their crowd pleasing 1927 Bentley 4.5 litre Le Mans after ferry issues compressed their schedules.

The London Lisbon continued to test vehicles as well as crews as Tom Hayes and American Frank McDonagh sought help for their stricken 1970 BMW 2002tii their bonnet left raised at the first coffee halt. Steve Farmer and John Gearing were forced to change a punctured tyre on their MGB V8 putting on their only spare. As Steve said; “ We will have to try and get another tyre fitted somehow!”

More niggles that could cause problems later were encountered by second place man Daniel Gresly who is navigated by Elise Whyte: “ I think the starter button is broken, we had to push the car twice this morning.” Within twenty minutes of arriving at the halt the HERO mechanical assistance crews had fixed the starter. “They are magical” said Daniel.

Car 44, the Fiat X1/9 of event sponsor Stephane Gutzwiller and Kieth Gapp had stopped in the third Regularity but was also revived by the HERO assistance crews. Stephane is really enjoying the event and commented on the Gutzwiller Private Banking sponsorship; “ When Patrick Burke and Keith Gapp offered us the chance to sponsor the London Lisbon Rally, we jumped at the chance. Of course, how I could I not compete in the event we are supporting? I’m just grateful the assistance crew got us going again”.

At the same lunch halt, the rally was visited by a Manuel Romad de Sousa, a Portuguese rallying dignitary who has helped the classic rally cause and the London Lisbon Rally in Portugal. He was visiting the event with colleagues and admiring the cars; “We are so pleased to see HERO and the London Lisbon Rally here, this is classic rallying territory. We are close to Arganil where so many Portuguese World Rally Championship events took place, I was involved with many and of course the TAP Rally as it was known. Soon the WRC Rally cars will be back here and we are looking forward to their return, rallying is very popular in Portugal as you know.

“I recently took part in the ERA Flying Scotsman Rally in an Alvis, it was a great event, congratulations to all! I also drive in Portuguese Regularity events where we have average speeds generally of 50 kph!”

Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford took off from the lunch halt with a few words of warning; “ they are in for a monster of a Regularity this afternoon with eight timing points!” This was to be the defining action of the day, a mammoth regularity crossing and following the Rio Zezere ending on the outskirts of the town of Oleiros where there was a rest halt afterwards for tired crews.

The roads were through pine forests, tight and twisty in parts, fast in others. Some road surfaces were partly cobbled but most were lined by rocks, some charred trees from the dreadful fires last year. It was dry and hot with very crispy edges to the roads due to fallen branches and pine needles. At one point two logging piles were taking up half of the road with only a narrow slippy track past. The warning sign on the logs said HERO CARE!

Tony Davie’s run of bad luck continued today as he described his run over the mammoth Regularity alongside Irvine Laidlaw in the Porsche 911 2.7 RS lightweight; “ I got the slot at the junction but then changed my mind, went back to check and lost a minute. You cannot lose concentration, you can’t take your eyes off the road book yet still keep an eye on the stopwatch! In all, it was a good regularity with some good tricks in it! I’m also really pleased to see a genuine sportscar out front.” He was referring to the Austin Healey 3000 Mk1 of Stephen and Alexander Chick leading at the end of the day now by one minute from Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte in the Porsche 911. “ I think we were quite good in there” said Stephen Chick in an understated way.

As Daniel Gresly said; “ we managed it all OK as we were trying to be a bit early each time, but now we have Max and Seren pushing hard, although we should keep second place tonight”. Indeed they did keep second but into third place tonight went Max Behrndt and Seren Whyte after a great day, in the Datsun 240Z taking the final podium position by 17 seconds from Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage’s Sunbeam Tiger. Said Seren, “ I lost all orientation in the mammoth regularity at one point, there were some real tricks with triangles but we managed to drop just 10 seconds, what the Chicks did in only losing four is insane! That is so good.”

Peter Hawkins who is navigating David Coxon in the muscular Austin Healey 3000 said of the long eight timing point regularity; “ It was a cracker wasn’t it? We got it right which was a whole lot better than yesterday when we endured quite a tough day.”

Andrew Duerden was not pleased that the 1970 Porsche 914/6 he is sharing with driver Melvin Andrews took five attempts to get up the tricky cobbled incline up to a control that caught out Michael Moss and James Ewing.

Drexel Gillespie the Sunbeam Tiger driver who was also involved in the conversation said; “ Judging by the noise coming from your exhausts you could have blown yourselves up the hill!” Andrew retorted“ We had already gone wrong twice before that, once where I called right and Melvin went left, why did you do that Melvin?” he asked the American who was standing next to him.

“ I felt like I was doing something wrong so I went the other way” said Melvin. Andrew Duerden feared the duo had lost their class lead due to the errors but by the close of play the Porsche 914 was 17th and still leading the class!

Tomas and Marion Herold loved the regularity even though in the final analysis it went a bit wrong; ”It was really great and quite fast. The VW went well but we missed the last triangle, I’m always suspicious when I see them and said to Marion ‘shouldn’t we have gone right there’?” Yes was the reply.

Paul Wignall and Annabel Jones are back up to eighth overall in the Alfa Romeo after a strong performance over the day. “ There were lots of tricks in there, lots of surprises in the long regularity but I suppose on the second to last day they are trying to catch us out.”

So will Paul be going for it in the nimble and quick 1959 Alfa in the tests on the final day? “ We just have to be careful off the line as there is a delicate inner donut which I want the mechanics to check tonight. Actually, the tests are quite close to the hotel so maybe I will just give it death!”

After a superb performance yesterday rising to sixth overall in their Porsche 911 RS, Peter and Helen Morris have dropped to 10th but they are leading the class! “ We were rushing and missed a slot, lots of errors dropped us down”. “ You reach your own level” shouted Peter.

Urs and Maxime Mezger from Switzerland have been working hard to achieve a good result in their Triumph TR4 but as Urs said; “we dropped out of the top ten with a penalty for a wrong approach now we are getting back.” Maxime; “ we hit all the right controls in the long regularity so we did OK, yes I am limping, as I broke my foot” she said when asked, a real hero, she has made no complaints whatsoever. Father and daughter are 14th overall and second in class.

Mark Shipman and Mike Tarr endured a hot but productive day in the gorgeous Aston Martin DB5, lying 21st overall and third in class. Will they go for it in the tests on the last day tomorrow? Mark; “ We will see where we are with the people around us, then we will decide but we want to get to Lisbon and the finish!”

All eyes will be on the leading trio tomorrow on the final day of London Lisbon and there is a lot at stake. Stephen and Alex Chick know they must keep it clean but fast on the tracks, whilst hoping the exertion doesn’t affect the rear suspension trussed by wood and chains to achieve the win. Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte are ready to pounce on any mistake but have to watch their rear as the family battlers Seren Whyte and Max Behrndt are pushing hard. Who would have thought it would be this close after ten days and 2000 miles, what a finish in prospect for the 2019 London Lisbon Rally!

Words by Tony Jardine

Photos by Will Broadhead

There will be no daily video update today.

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