Icelandic Saga 2019 – Day One Rally Report
The Icelandic Saga didn’t so much as erupt into action this morning, as gush forth like the geysers that litter the landscape here. The land of fire and ice seemed a long way off as car 1, the Ford Coupe of Jean Steinhauser and Anne Steinhauser-Collard, sped off into the murk to begin seven days of rallying through what is surely one of the most picturesque locations for a competition in the world. Today though not much could be seen of the famous landscape as the rain clouds descended upon the island, with a deluge of the wet stuff that would have been more suited to Noah’s Ark than classic cars. Theological references aside, the rain was truly biblical and whilst there was some respite, it would get much worse through the afternoon and towards the end of the day.
The rain continued and got heavier, bouncing noisily off of the windshield like an over-active Geiger CounterStill, it hadn’t put our starters off, and neither had it deterred Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, the President of Iceland, who had braved the rain to wave our teams away from the line with gusto, a gesture that I’m sure was not lost on all present. As the rally waved goodbye to the populous of Reykjavik, after a test of course, we began to see signs of the countryside that might await us as the route took us deeper into rural Iceland. Travelling out alongside the Nesjavellir hot water pipeline, that stretches for a cool 27 km’s between Nesjavellir geothermal powerplant and Reykjavik, the road began to get wilder as the landscape, and ever threatening clouds, stretched out before us.
A brief break was had to take coffee and discuss the atrocious weather at the Pinegvellir Visitors Centre, where a huge crease in the ground can be seen as continental plates collide, a stunning sight and surely the first of many but as the gathered tourist ooh’d and ahh’d at what lay before them the rally cars headed out for another test and regularity.
At lunch Seren and Elise Whyte lead the field in their Standard 10, but with just four seconds between them and second place pairing of Owen Turner and Rachel Vestey in an Austin Mini things were predictably close, to be expected with the rally still very much in its infancy. The afternoon sadly bought much more rain, making conditions extremely treacherous, particularly on the gravel roads of the regularities with their soft verges causing handling problems even for us in the media bus.
The rain continued and got heavier, bouncing noisily off of the windshield like an over-active Geiger Counter and as the teams reached the last test of the day, just a stone’s throw from tonight’s hotel, I’m sure all were glad to have made it. The marshals too, who had endured the less than pleasant conditions, will also have been glad to reach a close to today, as we all look forward to what will hopefully be better driving weather tomorrow.
As it was the day concluded with Rod Hanson and Clare Grove top of the timesheets in their Ford Escort, followed lunchtimes top two Seren and Elise Whyte and Owen Turner and Rachel Vesty.
Photos by Will Broadhead