The victory for the Cleyndert’s was no easy feat, and after a tough second day they had dropped to 8th overall after picking up over two minutes of penalties and were some way off of the pace. But there began a gritty fight back, aided by consistency in their times as well as the fact that the Bentley 3-4½ proved tremendously reliable on the at times rough terrain, when others in the rally were suffering machine failure and in the case of one-time leaders Brian and Andrew Scowcroft, another parent and offspring pairing, ill health forced early retirement.
Bill and Georgia finally took the lead on day eight of the rally, wrestling top spot away from Gerber and Leuenberger and despite pressure from the Ford Coupe never let the lead slip and eventually finished 44 seconds clear of their nearest challengers. Bill was adamant throughout that he and his daughter were just out to have a good time, although his admiration for the accomplishment of his first-time map reader was plain for all to see, as was the clear enjoyment of rallying with his daughter. Of his victory Bill said, “Georgia won the rally really, I’m so proud of her, she’s been brilliant. It’s been a great event, great company, great roads and just a brilliant rally”.
The smile on Georgias face at the finish was as broad as the Sahara itself, and she remarked that “it’s quite surreal, and I don’t really know what to do with myself now. For two weeks I’ve followed tulips and a clock, and now it has finished I don’t know what to do next!” Next in terms of rallying could be The Flying Scotsman, an event that Georgia has her sights set on and we might perhaps be seeing the emergence of a new talent in the sport.
Second placed Pierre Gerber + Alice Leuenberger had put up a tremendous fight and held the lead for most of the rally, the Ford had looked a good pick for the desert and mountains and between the pair had always looked assured and in control. Whilst losing after leading is always tough to take both were in a positive frame of mind at the finish and Pierre stated “It has been a big experience, and we performed much better than expected as it is the first time for this car. We have learnt a lot, congratulations to Bill and Georgia, they deserve it and we are just happy to be back safe.”
Jorge Perez Companc + Jose Volta, who occupied third place on the podium in their Chevrolet Coupe may well be familiar to anyone who follows WRC or Dakar, as that is their usual realm of competition. Jorge though is looking for a change of pace as he matures, although no doubt the Dakar experiences paid dividends in the desert as they finished nearly three minutes ahead of fourth place. “Jose kept having to tell me to slow down, as the Chevy is not a WRC car” joked Jorge, “we could not believe it when we saw that we were in third, this is the car’s first rally, and it has been brilliant.”