The beginning of a rally is a moment of many emotions, nerves and excitement abound, swelling inside of the assembled competitors as they wait to take to the start and begin their adventure. This is true for any rally, but today, as a field of 45 vintage and classic cars waited for their time to be called forward to the starter’s arch the nerves and excitement were perhaps increased a little above the norm, as this 90-person strong entry were about to head out into the relative unknown, on a 17 day, 7500-mile adventure through the middle east, including a week travelling through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an as yet unknown entity for a regularity rally. What would lie ahead? How would the borders be? Would we have any difficulty with local officials and Police, or would the path be relatively smooth?
Well, as it turned out those questions would be answered rather quicker than first expected, but as the event began under the sun-filled Jordanian sky all was calm and it was smiles all round, including from the local police who were on hand to help with any early morning traffic in the city of Aqaba, where our eastern odyssey would commence. First away were the 13 cars in the Vintage category, and the only ones eligible for an overall victory, at the head of which was Tomas De Vargas Machuca + Ben Cussons in the gargantuan 1914 American LaFrance Type 10, and all had their eyes fixed on the Dead Sea where the day would end after a leg stretching 409 kms and 3 regularities.
A long run out Jordan Valley Highway would ease everyone into proceedings, with some two hours passing before our paths changed direction and we began to climb up to the first competition section of the event. Those first few miles on an endurance rally such as this one is often some of the finest moments anyone could hope to enjoy in motorsport, the feeling of freedom is almost unsurpassed as the pressure and toil of the preparation to get to the start line is cast aside, and everyone can relax into a few weeks of nothing to worry about other than driving. This morning was no different for most of us I am sure, and a short convoy had formed before too long, as old friends enjoyed driving new roads in relative solitude.
Before anyone could get too carried away in each other’s company though the (relatively) serious business of competition began with a steep regularity that took the cars up the eastern flank of the Arabah valley, into the mountains that would eventually reveal the ancient city of Petra to us all. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the only regularity that would happen today and the reward for making it to the end of the climb was a run into Petra via the back way, and therefore missing queuing with the thousands of tourists that descend upon the most famous symbol of Jordan.
Of course, once inside the historical wonder, the tourists were plentiful, but with special permission to park a number of the vintage machines in the grounds of the site there was almost just as much attention given to these as there was to the incredible old city. There was even a visit from the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, Fares Briazat, who spent plenty of time with the competitors and their cars.