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Syd Stelvio, London to Lisbon Day 1 – Brooklands to Portsmouth – 278km

Syd Stelvio, London to Lisbon Day 1 – Brooklands to Portsmouth – 278km

Historic Brooklands is a fine place to be on a sunny morning, and just such a morning greeted the crews of this year’s London to Lisbon rally as they gathered for the start of the event. Ahead of them, ten days of adventure of one sort or another, and as the drivers and navigators congregated in front of the famous old clubhouse in the sunshine there was certainly a buzz in the air.

Sadly, this sun-kissed moment would be fleeting, lasting only as long as it took to drive a short section of the infamous old banking and enjoy the first test of the event. Clearly the met office hadn’t been given the script and almost as soon as the cars exited Brooklands past Concorde, the clouds closed in overhead.

They would remain for the day, and as the rally headed west towards Salisbury they began to burst, drenching the occupants of the open top cars and giving the event more of a winter rally feel, than the escape to the sun that it ought to be. Still, if nothing else it served as a reminder of what we were going in search of.

Tests would bookend the morning, with a particularly soggy run around the grounds of the luxurious Wilton House. This double loop was providing some consternation for a few of the navigators, with plenty of crews generating penalties as they navigated the cones and a few even left some extra work for the House’s groundskeepers, as they slid wide and onto the lawn in the saturated conditions. Sandwiched between the two tests there was also a regularity in the narrow lanes of the South Downs, after driving out through leafy Surrey.

By the end of lunchtime, the first results of the event were ready, although at such an early stage they might not mean too much. Paul Crosby and Pete Johnson topped the list, closely followed by the Baines, but after a steady morning there wasn’t too much mischief to report. The event had had its first victim of a big mechanical problem though, when car 27, the silver Datsun 240z of Roy Stephenson and Peter Robinson endured a rather large compression of the rear suspension on the first test. It wasn’t the suspension that was damaged though, in fact the impact had sheared both rear brake lines and for the rest of the day the car could often be found jacked in the air in various states of repair, with a boiler suited sweep as its constant companion.

Post lunch and it was back into the drizzle to begin the south-easterly run towards Portsmouth and our overnight ferry. But not before another pair of narrow regularities, with plenty of opportunities for errors. The route took us through the New Forest and the town of Lyndhurst, home to the real Alice Liddell and there were plenty of reminders of this in the names of the pubs and businesses of the quaint little settlement. Nobody would be going down any rabbit holes today though, needless to say they would most probably have been flooded in any case.

Regardless of the potential for blunders during the afternoon, nobody was really dropping any serious clangers. There was one missed control for Benno Britschgi and Ernst Lutz in the big number 19 Mustang, but it doesn’t do to dwell on these things so early in the rally, there is an awfully long way to go.

Most importantly everyone made it onto the Ferry at Portsmouth, the good ship Salvation, or at least that is what she shall be renamed if the sun is shining when we dock in St. Malo in the morning. Early bragging rights of the event are held by Paul Crosby and Pete Johnson, who maintained their good form of the morning, still followed closely by the Baines just two seconds further back, with David and Ed Liddell in third place in the Triumph TR4. But early bragging rights is all it is at this stage, with so many more kilometres to come. Today was about getting to the continent, where the adventure will really begin.


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