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Syd Stelvio, London to Lisbon Day 7 – Salamanca to Lamego – 314km

Syd Stelvio, London to Lisbon Day 7 – Salamanca to Lamego – 314km

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed a gaping Syd shaped hole in your lives yesterday, day 6 of the London to Lisbon was a blink and you’ll miss it short day, an opportunity for the crews to get into the historic city of Salamanca early and soak up the atmosphere, culture and architecture. The day itself had just one regularity, and a pair of tests with not much movement. But where day 6 was unremarkable in its incidents, day 7 offered plenty to talk about.

It began innocently enough, with an hour run out to the first of four regularities, a gentle meander through the backroads of the Salamanca province, that followed the contours of the land that, as we approached the border, was beginning to look less plain like and a bit more interesting. The link section post regularity, that would eventually take us into Portugal over the Douro River, was easily on of the best of the rally. A sharp climb up the mountains of the Arribes del Duero National Park, on a sinuous road that offered steep drops to the left-hand side, and tremendous views for those with time to look.

The border came and went swiftly, and as we entered the fourth country of our adventure, the rain joined us again, just to make sure that downpours had occurred in every realm we have visited. The roads though continued to be enjoyable, but the element of fun was about diminish somewhat for a fair number of crews as the second regularity of the day took the crews through the small village of Urros. Before this, there was a tricky slot onto a dirt track that looked as though it had last been used in the European Age of Discovery, but this was but a small precursor of what was to come.

Urros is a tiny village, of cobbled streets and tumbledown buildings, and has a mere 250 inhabitants, but more roads than your average municipal capital. The route through it didn’t actually contain any tricks or funny slots, but for some reason there was chaos on the cobbled streets. Many of the competitors got lost, and I daresay a fair few crews needed some post regularity peace talks, and some just laughed it off. Dave Smith and Phil Cottam enjoyed it so much they spent a good half hour driving round the streets, remarkable considering its tiny size. Peter and Louise Morton gave up and went back to the previous control to retrace their steps and David Wilson and Stewart Rust had accidently reset their trip before entering the village. Goodness knows what the locals thought, as a bunch of classic cars circled the streets, looking for the way out, Mayday indeed.

One of the bigger casualties of the village of the damned were the rally leaders, Paul Crosby and Pete Johnson, who incurred the maximum time penalty for their errors and were forced to play their joker to limit the damage to their slender lead. Their rivals were breathing down their necks, including Ken and Sarah Binstead who had by some miracle, and some tremendous driving and teamwork in the cockpit, managed to stay in the top three, despite only having third gear since their clutch problems. After some late-night heroics from the sweep crews though, they were back in the game after the mechanics had replaced the failed clutch release bearing, no small job and one that comes with a high tip value for the mechanics I’m sure, especially when you factor in working at unsociable hours.

The Binstead’s were having a good morning as well, losing just 10 seconds up to lunch and jumping up to second, whilst Cros and Johnson had fallen to third, with Graham Platts and Neil Ripley up to first, who had also done well in their Healey.

After all the excitement of the morning, I imagine everyone was hoping for a slightly easier time of it on the final two regularities of the day, and largely this was the case. The landscape was changing now as we went deeper into the Douro Valley, and the vineyards that have made this place famous stretched as far as the eye could see. The weather was still mixed, with great billowing clouds blowing across the largely blue sky as the Condors and other birds of prey soared on thermals overhead. It was somewhat of an idyll and as the route traversed the stepped hills of the vineyards, and there weren’t too many disasters during the afternoon’s competition.

By the time the day finished at Lamego the competition outlook had changed almost a much as the scenery. Best on the day was everyone’s favourite cold war taxi, the yellow peril of Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickins, perhaps leaving them wondering what might have been. At the other end of the spectrum, John Todd and Joanna Turner had posted the largest tally of the day, but this was due to a holed sump, but thankfully they are still with us and cracking on.

The real news was of course the change in positions at the top, after the Jokers had been taken into account Graham Platts and Neil Ripley now lead the rejuvenated Binstead’s by just 5 seconds, with Paul Crosby and Pete Johnson another 8 seconds back in third, with the Baines not far behind. A bad day at the office then for the Porsche, and a great day for the Healey’s. A total of 18 jokers were played due to the chaos on the cobbles in Urros, so at least Paul and Pete aren’t on their own.

With just three days to go it is as tight as it could be, and most miraculously of all Ken and Sarah Binstead are well in with a shout still of a result that would put the bookmakers out of business. Anything could happen in the next three days…

Boa Noite.


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