London to Lisbon
An Event For The Intermediate Adventurer
Congratulations to everybody that took part in and completed the 2019 London Lisboa rally
Results Are Now Final
1. STEPHEN CHICK / ALEXANDER CHICK – AUSTIN HEALEY 3000
2. DANIEL GRESLY / ELISE WHYTE – PORSCHE 911 COUPE
3. MAX BEHRNDT / SEREN WHYTE – DATSUN 240Z
Day 1. The Adventure Begins
As the 50 cars gathered at the historic Brooklands site for the start of London to Lisbon 2019, crews were ushered to a briefing by HERO Competition Director Guy Woodcock and Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford, delivered from the balcony of the old race control from where races were directed in the 1920's.
Helpful instructions were issued along with welcome news. Guy Woodcock; “Thanks to Mark Shipman, the driver of the Aston Martin DB5 (Car 11), as he has just given us the welcome news that the Portuguese fuel strike has been called off, so my main message is go and enjoy yourselves!”
Mark Simpson; “ We had been monitoring the situation, which was quite serious, with the help of my Portuguese wife Ana. Even my brother-in-law had his recent flight to the Azores cancelled as there was no fuel. We had organised a tanker to be on standby but it’s such a relief that it’s not needed now and the last leg of London Lisbon will remain unaffected.”
Bob Rutherford added some words of caution to the audience:;” Easy to miss junctions will be marked, but only for the next couple of days – after that it’s down to you. But enjoy the wonderful scenery and the travel.”
Just before the start, Elise Whyte who is navigating Swiss driver Daniel Gresly in his Porsche 911, described the intra family battle that has emerged which could rage on throughout the event; “Daniel Gresly’s son Max is also in the rally so it’s father versus son but then my sister Seren is navigating for Max so it’s also sister versus sister, then it’s family against family!
Elise who is one of the sport’s top navigators, having been runner up in the prestigious Golden Roamer Award for navigators, has sat alongside her driver sister Seren on many rallies, the two achieving great success together. Not on this rally, now it’s competition.
“Seren normally drives but she has stepped in as the navigator to Max, so she better hadn’t beat me otherwise that’s it. I’ll have to give up!” Said Elise with a big smile.
Straight after the cars were flagged off by HERO Chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca, they went into the first tricky test around Brooklands which ended with a hairpin and steep climb up the famous ‘Handbrake Hill’ where cars used to be tested for their holding power and agility.
First through the test was the 1927 Bentley 4.5 litre Le Mans of Simon Arscott and Andy Wilson who is navigating on his first ever rally. “That was hard work in there,” said Simon, “The car is so big and heavy, we could have done with a bit of gravel to help make her slide around a bit more.” Andy seemed quite relaxed despite being a complete novice; “ I’ve managed to look at the road books and had a little bit of tuition but not too much really.”
Flying through the Brooklands test on their way to a provisional first overall after the day’s three regularities were Stephen and Alexander Chick in their 1959 Austin Healey 3000 Mk 1. The big Healey looked particularly aggressive and sounded good whilst the DB5 of Mark Shipman and navigator Mike Tarr misfired a bit as it pushed hard up ‘Handbrake Hill’.
Stephen Owens and 2018 champion navigator Ian Canavan looked neat and tidy in Stephen’s 1965 Porsche 911 ending the day in provisional fourth place but Ian wasn’t happy to receive a 12 second penalty which he felt should have only been five; “ It’s a long rally, so it’s just a flesh wound, we’ll sneak up on them through the long grass!”
In far worse shape were the Melvin Andrews, Andrew Duerden Porsche 914/6. Melvin who has come all the way from Los Angeles to compete in the London Lisbon had a miserable time going backwards. Said Andrew; “Things had been going well, then on the second regularity we had to reverse nearly half a mile as a van in the high walled narrow lanes couldn’t really go backwards, so we had to. Naturally, we lost a lot of times so we played our Joker which reduces a minute penalty down to fifteen seconds, although you can only play it once on an event.
“I am despondent about the situation but at least the car is good. Really much better than I thought it would be, it’s very noisy though, should have brought my ear defenders!”
Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage enjoyed a fine first day in their Sunbeam Tiger to end up provisionally second, just one second behind the leading Austin Healey. Whilst the 1955 Triumph TR3 of Steve and Julia Robertson was in third place before the crew drove their car onto the ferry in Portsmouth bound for France. Said Julia of their successful first day; “Generally it’s been quite good, we were both impressed with the way the organisers routed us around London and straight into the wonderful countryside of the Surrey Hills and then the West Sussex border.”
The Irish crew of Pat and Gerardine Neville didn’t have such a great day as they suffered alternator failure. But New Zealand came to Ireland’s rescue in the spirit of internationality by towing Pat’s Volvo 144S to a Time Control area where the mechanical rescue teams went to work on a fix. Mike and Paula Donald from New Zealand who have made the long trip over to drive a 1972 BMW 2002tii were happy to help out even though they lost some time.
HERO were delighted that William Medcalf Bentley Limited had kindly provided his specialist Bentley facilities to be used as a Time Control and coffee stop allowing the competitors a bit of time to ogle the wonderful old Bentleys on show.
Likewise, Lainston House in Hampshire which was first built in 1683 provided a wonderful setting for the crews to enjoy a quick lunch before the latter part of leg one. The tree-lined grounds contain the longest line of lime trees in England at near nine-tenths of a mile, some of them were planted in 1716!
From the gently sloping hills of Surrey and Sussex, the London Lisbon teams headed to Portsmouth to board a night ferry to St Malo, many fearing the growing storm in the Bay of Biscay might keep them more than just awake before the new day dawns in France and leg 3 to Nantes.
Day 2. St Malo – Nantes
Following a ‘choppy’ 12 hour crossing from Portsmouth to St Malo in the wake of stormy high winds across the South of England and France, the London Lisbon competitors were grateful to disembark with their rally cars relatively unscathed after a bumpy night.
Except that is for American Melvin Andrews and Andrew Duerden whose neat little Porsche 914 had jumped it’s own wheel chocks in the night and lightly damaged Daniel Gresly’s Porsche 911. But once back on solid ground, the sunny greeting from France brought some early morning calm.
Agonisingly, having survived the night on rough water, Peter Myles and Jonathan Shepherd’s 1975 Saab 96 V4 didn’t even get out of the St Malo ferry terminal when a water leak put them out of the event.
Ahead of the 47 crews lay a 290 kilometre route to Nantes with six regularities twisting their way through the Breton countryside. By comparison to the last regularities tackled in southern England, these first three on French soil were to provide a ‘wake up call’. Fresh off the ferry, not everyone was fully awake for the tricky switch back lanes with myriad junctions.
“I wasn’t properly awake” said champion navigator Ian Canavan. “We lost some time but then I got into gear and zeroed five in succession!” As a result Ian and Stephen Owens in the Porsche 911 were up to third overall at lunchtime.
Paul Handley and his wife Roma who is navigating the pair’s 1966 MGB Roadster were still holding down an impressive 6th place overall by lunchtime. As Paul put it; “we are astonished by the result, the only problem has been our flasher unit, but we are really happy so far as we are the only four cylinder MGB on the London Lisbon, the rest I believe are V8’s.”
Jayne Wignall has been driving beautifully in her Sunbeam Tiger, ably navigated by Kevin Savage. She was quietly pleased with her fastest time on the test at Brooklands yesterday. “Although it was only by one second!” Her husband Paul who is driving his 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint navigated by Annabel Jones, is trying to play catch up after delays yesterday. He is fully behind Jayne’s current success. “I hope she can go on and get a great result, she deserves it, she really takes her rallying seriously and loves every minute of it”. Jayne maintained a great provisional second place at the end of day two with Kevin Savage performing a great job from the navigator’s seat.
“We were held up on the narrow lanes of the south coast yesterday,” continued Paul, “not once but five times, on each occasion we had to reverse back a long way. We played the Joker designed to reduce penalties afterwards only to be caught by a van and trailer, the driver then shut the gate! We are trying to make up time but it was it was a real set back, even though there is a long way to go.”
Leg Two stated from the Hotel Moulin de L’Abbaye situated in the grounds of the historic 11th C,entury Tronchet Abbey of Notre Dame. The setting by the lake was stunning with the elegant vintage and classic rally machinery parked along the waters edge. Except one was missing, poor Tony and Pauline Mather’s sublime 1970 Citroen DS23 drop head was stuck outside the Abbey with fuel pump failure. They were hoping to effect repairs and rejoin the rally as soon as possible.
By contrast Pat and Gerardine Neville’s Volvo 144S had received and had fitted a replacement alternator by the mechanical assistance crews, and they were delighted to back in the rally.
The morning regularities provided a jumble of junctions and a variety of roads, some covered in mud and gravel. The second regularity wound it’s way around a tranquil lake then over a tight stone bridge that needed accuracy from drivers.
Mark Shipman navigated by Mike Tarr in their Aston Martin DB5, were spotted off track then reversing back onto the road. “ We found grass!” Said Mark.
Many on the London Lisbon event are watching how the friendly family rivalry is playing out between the Whyte sisters navigating in different cars for a father and a son. By lunchtime Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte’s Porsche 911 were fourth equal with Max Behrndt, Daniel’s son, and Seren Whyte’s Datsun 240Z!
Said Seren; “we had dropped just five seconds after the first three regularities resulting in our close family tie at equal fourth! The afternoon was more difficult so I was wondering if anyone else found them tricky?” Max answered; “Maybe lunch was too good and we relaxed a little bit!”.
Nobody could blame any crew for enjoying the location for the lunch halt so much. Manoir de L‘Automobile in Loheac is simply mind blowing. It is a well kept secret, almost a hidden jewel, such are the treasures that have been amassed in collection by Michel Hommell who started collecting when he was 18 years old.
The museum is a major size and beautifully laid out, it rivals any in Europe. In one section there is a complete F1 grid of 20 historically important F1 cars all lined up on a grid surrounded by the most incredible memorabilia. From Group B Rally cars to Dakar machinery and dragsters, there is even an amazing collection of historic Renault Alpine rally cars. Every London Lisbon competitor walked through the wonderful halls of fame until they reached the dining room some fifteen to thirty minutes later, all agreed it was a very wonderful motor sport and automotive museum.
Manoir de L’Automobile is surrounded by kart and race tracks which have helped develop the little town of Loheac into a motorsport haven, where once discovered people return for another visit. As a tribute to the development of the site by management, a round of the World Rally Cross is being held there from 31st August to the 1st September this year, Loheac, Bretagne is certainly on the map!
By the end of day two, Alexander and Stephen Chick had extended their lead to 21 seconds over Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage. Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte had risen to the podium positions in provisional third place whilst Max Behrndt and Seren had dropped one place to fifth.
Up to a great sixth overall provisionally are Phil Stainton and Tony Davies in the ‘perfect’ Porsche, the green 911 2.7 RS.
Driver Alexander Chick was pleased to be up at the top in the 1959 Austin Healey; “ It’s good but we are only ahead by 21 seconds, there is a long way to go and anything can happen. What I am pleased about is the fact that this is pretty much a standard Austin Healey, and it’s going well!”.
Day 3. Nantes to Bordeaux
The London Lisbon Rally picked up the pace and turned up the level of technical challenges of the regularities during the long haul from Nantes to Bordeaux, across the Cognac wine growing region of France.
James Ewing, navigator in Michael Moss’s rare Fiat 2300 Abarth Coupe said; “ Terrier du Puyrolland regularity four today, was like one of the tough military area stages on the RAC Rally of the Tests, except it was in daylight. Bang, bang the instructions kept coming along with so many junctions, you really needed a good accurate trip meter! It was great.”
Helen Morris who is navigating her husband Peter’s distinctive black Porsche 911 RS agreed with James; “ there were so many junctions and such twisty roads, it was tricky and there were times when we were caught out, but it was a great day though.”
Rural France has been a sight to behold. The 46 crews in the event from 12 different countries are really enjoying the wonderful countryside and historic sights, when they get a moment!
After seeing the impressive ruins of the Abbaye Saint Pierre dominate the skyline of Maillezais, teams drove across the farmlands of the Charante Maritime then along the edge of the Cognac production areas. One highlight was the time control and coffee stop in the Medieval City of Pons in the shadow of the 12th century 33 metre high ‘Keep of Pons,’ the dungeon.
The competition at the front of the London Lisbon was almost as tight as some of the twisty roads through the vineyard. Second to fourth place were separated by just two seconds at the lunch Time Control, La Revetizon. It was indeed close with some changes as Stephen Owens with navigator Ian Canavan in the Porsche 911 had moved into second place, but only just from Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage’s V8 Sunbeam Tiger. Fourth was now Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte in the Porsche 911.
Still out front though with a classy performance to extend their lead slightly to 22 seconds was Alexander and Stephen Chick in the 1959 near standard Austin Healey. Once a little bit of rain fell the duo were forced to re erect their hood, although it doesn’t look to be the best fitting top in the event, but they are certainly the tops at the moment as they increased their lead to 33 seconds at the end of the day. Also at the end of day three, Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte had taken second place from Stephen Owens and Ian Canavan with Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage fourth.
Paul Wignall and Annabel Jones were fighting their way back up the field in 10th place despite their problems in the afternoon with the Alfa Romeo.
Another absorbing regularity of the afternoon took the cars in a triangle around a high walled cemetery. This was immediately followed by some tight choices of junctions for navigators to pick from. Out of the open top of the 1955 Triumph TR3, navigator Julia Robertson could clearly be heard giving firm instructions to her driver and husband Steve as he rightly hesitated at a downhill fork just after the graveyard. He listened!
The Mercedes Benz 280 SL of Daniel and Barbara Wiedemann did stop and turned into the wrong road before quickly reverting to the right course to retain their 12th place by lunch.
But it wasn’t easy during the afternoon as New Zealander Mike Donald asserted. “ We’d had a good couple of regularities in the morning, then around 3.0 pm we had a few lapses and threw it all out of the window. What gets me is sometimes it can be the easy ones!” It was very annoying for Mike and his navigator wife Paula as they had climbed from near the tail of the field to 25th.
One of the super sights on London Lisbon is the array of sports cars taking part. Gary and Sue Johnson are competing in their 1985 red Lotus Excel which looked wonderful gliding through the Mervent Vouvant forest in regularity three this morning. But Gary didn’t just make a mistake, he was also the target of a pelting as he explained!
“We made a wrong turn which meant I had to reverse around a hundred yards along a farm track! But the worst was being overtaken by Drexel Gillespie in his Tiger at quite a speed and then being peppered by his flying stones! There are a few stone chips and so I’ve had a few words with him but we are expecting recompense in the bar!”
There were no tests along the route yesterday, a disappointment for Jayne Wignall the Sunbeam Tiger driver who really enjoys them and thought there should be more on the event. But she got her chance today at the Fontenay Kart track, a mixture of fast and medium speed corners with a couple of tight sections. As today’s running order was formulated using the alphabet of sir names, Jayne ended up on the track at the same time as her husband Paul Wignall. It was fascinating to see the pair throwing their cars around, Jayne using all the Tiger’s 4.2 litre V8 power whilst Paul was flicking the nimble 1959 1600 Alfa Romeo around as if it actually was a kart!
Later however, he was to encounter a speedometer cable issue which the mechanical assistance crews were helping with but which turned into what Paul described as a fraught afternoon as he pulled a screw driver out from under the bonnet where he had just found it!
“Yes it was fraught. After the cable issue the trip stopped working but some incredible work by my navigator Annabel Jones saved the day! I don’t know how she did it manually, but there was some amazing mental arithmetic going on. Despite that on the last three regularities we only dropped, five seconds, then four and zeroed the other – brilliant!
Annabel said; “ I just had to work off the road book and guess, then I kept fiddling with the sensors and managed to get the intermediate time on the trip to work but we kept it going.”
Tony Mather and his navigator wife Pauline were delighted to be back in the London Lisbon Rally after Tony fixed his fuel pump issues yesterday on their crowd pleasing and elegant drop top 1970 Citroen DS23. And they keep the top open, “rain or shine” said Pauline. “What’s more the French people really love the car almost as much as we do, they keep tooting and waving at us!”
Phil Stainton who is driving a striking green Porsche 911 2.7 RS Lightweight, was pleased with their stealthful progress retaining sixth place at the lunch halt. As navigator Tony Davies confirmed; “ we are keeping our noses clean and just trying to stay under the radar”.
A rapid local bicycle race and their marshals with red flags brought a short mid regularity halt to the last of the day. It was soon re started as Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford explained; ”My CoC equivalent in the bike race and I conferred, we had both been issued with the same permit for the same time by the same local council! We sorted out an extra crossing then just restarted the regularity, but he really was a lovely bloke.”
The HERO of day three had to be Annabel Jones for her brain power and persistence with a failed trip meter. However, the surprise of the rally so far was the very French looking gentleman with the complete gallic look including full grey beard, beret and a dog who approached the communications team to ask what was going on in a thick Lancashire accent with a twist of French. He was told it was the London Lisbon Rally whilst he told us he was ‘Bob from Wigan’ and had lived in Guitte France for the last 14 years – and he loved it!
Day 4. Bordeaux to Dax
Father and son Stephan and Alexander Chick have maintained their lead in the London Lisbon Rally over Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte, the Austin Healey 33 seconds in front of the Porsche 911 at the end of Day four.
Father and son Stephan and Alexander Chick have maintained their lead in the London Lisbon Rally over Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte, the Austin Healey 33 seconds in front of the Porsche 911 at the end of Day 4. There has been a battle raging all day between Jayne Wignall and navigator Kevin Savage with Stephen Owens and Ian Canavan’s Porsche 911, Jayne just kept the third place podium position in her Sunbeam Tiger by 5 seconds. She is just 7 seconds off second place. The podium positions are tight with a long way yet to run to Lisbon. Max Behrndt and Seren Whyte are holding fifth in the Datsun 240Z but second in the family battle with Daniel and Elise, father and sister respectively.
If the action between the top four wasn’t enough, there was a super forest regularity called Floret de Compet which not only had its traps for the unwary but also the French Air force streaking through the sky overhead whilst the gunshots from hunters on the ground seemed a bit a close for comfort at one point!
Add literally, a ‘monster’ one hour regularity that caused some confusion and bravado for others, it was aptly named ‘Armagnac Monster’, mix in a cheeky final regularity called ‘Route Du Rallye’ and you had the recipe for an exciting day.
You just knew there was more to come when American Melvin Andrews and navigator Andrew Duerden had to squeeze their compact Porsche 914/6 between the swing arm of an excavator and its large water scavenge pipe astride the first regularity of the day. Their spare wheel on the roof just scraping by.
Stephen Chick and his son Alexander who is driving the leading Austin Healey, had a few moments to reflect on their success so far whilst waiting at a Time Control; Stephen said; “at the moment we’ve been lucky, but there’s a long way to go, it’s only Monday. We don’t really care about those behind us because if we wreck it, it will be down to us not those behind!”
When asked if he was feeling the pressure Alexander replied; “ All anyone is asking us at the moment is how you can win it.” Stephen chipped in; “ suddenly we are the font of all knowledge so we have to make up answers, but we don’t know!” Commenting on the performance of the car and the look of the rickety hood, Stephen continued, “ that’s part of its charm, it has to go across the top rollover hoop so it looks a bit like a Bedouin tent!”
Had Alexander had any time to check out the scenery? “ You get into such a groove you forget where you’ve been, I’ve seen some places and thought I must come back here but later I have just forgotten it all!”
When asked how it was going after the fourth regularity, Foret de Campet, Roma Handley who navigates her husband Paul in their MGB Roadster, was rather despondent; “ we missed a Timing Point, but so it seems did many others!” Steve Farmer’s navigator John Gearing in the MGB V8 was one who had spotted the board in time, saying that you just had to keep ‘your eyes open’ whilst others in the group ribbed him for his straight forward answer.
Tony Davies an experienced navigator in the beautiful green Porsche 911 2.7 RS lightweight, felt that “if the driver was awake they would have seen the board, there were a number of skid marks of crews, some whom would have had line faults, but it was perfectly fair. You have to keep your wits about you. It’s in the name HERO, Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation, it’s not a walk in the park, this event counts for the HERO Cup and the Golden Roamer awards for drivers and navigators”.
As it turned out, more than twenty cars had failed to spot to the TP board 4A so Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford went to inspect the location, ruling that it should be scrubbed.
The very next regularity, the fifth of the day was the big one. The Armagnac Monstre representing an hour of team work and concentration, a real afternoon jolt for those who had enjoyed a marvelous break at Labastide D’Armagnac, a favourite village of the French as it is a real step back in time to the 12th century. The competitors were fortunate to be able to drive slowly through ancient village and on into the splendid square of the Chateau du Prada for exclusive ‘rally car’ only parking!
The road wound its way through a variety of terrain, including some real twists around a lake where gunshots could be heard at one point followed by the deafening noise of the French Air Force on exercise above. This didn’t perturb Tony and Pauline Mather in their open top classic Citroen DS23 as they concentrated on trying to pass a large agricultural spraying vehicle. Just as they were losing time the massive machine turned into one of the many lanes allowing the Citroen to sprint off.
Minutes later the Ford Mustang of Swiss duo Christiane Leupold and Veronika Karrer burbled past with Paul Wignall and Annabel Jone’s recovering Alfa Romeo closing in. Christiane and Veronika are on their very first classic car rally but really had nowhere to pull over in the big American car in the tight lanes. Paul had no option but to nip past before the Timing Point, but to do that he had to take a little launch over an inclined bank! It was no problem for the nimble 1959 Guilietta Sprint! The pair have battled back to 13th overall.
Confusion and lots of quick turn arounds over a complex of gravel roads ensued as some crews turned into a right hander too early. The MGA of Chris and Sue Green, the VW Beetle of Thomas and Merion Herold were all followed by the growling Sunbeam Tiger of Drexel and Pat Gillespie as they passed each other on the wrong road. David Coxon and Peter Hawkins were also visitors to the gravel in their 1965 Austin Healey, but the surprise was Michael Moss and James Ewing in the Fiat 2300 Abarth Coupe as they are rarely caught out. However, the experienced pair were quick to make amends clocking into the next control on a zero!
Following the fun of the final regularity and a day of long driving and concentrated action, teams headed to Dax, the Roman Spa town for the final night on French soil.
Day 5. Dax to Logrono
Stephen and Alexander Chick who started the day with a 33-second lead have now extended it to 37 seconds, even though a rear suspension breakage nearly ended their rally. They managed to wobble through the last test at the Circuit de Navarro kart track, then nursed the injured Austin Healey to the night halt in Logrono where technical assistance crews came to the rescue with a fix of wood and chains to hold the leaf springs in place.
As teams climbed out of the French and into the Spanish Pyrenees this morning, cars have started to suffer as the mountains have taken their toll on the machinery. The endurance element of London Lisbon is starting to take effect as the Chick father and son’s car broke both it’s rear spring hangers. The technical assistance team have put wood and chains in place to hold them. Said Stephen Chick, “we were pretty worried as the car was moving about a lot so we have had to take it easy, we’ve been losing time as a result. When we got to the last test at the track we weren’t sure what was going to happen.
“Ken and Charlie have made a great fix but they have told us not to put too much weight in the boot and to take it easy, then it might last!”
The second place crew of Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte in the Porsche 911 were unaware of the leader’s issue as they arrived at the final control of the day; Elise; “I really didn’t know they had a problem, that’s a real shame as I have been rooting for Stephen and Alex, it’s been great to have someone different out front, but they can still win by keeping it steady with really good timing.”
Swiss Daniel Gresly agreed with his navigator; “ they can still do it, they are so good on the timing, they also have good basic timing equipment in the car, none of the new technical kit just a normal trip and a clear dashboard. They do a great job. I was very careful across the Pyrenees roads today as there were some hikers, I think we all took care past them, otherwise it was a good day.”
On the family battle between the Whyte sisters and father and son, Daniel and Max. Daniel and Elise are still ahead, plus they are breathing down the Chick’s necks now as we go into the second half of the event. Said Seren Whyte who is in fourth place navigating for driver Max Behrndt in the Datsun 240Z; “Max is a great driver but as I usually drive, navigating can be a bit harder. I don’t have the experience to deal with all the tricks. At least I was equal with Elise on penalties today at 39 apiece although she is a bit further up the field than us!”
Regularity three was a hum dinger, but not if you were scared of heights! The Col d’Aharza climbed up high into the Pyrenees, the narrow sinuous road winding it’s way to the top and back down again via some very tight hairpins with some very long drops. The surface varied from tarmac to stone, some loose but with rocks and gravel over tarmac in places.
This was not the place to meet traffic coming the other way or to get held up by farm vehicles. At the start of the regularity it seemed that both the first and second place cars of the Chicks and the Gresly, Whyte crew would encounter a small truck but it turned off.
Bernd and Christiane Dannenmaier from Germany in their Porsche 911S, Pat and Gerardine Neville’s Volvo 144S, Mark Shipman and Mike Tarr’s Aston Martin and Drexel and Pat Gillespie’s Sunbeam Tiger were all badly held up by a large agricultural vehicle towards the end of the regularity, but fortunately they had crossed the last Timing Point.
The team with the most work to do and the scariest task on regularity three were Simon Arscott and Andy Wilson in the 1927 Bentley 4.5 litre Le Mans. It was quite a spectacle watching Simon wrestle with the big car on successive acute hairpins on the descent but alarming looking at the drop as he tried to hold the car with the big brake to change gear into reverse, each hairpin was a minimum of a three point turn!
Simon was really having to heave on the wheel. Some following competitors had to wait for the big Le Mans car to finally turn which worried virgin navigator Andy Wilson and Simon Arscott which is why they went to apologise to the organisers!
Regularity four, Orgambide was to further push the reliability of the classic rally cars. It was incredibly steep and narrow but with some amazing views across the valleys below. Australian Max Stephenson, a recent award winner in his Rolls Royce on the ERA Flying Scotsman, is driving his 1956 Austin Healey 100M here on this event with Englishman Mark Bramall navigating. The car was stopped at the top of the mountain with it’s OK board out but the radiator was out of water. “ She got a bit hot coming up the really steep bits plus she is losing a little bit of oil.” Max switched her off before she blew.
The media team, then Karl Eisleben and Joan McCabe’s original Shelby Mustang GT350H, (the H being for Hertz as it was one of the original rental cars) both stopped to give water allowing Max and Mark to complete the regularity.
Another rescue surprise was the return of Peter Myles and Jonathan Shepherd in their 1975 Saab 96 V4. It had was last seen on Saturday morning alighting from the St Malo ferry in a cloud of smoke after the water pump failed. Jonathan explained; “ We got the car back on a ferry to the UK and luckily found someone who could fit a new pump on Saturday night. We were back on a ferry to France on Sunday, then drove 670 kilometres straight yesterday to catch back up with the London Lisbon today, now we are back in the rally!”
There were some crews held up by road traffic today, the worst affected was Stephen Owens and Ian Canavan in the Porsche who dropped to fourth at lunchtime as a result.
Jayne Wignall was held up too but only briefly as she powered on to keep third place with Kevin Savage navigating in the Sunbeam Tiger. She had to be patient as some large but beautiful mountain cows decided they would get closer to the action. Meanwhile, Jayne’s husband Paul has continued his climb up the field now lying 10th in the 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint with Annabel Jones.
At the night halt in Logrono, there was quite a queue of cars waiting for attention from the mechanical assistance crews. Chris and Sue Green in their beautiful MGA 1600 FHC needed some wheel bearing checks; “she is sixty years old and still going really well, but there is a lot of noise from the bearings. I just think with all the hard braking over the mountains and the dust and dirt in there, it’s causing the whining. It’s better to get her checked though.”
Stephen Owens fifth place Porsche 911 was in line for a check-up of his steering when Max Stephenson arrived in the Austin Healey to try and sort the oil leak and check his water system!
It’s was a great day’s motorsport but the Pyrenees had taken it’s toll not just on the mechanicals of the car, but also on the rubber which was wearing out quicker than expected. Max Behrndt was furiously making calls to try and find new tyres for his fourth place Datsun 240Z, whilst Drexel Gillespie had the same task but he drove off on a mission around town to find rubber to fit his Sunbeam Tiger. They will need it, tomorrow on Day Six we head to the hills again!
Day 6. Logrono to La Granja
Forty six rally cars left Logrono and climbed back into the foothills of the La Rioja vineyards where officials had already set up controls early this morning in zero degrees. By the time of the second regularity, temperatures were up to 25 degrees, until they reached the top! The remnants of snow and some chilly conditions made for an exciting regularity over the Quinatanar de la Sierra. The two highest peaks in the provinces of La Roja and Burgos are located in this range, both are local ski resorts.
Crews faced 343 kilometres including six regularities and two tests. The route out of Logrono was stunning as the classic rally cars passed the Embalse de Mansilla lake, the mountains and hills reflected clearly on the glass like surface of the water.
The main contenders for victory in the London Lisbon all made it through the packed day. By the afternoon’s two tests at the Circuito Kotarr, Alexander and his father Stephen were still hanging in there out front, despite breaking both rear spring hangers yesterday which the HERO mechanical assistance team shored up with wood and chains; “It’s holding together” exclaimed Alexander who navigates on the tests as father Stephen drives then they swap places for regularities.
The Chick team had taken it a bit easier yesterday afternoon following the breakage, nursing the big Healey back to the rest halt but had still managed somehow to increase their lead! How so, Alexander was asked? “ I really don’t know, we can only guess that the others had more issues than us!”
By the time they arrived in La Granja the ‘fix’ was still holding up as was their lead in the London Lisbon. Said Stephen; “It’s still holding together, touch wood, listen!” He pushed the side of the 1959 Austin Healey to make it sway a little and all you could hear was the clear creaking of wood. “It sounds like an old sailing ship” added Alexander, the pair reasonably confident at the moment that it may go the distance.
Sadly after a herculean effort by Peter Myles and Jonathan Shepherd to repair their Saab 96 V4 by returning to the UK and back to France after fitting a new water pump, the car has failed and has had to retire for the second time. After a mammoth effort to find a new pump and someone to refit it on a Saturday night, then catch back up with the event within three days, it is a sad end to a valiant effort.
Another sad ending came today for Max Stephenson from Australia and his British navigator Mark Bramall. The car already had an oil leak and some over heating problems caused by the altitude and steep climbs of the Pyrenees yesterday, but today Max was forced to retire the 1957 Austin Healey 100/6 for good; “ We split the sump today but it’s not worth trying to put a temporary fix on that as the main bearing and oil seal in the rear of the engine have gone. We are just going to leave the car here, were out I’m sad to say.”
Still pushing on in the big 1927 Bentley Le Mans are Simon Arscott and Andy Wilson. After heroic and sometimes scary moments trying to get the car round acute hairpins with nothing but fresh air and a long distance below them in the Pyrenees, Simon reflected on the difficult work; “ Trying to hold such a big heavy car on the handbrake whilst trying to find reverse with those big drops below us was very scary! Every hairpin was a three point turn, but somehow we got up and down.”
Today at the Circuito Kotarr track the 4.5 litre engined Bentley made its mark again, this time by entertaining a large group of Spanish motorcycle racers who were testing at the circuit. The bikers took to the roof of the pits to watch the London Lisbon teams turn on the track before their bike session started again when the cars had finished.
Simon and Andy got the big green Bentley with the union flag on its flanks really sideways at the last corner before the pit straight, much to the delight of the bike racers on the roof. They clapped and shouted the traditional ‘Ole, Ole!!’
Andy Wilson is on his first classic car rally having attended the HERO rally navigation classes presented by Seren and Elise Whyte at the Race Retro show in February when they were assisted by the current HERO Cup rally champion 2018 Paul Bloxidge. “They were a good introduction to the sport and navigation, I would recommend them, they have given me great insight.
Andy Wilson is also a pilot, so he also has an interest in navigation and flying as he shares ownership of a historic Harvard T6 aircraft. “ The Bentley is almost as thirsty as the Havard though, the car is returning 8.7 miles to the gallon and the plane consumes two litres of fuel a minute!”
Another who was pushing hard at the test around the track was Agnete Segalstad with her husband and doctor, Ole Rasmus Robak navigating in their 1983 Mercedes 500SL. The Norweigan couple are great to watch at the circuit as Agnete really hangs it out. “ I received a Christmas present from my children to go on a track day and since then I have really enjoyed driving on circuits, I learn a little bit each time. The only thing worrying me is the tyres. They are the same as I used before but they lose grip whereas they didn’t before. I’m going to check the best tyre pressures to use.”
Mark Shipman and navigator Mike Tarr arrived back at the night halt in Le Granja happy enough as they are enjoying themselves, but not too happy about their 1964 Aston Martin DB4. Mark;” The car is spluttering a bit but the road surfaces are a bit too harsh for the car. Of course we are pushing her we’re not cruising, we are bouncing around all over the place!” They were throwing the Aston Martin around at the kart track where the throaty unmistakable sound of the big 4.2 litre straight six also caught the attention of the bikers on the roof of the pits, cause for more;’ Ole, Ole!’
Tom Hayes with navigator American Frank McDonagh navigating in the 1970 BMW 2002 tii managed to get the directions around the track wrong, coming in one lap early ahead of Max Behrndt and Elise Whyte’s Datsun 240Z who are fighting for the lead of the London Lisbon. They blocked the stop astride finish line but fortunately, the marshals at the finish clicked their clock as Max pulled up sharply so the Anglo-Swiss crew still got their correct time.
“It was totally my fault”, said Tom Hayes, “I wrong slotted as I saw the finish and just dived in, I actually made the wrong exit twice so I did an extra lap, I really did enjoy myself but I should have paid attention to Frank and listened.” The striking orange BMW is an original car which has proved reliable and quick so far with it’s original Alpina engine.
Michael Kershaw and Liz Comstock-Smith both agreed they are enjoying the London Lisbon event in their 1975 Aston Martin V8. “It’s really good, great driving, great scenery and the right sort of roads,” said Michael. “The only issue is we appear to have used up Spain’s entire stock of petrol trying to run the V8. The brakes can fade a bit on the long downhill runs but she just won’t really take steep uphill hairpins! You can’t get the speed up properly, then with the bonnet the length of an aircraft carrier it’s difficult to see anything but metal, you can’t see the road! But Aston Martins were not built for that were they?”
The Swiss crew of Christiane Leupold and Veronika Karrer are loving their first ever rally in their 1967 Ford Mustang Cabrio, despite the odd problem.
Christiane; “ Yes we are loving it. People are helping us and we are learning together, we seem to arrive at each night stop one way or another! We did have a little transmission problem and some trouble with the hood coming up when we didn’t want it to, but generally, the car has been great, especially the engine, it’s really strong!”
Max Berhrndt and Seren Whyte arrived at the night halt in a strong fourth place in their Datsun 240Z, just 18 seconds behind Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage in the third place Sunbeam Tiger despite the odd mistake. Said Seren;” Max got a bit over excited on the tests and got us a stop astride penalty of ten seconds. I didn’t have a great morning and was wondering why I was doing this navigators job, then we only dropped two seconds over seven controls so I was happy again, but it can be a real roller coaster of emotions.”
The big mover of the day was Paul Wignall and Annabel Jones in the 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint up five places to 8th!
Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte reported no problems at the end of the day in their Porsche 911. They are still second but Stephen and Alexander Chick have extended their lead to 49 seconds, despite their creaking wooden car! A great effort but can they keep it up and will the car ‘fix’ last?
There are four more days of competition left to find out.
Day 7. La Granja to Salamanca
Stephen Chick and his son Alexander had their lead in the London Lisbon Rally cut from 49 to 35 seconds at the end of day seven after what Alex described as ‘human error’. Meanwhile, the ever-present threat of second place Daniel Gresly and navigator Elise Whyte closed in after they enjoyed what Elise described as a ‘brilliant day’ in their Porsche 911. The Anglo-Swiss alliance continues to hunt down the Austin Healey with its rear suspension shored up by wood and chains.
The Chicks were not alone as others made mistakes, including HERO events RAC Rally of the Tests winner Paul Wignall who had climbed so brilliantly to eighth place navigated by Annabel Jones, only for timing errors to drop them back down to tenth in the striking red Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint.
Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage in their Sunbeam Tiger are still holding that final podium position in third, just 16 seconds behind the Gresly/ Whyte Porsche with three days to go. Max Behrndt and Seren Whyte in the Datsun 240Z had a storming day as the other Anglo Swiss partnership in the intra family battle for honours. They are seeking to steal the podium place from the Sunbeam Tiger. Seren said; “we probably had the least penalties of all the crews today, we dropped just 12 seconds so I am particularly happy!” The Datsun is now just 12 seconds behind Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage’s Sunbeam.
Stephen Owens and Ian Canavan are holding steady in fifth place with their Porsche 911, both looking for more points in the HERO Cup and Golden Roamer championships for drivers and navigators. Stephen said; “ This morning was not so good we had a few issues but this afternoon was really good, I’ve never had so much fun!”
One of the great efforts in the rally has come from Steve and Julia Robertson in the 1955 TR3. Always seen working away together in the cockpit sporting their trade mark white ‘beany’ sun hats, the husband and wife team have been constant top ten finishers in the daily legs. After today’s performance they are lying sixth ahead of the Irvine Laidlaw and Tony Davies Porsche 911 2.7 RS lightweight.
45 cars left La Granja this morning, quite close to Madrid whose citizens were enjoying a one day festival holiday, many taking to the roads in the hills on their motorcycles or in cars, some pausing to watch the classic and vintage cars go past. The biggest waves and cheers were reserved for the 1927 Bentley Le Mans of Simon Arscott and Andy Wilson.
The route went past the Roman town of Avila and up the Sierra de Gredos, the London Lisbon Rally has visited these mountains before as they form part of classic rally territory. High passes, huge rocks formed as if part of Fred Flintstone’s village and sensational views for those brave enough to take their eyes off the road or their road books containing the vital tulip diagrams. Apart from the spectators, birds of prey were circling above, whilst the Spanish ibex goats at the side of the mountain roads were there for the thicker grass, not bothered one bit by the rally cars.
There were five regularities today, the second one, Burgohondo was a cracker but the final regularity of the day over the 1900m Pena Negra was like looking down on earth from space. You could feel the altitude once cars and crews were at the top to start their descent. The roads have been climbed by the Vuelta Espana bike race and recently the mountains used for the Paragliding World Championship, the London Lisbon teams were in good company and they didn’t disappoint.
Tony and Pauline Mather showed total commitment as they swooshed the 1970 Citroen DS23 drop top around a cambered constant radius hairpin with nothing but a crenellated low wall to prevent them from joining the paragliders. New Zealanders Mike and Paula Donald were equally committed in their 1972 BMW 2002 tii in their pursuit of a class win.
There was panic for Seren Whyte at the lunch halt as she locked herself in the loo and spent five minutes trying to release the tiny catch which hurt her fingers. A smile of relief as she escaped saying with a smile; “I panicked for a while worrying about our time out of the control, then my other thought was maybe one of our close competitors was playing a little prank!”
The rally arrived in the ancient city of Salamanca which surrendered to the Moors as long ago as 712 AD! Cars parked in a small square outside the Automobile History Museum under the watchful eye of the police who have been coordinating with rally officials. HERO Competition Director Guy Woodcock showed the police the detailed OS maps of the route, whilst noting that six cars belonging to the public who hadn’t paid their parking fees in the square had all been towed away within minutes. A large crowd enjoyed the sight of the fantastic rally machines, though, as ever the biggest crowd was around the 1927 Bentley Le Mans car.
Back at the night halt Hotel Paradores in Salamanca, work on tired vehicles commenced as owners and the HERO Mechanical Assistance teams wielded jacks and tools for running repairs. Andy Simpson’s MGB V8 was jacked high in the air as mechanics sought to repair Andy’s anti roll bar mount which had been ripped out. Next door Steve Farmer’s MGB V8 was also up on jacks awaiting a fix as Steve described the issues. “The car is pulling violently to the right, I suspect the pads have gone but luckily I have a spare set. The hand brake cable broke yesterday so we are waiting for another to arrive but the cars are really starting to feel it now!”
Tyre wear is still a bit of an issue as well. Max Behrndt disappeared in his Datsun 240Z to have new tyres fitted whilst Simon Arscott was swopping his front tyres on the Bentley with the back ones due to all the cornering pressures on the rear with such a heavy car.
Rally leaders Stephen and Alexander Chick had time to reflect on the mistakes that lost them time to the pursuing Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte today. Alexander; “We made a mess of both TC regularities with penalties of 24 and 8 which were down to human error. Through a village where naturally there is a slow speed (13 mph) there was a Timing Point on the other side where we were early at the control by eight seconds, so I had miscalculated.”
“We are both to blame” said Alex’s father Stephen, “Alex had shouted to me, ‘slow, slow’ but by then we could see the control.” Alexander responded to the report that there had been a bit of a ‘kerfuffle’ in the Austin Healey at the time; “ It was my fault so it was natural to shout as soon as I realised the mistake, but both of us were not quite on it today, even though the afternoon was a bit better.”
In response to Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford’s assessment that today had been a ‘relatively easy day’ and that tomorrow the ‘screw would be turned up a bit’ Stephen Chick said; “Good, we prefer it when it’s harder!”
They will still have to deal with the ever present threat of Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte behind them by just 35 seconds at the end of day seven. Elise Whyte; “we dropped 22 seconds over 22 controls, which whilst it could have been a bit better, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. It was a brilliant day!”
Day 8. Salamanca to Covilha – 367 kms
Even before the start of the first Regularity this morning, leaders Stephen Chick and son Alex’s rally looked like being finished as their 1959 Austin Healey refused to start and nothing would get it going! After yesterday’s timing error nearly cost them the lead, this time it really looked like it was game over... Until the HERO technical assistance team arrived like the cavalry, just in time!
Stephen takes up the story; “It seemed like a combination of bits not working, we were trying lots of different things to get it going, then the assistance service crew descended on us and just pushed me out of the way! They changed the points, the condenser and as if by magic, it started! Alex and I were calm, we just had to get the tools out and try and sort it, it became a ‘Zen’ moment for me, what else could we do? The boys were fantastic, just so determined to get us going again we really have to thank them. We were around half an hour behind but Alex drove like the wind, we caught up with no penalties.”
After the first regularity, crews arrived at the incredible ‘Sanctuary of our Lady of the Rock of France’. At 1783 meters above sea level, teams were looking down over the snow-capped mountains of the Sierra de Francia below! It is unreachable in the winter, but this an ancient place of pilgrimage and contemplation, and certainly gave Stephen Chick something to be thankful for as he again checked his engine. As rival and second place man Daniel Gresly approached to find out what had happened, Stephen said; “it was you, sabotage!” Smiles and laughter followed.
45 cars left Salamanca heading towards six testing Regularities after Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford had promised that the ‘screw would be turned a bit’ on Thursday, and so it was. Said 2018 Golden Roamer Award-winning navigator Ian Canavan, “Its certainly been ramping up, it’s getting trickier, a good morning none the less for myself and Stephen (Owens, in 5th place Porsche 911), we only dropped 17 seconds.”
To illustrate the point further, experienced and successful navigator Tony Davies who is sitting alongside Irvine Laidlaw in the Porsche 911 2.7 RS lightweight had lost time looking for a landmark concrete parapet marked in the road book, losing a minute. By mid-afternoon Tony was in despair! ”I lost us another minute and a half, it’s been a disaster, can we cancel today?”
Irvine and Tony’s issues benefitted another Porsche crew chasing them down for second place in the class, Peter and Helen Morris in the beautiful black 1972 Porsche 911 RS. Peter and Helen were only a second behind at the start of the day but had been employing legitimate gamesmanship yesterday for example, by asking to jump a slower Mustang in line for the regularity so as not to get slowed down, leaving the Laidlaw Porsche to cope with the Mustang. Tony Davies took two minutes for the start instead! “You’ve got to try anything, a bit of gamesmanship doesn’t hurt. Today they incurred a line penalty too.” Helen added, “It’s been a needle match, all great fun!” They were delighted to end the day taking the second in class and a superb 6th overall following some sideways moments on the final Regularity of the day.
The lunch halt was at the amazing Hopederia Sierra de Gata, now a hotel in the old Franciscan convent of San Miguel where crews ate their lunch in the old chapel with the alter still in place. At this border retreat, the language is an entirely different one, a mix of Spanish and Portuguese, but the teams' prayers asking for an easier run in the afternoon were mostly in English.
Chris Moss on his first long-distance rally with navigator Paul Sharp in the ex-Henry Inuretta 1974 Ford Escort RS2000, climbed back up the field today to claim 22nd place overall. He really enjoyed the old convent grounds where he found part of the foundations containing a large Lilly pond with hundreds of goldfish swarming around, most of them chasing the remnants of his bread from lunch that he’d thrown in.
Norweigan Agnete Segalstad with her navigator and husband Ole Rasmus Robak have been working hard to earn their second in class and 28th position overall in their 1983 Mercedes 500 SL. As she was watching Chris Moss feeding the goldfish she said how much she liked nature, so much so that; “I stop to take pictures of animals and flowers, I have already seen an eagle and two deer today! But unfortunately, on the Regularities, there have been too many wrongs today. A car stopped in front of us as they were lost, then I picked a wrong turn after my husband had made a mistake before that, so we are equal in blame so far!” Agnete admitted that she hasn’t been feeling well at all since arriving for the start of the rally in the UK. “ I was given medication in the UK but I had a bad reaction to it so I am still not great. My husband is a doctor but he’s no use, he’s an orthopedic doctor, his advice is ‘it will pass’!” A spirited effort considering.
As the day wore on more mistakes were being made on the trickier Regularities. When asked how he was getting on, Andy Wilson who is navigating Simon Arscott in the Bentley Le Mans, his first ever event, replied; “If you’d have asked me 35 minutes ago I’d have said fine, but I just made a big mistake sending us the wrong way!” Simon wasn’t too bothered, he was more concerned by the state of his tyres; “they’re wearing out!”
Graham Platts is a mathematician from Monaco who is driving his immaculate 1956 Austin Healey 100M navigated by logistics expert Neil Ripley. “It should be the other way around really, but then we managed a landmark success today for the first time on the event. Four zero’s in a row on the first regularity of the day! Later we lost a minute, after all the zero’s, but we were still smiling as we played our joker!
Graham always has the roof down on the white car and always wears his trademark Panama hat come rain or shine, and sometimes uses the Healey in Monte Carlo. “Ask him about cleaning the car”, said Neil, “ he’s obsessed with keeping it clean, look at it, gleaming, he’s forever cleaning it!” The duo finished the day in an excellent 10th overall.
Another crew who are keeping up consistently high performances are Steve and Julia Robertson in the 1955 Triumph TR3, seventh overall despite technical issues. Steve; “ we have a leaking radiator which has been treated with Radweld to try and stop it up. We have to keep the heater and fan on full blast to try and keep the engine cool but the noise of the fan is so loud the marshals tell us they can hear that whirring before they hear the engine!”
Annabel Jones was content with 9th overall today, fighting back after some timing errors yesterday in the Alfa Romeo with driver Paul Wignall. “We had a good morning losing just 11 seconds”.
Evidence of tougher navigation in the Regularities was seen on the 5th of the day, ironically close to Belmonte now across the border in Portugal where the famous navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral was born. He discovered Brazil in 1500 although he made mistakes on the way! Crew after crew missed the triangle to a Timing Point, Andy and Ros Simpson in the MGB V8, Steve Farmer and John Gearing in a similar car plus David Coxon and Pete Hawkins who had to make a rapid turn back into their own dust from the Austin Healey. The biggest lockup was by third-place Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage in the Sunbeam Tiger.
Further on in the Regularity, the village of Soito became the ‘crystal maze’ for rally cars except they couldn’t see a thing in the narrow cobbled streets and that lead to confusion for many crews. Patricia Gillespie navigating for husband Drexel said;” I forgot my left from my right, when we got to the village I was trying to do so many things all at the same time that I got confused! We're still talking though, that’s the important thing!”
Daniel Gresly was happy to retain second place overall with navigator Elise Whyte at the close of the day. We also lost a little bit of time in the village but the rest of the day was really good, as usual, Elise has been great.” They are now 42 seconds behind the leaders Stephen and Alex Chick.
Daniel’s son Max Behrndt was equally happy now he has his new tyres fitted; “ what a difference! We are cornering so well now, the Datsun is going to be great on the tests. We only dropped 13 seconds through five regularities, that was great. That’s what happens when you have a great navigator like Seren Whyte!” The pair retain their fourth place, now just six seconds behind Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage in third.
Michael Moss and James Ewing also enjoyed a great day rising to 12th overall, third in class in the wonderful Fiat 2300 Abarth Coupe, after a charging performance on the last regularity of the day the Poco do Inferno! What a piece of road, winding around the edge of a mountain where even the trees hang on for dear life on the steep slopes. The light and shade under the trees hid some of the dangers. With huge rock faces lining the road in parts, and narrow off camber twists with rocks on the inside apex, it was certainly a challenge. One hairpin was so acute that Michael Moss ran out of steering lock and just touched the bank on the outside.
Said navigator James Ewing; “ We hadn’t missed a thing all day, all the controls, it had been going very well, but we just got away with that one!”
Day 9. Covilha to Tomar
The fourth Regularity of the day, Urraca, proved to be the defining action of the long ninth day of the London Lisboa 2019. It contained no less than eight secret timing points across a variety of terrain that even included a steep cobbled incline with a timing point at the top! Crews arrived at a control afterwards for a quick refresh after the heat and dust of the winding, climbing roads with tales of a real challenge.
Neil Ripley navigating Graham Platt’s Austin Healey was sitting in the shade recovering from the sheer concentration in the heat; “It was relentless, after five timing points you think that’s it, it’s over, but then there were three more! It was hard work just trying to concentrate.” Annabel Jones navigating in the Alfa Romeo Guilietta Sprint with Paul Wignall agreed with Neil as she clutched her road book containing many scribbled calculations in the right-hand side of the pages; “ There were so many speed changes, triangles, and deceptive blind turns to catch you out that you had to keep recalculating so quickly!” Neil added; “that’s the challenge when you have so many timing points, you have to be so accurate but that’s endurance rallying.” Of the cobbled incline leading to yet another control, James Ewing who is navigating Michael Moss’ Fiat 2300S Abarth Coupe said; "We had done really well until this steep cobbled hill. With no chance of a run-up, she just wouldn’t go up!"
Annabel Jones added; "I understand the Chicks may have only dropped four seconds over the entire mammoth Regularity, if they did that would be amazing, we thought we did well on twenty!”
The penultima day had started at 8.00 am, the 44 cars climbing back up the pass they descended last night to just above the town of Covilha high in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. It was nearly time for the oxygen masks as the rally climbed to a rarified 2000 meters above sea level past bizarre rock formations shaped like long pillars with round rocks perched on top! The prehistoric landscape overlooked the valleys way below as crews checked in at a passage control right at the top of Capela da Torre, Portugal’s highest mountain.
Cars had left in overall classification order meaning Stephen and Alex Chick were first at the control, their 1959 Austin Healey silhouetted against the already blue sky in the cold air. Snow still lingered in many places although the ski lifts had been packed up for the impending summer, this allowed crews a quick chance of some photos or just time to admire the stunning views.
Six Regularities awaited the teams. Not just top places were at stake in the London Lisbon Rally but also valuable points in the HERO Cup for drivers and the Golden Roamer Award for navigators. There was a strong feeling that the penultimate day could have quite a sting to it.
Then came the sad news that popular crew of Simon Arscott and Andy Wilson had been forced to head back north and out of the rally with their crowd pleasing 1927 Bentley 4.5 litre Le Mans after ferry issues compressed their schedules.
The London Lisbon continued to test vehicles as well as crews as Tom Hayes and American Frank McDonagh sought help for their stricken 1970 BMW 2002tii their bonnet left raised at the first coffee halt. Steve Farmer and John Gearing were forced to change a punctured tyre on their MGB V8 putting on their only spare. As Steve said; “ We will have to try and get another tyre fitted somehow!”
More niggles that could cause problems later were encountered by second place man Daniel Gresly who is navigated by Elise Whyte: “ I think the starter button is broken, we had to push the car twice this morning.” Within twenty minutes of arriving at the halt the HERO mechanical assistance crews had fixed the starter. “They are magical” said Daniel.
Car 44, the Fiat X1/9 of event sponsor Stephane Gutzwiller and Kieth Gapp had stopped in the third Regularity but was also revived by the HERO assistance crews. Stephane is really enjoying the event and commented on the Gutzwiller Private Banking sponsorship; “ When Patrick Burke and Keith Gapp offered us the chance to sponsor the London Lisbon Rally, we jumped at the chance. Of course, how I could I not compete in the event we are supporting? I’m just grateful the assistance crew got us going again”.
At the same lunch halt, the rally was visited by a Manuel Romad de Sousa, a Portuguese rallying dignitary who has helped the classic rally cause and the London Lisbon Rally in Portugal. He was visiting the event with colleagues and admiring the cars; “We are so pleased to see HERO and the London Lisbon Rally here, this is classic rallying territory. We are close to Arganil where so many Portuguese World Rally Championship events took place, I was involved with many and of course the TAP Rally as it was known. Soon the WRC Rally cars will be back here and we are looking forward to their return, rallying is very popular in Portugal as you know.
“I recently took part in the ERA Flying Scotsman Rally in an Alvis, it was a great event, congratulations to all! I also drive in Portuguese Regularity events where we have average speeds generally of 50 kph!”
Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford took off from the lunch halt with a few words of warning; “ they are in for a monster of a Regularity this afternoon with eight timing points!” This was to be the defining action of the day, a mammoth regularity crossing and following the Rio Zezere ending on the outskirts of the town of Oleiros where there was a rest halt afterwards for tired crews.
The roads were through pine forests, tight and twisty in parts, fast in others. Some road surfaces were partly cobbled but most were lined by rocks, some charred trees from the dreadful fires last year. It was dry and hot with very crispy edges to the roads due to fallen branches and pine needles. At one point two logging piles were taking up half of the road with only a narrow slippy track past. The warning sign on the logs said HERO CARE!
Tony Davie’s run of bad luck continued today as he described his run over the mammoth Regularity alongside Irvine Laidlaw in the Porsche 911 2.7 RS lightweight; “ I got the slot at the junction but then changed my mind, went back to check and lost a minute. You cannot lose concentration, you can’t take your eyes off the road book yet still keep an eye on the stopwatch! In all, it was a good regularity with some good tricks in it! I’m also really pleased to see a genuine sportscar out front.” He was referring to the Austin Healey 3000 Mk1 of Stephen and Alexander Chick leading at the end of the day now by one minute from Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte in the Porsche 911. “ I think we were quite good in there” said Stephen Chick in an understated way.
As Daniel Gresly said; “ we managed it all OK as we were trying to be a bit early each time, but now we have Max and Seren pushing hard, although we should keep second place tonight”. Indeed they did keep second but into third place tonight went Max Behrndt and Seren Whyte after a great day, in the Datsun 240Z taking the final podium position by 17 seconds from Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage’s Sunbeam Tiger. Said Seren, “ I lost all orientation in the mammoth regularity at one point, there were some real tricks with triangles but we managed to drop just 10 seconds, what the Chicks did in only losing four is insane! That is so good.”
Peter Hawkins who is navigating David Coxon in the muscular Austin Healey 3000 said of the long eight timing point regularity; “ It was a cracker wasn’t it? We got it right which was a whole lot better than yesterday when we endured quite a tough day.”
Andrew Duerden was not pleased that the 1970 Porsche 914/6 he is sharing with driver Melvin Andrews took five attempts to get up the tricky cobbled incline up to a control that caught out Michael Moss and James Ewing.
Drexel Gillespie the Sunbeam Tiger driver who was also involved in the conversation said; “ Judging by the noise coming from your exhausts you could have blown yourselves up the hill!” Andrew retorted“ We had already gone wrong twice before that, once where I called right and Melvin went left, why did you do that Melvin?” he asked the American who was standing next to him.
“ I felt like I was doing something wrong so I went the other way” said Melvin. Andrew Duerden feared the duo had lost their class lead due to the errors but by the close of play the Porsche 914 was 17th and still leading the class!
Tomas and Marion Herold loved the regularity even though in the final analysis it went a bit wrong; ”It was really great and quite fast. The VW went well but we missed the last triangle, I’m always suspicious when I see them and said to Marion ‘shouldn’t we have gone right there’?” Yes was the reply.
Paul Wignall and Annabel Jones are back up to eighth overall in the Alfa Romeo after a strong performance over the day. “ There were lots of tricks in there, lots of surprises in the long regularity but I suppose on the second to last day they are trying to catch us out.”
So will Paul be going for it in the nimble and quick 1959 Alfa in the tests on the final day? “ We just have to be careful off the line as there is a delicate inner donut which I want the mechanics to check tonight. Actually, the tests are quite close to the hotel so maybe I will just give it death!”
After a superb performance yesterday rising to sixth overall in their Porsche 911 RS, Peter and Helen Morris have dropped to 10th but they are leading the class! “ We were rushing and missed a slot, lots of errors dropped us down”. “ You reach your own level” shouted Peter.
Urs and Maxime Mezger from Switzerland have been working hard to achieve a good result in their Triumph TR4 but as Urs said; “we dropped out of the top ten with a penalty for a wrong approach now we are getting back.” Maxime; “ we hit all the right controls in the long regularity so we did OK, yes I am limping, as I broke my foot” she said when asked, a real hero, she has made no complaints whatsoever. Father and daughter are 14th overall and second in class.
Mark Shipman and Mike Tarr endured a hot but productive day in the gorgeous Aston Martin DB5, lying 21st overall and third in class. Will they go for it in the tests on the last day tomorrow? Mark; “ We will see where we are with the people around us, then we will decide but we want to get to Lisbon and the finish!”
All eyes will be on the leading trio tomorrow on the final day of London Lisbon and there is a lot at stake. Stephen and Alex Chick know they must keep it clean but fast on the tracks, whilst hoping the exertion doesn’t affect the rear suspension trussed by wood and chains to achieve the win. Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte are ready to pounce on any mistake but have to watch their rear as the family battlers Seren Whyte and Max Behrndt are pushing hard. Who would have thought it would be this close after ten days and 2000 miles, what a finish in prospect for the 2019 London Lisbon Rally!
Day 10. Tomar to Estoril
After ten long day’s competition through the UK, France, Spain and Portugal, 54 regularities and eight tests, Stephen and Alex Chick took a remarkable win in their 1959 Austin Healey 3000 Mk1. Despite two technical scares, including broken rear suspension which had to shored up by wood and chains, this temporary fix amazingly held up from mid France for the rest of the rally!
Crews visited 196 Timing Points and 350 controls throughout the 3,224 km journey, and yet second place Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte in their Porsche 911 were just 66 seconds behind after the prolonged competition. With third place crew of Max Behrndt and navigator Seren Whyte just over a minute behind the Porsche in their Datsun 240Z, it shows how close the competition was despite it being an endurance event.
Alex Chick was on the money as he described the pressure of trying to maintain the lead for so long; “ten days is a long time to have a target on your back, we are so relieved but we had great help from the mechanics, the marshals, thank you to them for stopping the watch at the right time! There was so much camaraderie, not in any way competitive!
The Chick team had in fact achieved 120 zeros at timing points during the event for which they received a standing ovation at the Awards Ceremony in the elegant Palacio Estoril. This hotel was a favourite of Ayrton Senna who used to stay here when he was racing at the Portuguese G.P. in Estoril, the scene of his first F1 victory in 1985.
Stephen Chick was also incredulous that the two major mechanical issues hadn’t prevented them from winning; “after the second problem in Salamanca when she wouldn’t start and everyone had gone, the mechanics came to our rescue, they got us back in the event. People keep asking us how we managed to do so well on the mammoth regularity yesterday, but honestly, we don’t have a clue, it was an accident! We have been in that situation before but never had a result like that. We were also asked if we were worried that the ‘fix’ would stay together with its wood and chains holding the rear suspension in place. Honestly no, we trusted the great work the mechanics had done. In fact, it’s so good I think we’ll leave the car the way it is!”
Elise Whyte was equally delighted to finish second with Swiss Daniel Gresly in the Porsche 911 and to receive the top lady navigator award after continually trying to chase down the leaders; “we were on their tails the whole time, in what was a tough ten days which demanded so much concentration. We made a few mistakes but the Chicks were so consistent, just so good.
Daniel Gresly though was full of praise for his top navigator; “ Elise is just so good but together we are the dream team, and we will go on like this.” This was Daniel’s second runner up position on London Lisbon.
Daniel’s son Max Behrndt was very happy with third place and a podium. “ This is the first time we have been together and it worked so well. Seren is the brains in the car, she did a great job. Yes, I had a little spin on the second test but there was a bit of leeway so I decided to go for it.” Seren Whyte;” I am so elated, this our first podium and after a long ten days I can’t really put the words together. The stress of trying to stay in the top three has been enormous, its been quite hard but the result is great. I’ve learned a lot as a navigator, normally I am the driver, but I won’t give my sister such a hard time when she is sitting next to me as navigator next time!”
Jayne Wignall had to console herself with fourth position overall, but also winning the class in her Sunbeam Tiger with Kevin Savage navigating, having been consistently in the top three. Further recompense and indeed a deserved award was that of ‘Top Test Pilot’. Even on the last tests of the last day, Jayne was the one to beat which is how she started out ten days ago at Brooklands with the fastest time.
It was a case of what might have been for Jayne’s husband Paul Wignall in the 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint after major time loss early in the event in the UK with road traffic blockages. And yet he and navigator Annabel Jones fought back into the top ten. Competitive to the last, Paul was heard to shout across to his wife on the second of the last four tests at the Karto Dromo da Regiao West, ”can we start at the same time?” as Jayne lined up for her first lap with Paul on the adjacent track about to start his second.
Back at the finish, Annabel Jones was checking the results on the information board; “ We were three seconds behind our nearest rival at lunchtime so the final test results could be pivotal. Two years ago we didn’t finish at all, we had a wishbone come loose yesterday, so we were a little bit worried. But look, we’ve done it! Seventh place, we did it on the last test. Wishbone, inner donut problem or not, Paul doesn’t know how to hold back!”
The fight for major honours at the front was equaled by the quest for positions or just a finish through the rest of the field. The second regularity of the day Brejo, was a bit misty, the sun hadn’t had its chance of burning it off yet. Tom Hayes and Frank McDonagh were already out of the fray the day before, their BMW had sheared its alternator bracket but Christiane Leupold and Veronika Karrer flew through it in their open top Mustang.
In regularity three, Bernd and Christiane Dannenmaier went the wrong way in their Porsche 911, coming back down the same road a few times! New Zealanders Mike and Paula Donald also took a wrong turn in their BMW but they still ended up 22nd overall. “ Yes, inside the top twenty five, we will take that!” said Paula at the finish.
Tomas and Marion Herold threw their VW around the track as usual, the German VW fans owning three versions of Beetles, one is a hill climb car, the crew were delighted to finish 25th in their rally version.
The final battleground of the four tests at the Karto Dromo run by Nuno Inacio was, he pointed out, ‘close to one of the battlegrounds of great British victories!’ The fort of Sao Vincente de Torres Vedras which teams visited on the way to the Estoril finish was part of Wellington’s plans for attack and supply lines which helped the Anglo Portuguese army defeat Napolean on the Iberian peninsula. They were famously known as the ‘The Lines of Torres Vedras.’
It was only when the crews arrived at the finish at the magnificent Palacio Hotel in Estoril that they were able to feel the sense of relief, and recall some of the highlights of London Lisbon. Stephen Owens and champion navigator Ian Canavan who finished fifth in their Porsche 911 had really enjoyed the competition and the journey.
“What an adventure” said Ian, “ the regularities later on in France, the incredible roads through the pine forests in Portugal, there were some real highlights. If it hadn’t been for the silage truck that held us up in France and cost us so much time we could have challenged higher up, our times were certainly up there. Stephen and I had good chats before each day and we have worked well from the off, for a first time partnership, I think we have gelled well. The event has been a real challenge, the average speeds, the roads, but the roadbook was spot on!”
Stephen Owens concurred; “ It was terrific. It was very close, the second day we were second then we had the issue if France. But the fight to get back has been incredible, a tremendous event and it has been a real pleasure working with Ian. The detail he goes into and the work he puts in is quite amazing.”
Golden Roamer Navigators Award winner 2108, Ian Canavan is also well qualified to be able to put the Chick’s win into perspective; “The pressure they must have felt inside the car for all that time must have been immense. I have enormous respect for what they achieved but the other great thing about their win is the fact that they have done it in a genuine old sports car.” As Stephen Owens added; “ They are not the easiest of cars to drive either, so it has been a great effort.”
Amazing efforts all round. Agnete Segalstad and Ole Rasmus Robak will drive their 1983 Mercedes 500SL back to Norway; “ Well almost all the way”, said Agnete, “we have to get a ferry from Denmark” The Norweigans were 27th overall and second in class.
Chris and Sue Green were delighted to receive the London Lisbon Concours Award for their immaculate 1959 MGA 1600 FHC, but even happier to receive a wonderful round of applause as they headed to the stage at the prize giving, they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary on the final day of the rally.
The 1966 Shelby Mustang GT350H was a great sight on the event but must have been a handful at times and certainly not easy to thread down some of the narrow hill roads. Karl Eisleben from the USA said at the finish line; “ It’s a relief to finish, it’s been a tremendous adventure and a wonderful ten days.” Navigator Joan McCabe agreed, but; “now I think I may have to go to the spa to relax a bit!”
The other Mustang in the rally belonged to Christiane Leupold, navigated by Veronika Karrer both from Switzerland, both on their very first rally. Christiane said; “we have both learned so much, it was a big challenge, not just for the endurance but for the concentration. We are both very tired but are already making plans for future events!”
There was jubilation and congratulations all round as 42 of the original 47 starters finished the event:
Matthew Polk navigated by Amy Gould in the beautiful 1955 Porsche 356 Continental Coupe was really pleased that as one of the two oldest cars in the rally, they had a good finish in 33rd place.
Australians Tony Sutton and Aidan Mahwinney were really pleased to finish 32nd and fifth in class. Said Aidan; ”That was a huge amount of fun, we made it and the car is still running!”
Tony and Pauline Mather in the sublime Citroen drop head DS23 were happy to make it to the finish, Pauline said; “I’m relieved, I’m so tired, I’m surprised I’ve got a brain left after all that. Husband Tony was still up for more though; “ I could drive back to Northumberland now!”
Gary Johnson was quick to point out that the mechanics had said his and his wife’s 1985 Lotus Excel wouldn’t make it; “ but we proved them all wrong!” The red Lotus was 35th.
Drexel and Pat Gillespie’s Sunbeam Tiger proved the noisiest as it suffered manifold gasket failure and split exhausts on one bank of the vee, but they brought their Sunbeam Tiger home 24th. Said Pat; “we collected a lot of things along the way- mainly points, expensive ones at that!”
Top navigator Andrew Duerden remained quite frustrated by American Melvin Andrew’s ability to sometimes go the opposite way to his instructions, but the Anglo American partnership in the cramped Porsche 914/6 was 16th and won the class! “It was very noisy inside but handled very well. Yes, even today Melvin twice went the wrong way, but I think he learned a lot. I am very happy in the final analysis as this is my 17th consecutive trophy. I phoned my partner to tell her but she confirmed my suspicions that there is no room left to put it anywhere”!