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Badawï Trail, Syd Stelvio | Day 9 Jeddah to Taif – 524 KM

Badawï Trail, Syd Stelvio | Day 9 Jeddah to Taif – 524 KM

It’s a new roadbook kind of a day! A pivotal moment in any long rally and sometimes a turning point for any crews who have hit the wall, after all, once you change over to the second roadbook it’s all downhill right? Well, perhaps not and today, as we began at sea level alongside the Red Sea, it was more a case of what comes down must go up.

Way up as it happened, but that would come later. First, we had to escape Jeddah in amongst the rest of the city going about its daily business, with no care for what we were about, and why should they either? I must admit, there is always a certain amount of satisfaction being in amongst the daily grind as we head out on another day of adventure, a certain smugness as all those around are heading to their 9-to-5’s knowing that the day ahead for our little group is much more exciting.

The run out this morning was another long one, after all, we have a vast distance to cover before we hit our next border crossing as we cover the miles off in this country that is four times as large as France. For part of that journey at least we had the Red Sea to look upon, sapphire blue in the morning sun, dazzling and calm, the surface broken only by the fishermen as they cast lines into the cerulean water. A glance out of the other side of the car revealed quite a different story, as distant sandstorms covered the view of the horizon, a contrasting outlook if ever there was one.

The first competitive section of the day was a fast run across a sandy beach, although Weston Beach Races was not, it was an enjoyable way to stretch the legs after the long transit section, without too many opportunities to get lost. This was about as flat as it would get from here on in, as soon the road turned inland, and slowly but surely tall mountains began to reveal themselves in the distance and the tarmac began to climb and undulate as the topography steepened.

The first regularity took place not too far into the alpine climb and was a fairly gentle first act of two in our new surroundings, but there was already trouble for one of the front runners. Mike Dreelan’s Lagonda had developed gearbox problems, in first, second and third gear! Not the news you want when faced with a day of climbing, but despite this he nursed the big Lagonda to the finish of the day and will be continuing for the rest of the competition.

The roads between the two regs were seriously fun, and perhaps the first proper tarmac driving roads of the trip (although my memory has been affected by all of the alcohol-free beer I’ve been drinking), either way, the largely traffic-free sections of asphalt was a delight to drive and made a welcome departure from the miles of motorway that had taken us in and out of Jeddah. The sounds of the different engine notes bouncing off of the walls of the mountains must have been tremendous, and for any folk that were out and about, of which there didn’t seem to be many, it must have been a tremendous cacophony of noise.

It wasn’t just the scenery that was changing, but the wildlife too. The camels were gone, being replaced by cows, which was a reassuring sight considering beef has been served at dinner and breakfast each day, but up until now, there was no sign of any bovine activity. There were also baboons running about the rocks, which caused a fair bit of excitement as they ran across the roads, screeching off back into their hiding places amongst the rocks.

The baboons tended to be found as we climbed higher, which is exactly what was to happen when the second regularity began. It was a ferociously steep hill climb, across a good long-distance that saw even the most torque-laden vehicles pushing themselves to the limit to maintain the correct speed. It wasn’t a tricky navigational exercise, like the previous day’s sections had been, but needed a careful eye on the trip and a skilful marriage of accelerator and gear selection. Acing the climb, and the day, were the crew in the number 28 Volvo, Alain Lejeune and Herve Collette, the French pairing cleaning the reg and picking up just 3 seconds of penalty across the entire day, the best of anybody.

Others having a good day were Rainer Wolf and Ilona Wolf, in the number 24 Mercedes Benz 230, amassing only 9 seconds of penalty, easily the best of those around them sitting as they are in the bottom half of the results table.

As the day drew on and the trip clicked off the miles the weather began to cool, a fact that was no doubt welcomed by everyone on the event, and there was even the odd storm cloud on the horizon as we drew closer to Taif. Upon arrival everyone seemed a little subdued, it seemed that everyone had hit the wall somewhat, competitors and crew. The wall is just a fact of life on an endurance event, and if there wasn’t a day in these rallies where the fatigue really hit then the route planners wouldn’t be doing their jobs properly! Everyone will no doubt be getting to bed early this evening, with an early start in the offing tomorrow on what is the longest day of the rally, a 931 km transit day to Riyadh across the vast central swath of the Kingdom. That is me included, so on that note, I will bid you goodnight.


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