The thing about blowing away the cobwebs, is that you’re never quite sure exactly what you will find underneath, and whilst day one of this rally may have carried that fresh out of school feeling, some competitors on day two were finding that the initial sensation of freedom may perhaps only have been skin deep, and that hiding under the gossamer coating were spiders waiting to bite.
The day began with cars 14 and 33 reneging from engaging in the days action, the pair of Alfa’s needing some TLC, with Marc Kingsley-Curry and Rob Simmonds in the 14-car taking their Italian machine all the way to Porto to sort fresh wheel bearings, the pair hope to be back at this evening’s rally HQ sometime in the early hours of the morning. Wheel bearings were featuring in Bill Cleyndert’s morning as well, “I hear your wheel bearings are knackered” said Paul Crosby, almost unable to hide the glint in his eyes, it’s all friendly of course, but karma is a fickle mistress, and the Porsche mans day ended in uncertainty with suspension problems of his own. Another Porsche in trouble early on was that of Stephen Owens, 7th on day one, day two began with a flat battery that spiked his clocks, giving navigator Nick Bloxham a headache, that he didn’t need.
As the day wore on, with ever more challenging regularities, so the problems for competitors machines became more complex as well. Sadly, at lunch it seemed the gods of fortune still weren’t smiling on Bill Cleyndert and Leigh Powley, as whilst the lashings of grease used to remedy the wheel bearings were holding working like a charm, a failed head gasket was threatening to end their rally early, particularly as the heat had burnt a hole in the cylinder head. “I’m gutted” said Leigh, “It was just starting to get really good”. However, a joint effort between crew and mechanics saw the head fixed, with the help of a local welder, and the Ford Model A Special will be back in action again tomorrow.
Mechanical problems aside, the competition had stepped up a level as the route had headed south across more mountain passes, advancing upon the Portuguese border through four regularities that traversed through the great variety of terrain afforded by the changing landscape. An extremely narrow in places regularity three slotted into a complex fourth regularity, that was matched in its length by the number of speed changes encountered by the crews, on a route that challenged not just the navigators but the drivers as well.
By lunch the chasing pack had been shaken up, with ground gained by Crosby, Walker and England and ground lost by Wignall, Britschgi and Owens, and their respective navigators. At the sharp end the event leaders, Marcus Anderson and Matthew Lymm Rose had been overtaken by the lunch halt, with Mark and Sue Godfrey having 11 seconds in hand over the Jaguar E-Type, that itself seemed to be having some wheel bearing issues. Any potential mechanical gremlins didn’t halt the progress of the big cat though, as despite the loss of time in the morning by close of play Marcus and Matthew had regained top spot, and more besides, with a healthy 18 second gap over the challenging Godfrey’s. It was somewhat fitting that the days final regularity ended with the Jaguar chasing the MG B through the luscious vineyards of the Douro Valley, with the cacophony created by the multitude of cylinders echoing off the amphitheatre like slopes of this port producing region.
Of course, a rally cannot be won in a day, or even in two, and everyone will be aware there is still a long way to go. With a field crammed full of so much talent, the win could still be anyone’s, and if nothing else today serves as reminder that to finish first, first you must finish.
Today was also a day in which our own dear Bob Rutherford was in everyone’s thoughts, with Ian Canavan summing up the feelings of us all when, after being asked about his and Paul Bloxidge’s chances of success, he quickly quelled any talk of competition and simply said “We want to finish this rally for Bob.”