If variety is the spice of life, then today Iceland provided the adventurers on the Icelandic Saga with a bounty befitting of a King. The longest day of the rally so far, albeit with an extended lunch break built in to enjoy the delights of the Myvatn Nature Baths, the view from the road has been that of an ever-changing landscape.
This morning, the skies took on an altogether more threatening appearance and thick fog greeted the crews as they set off this morning. Indeed, this was the story all the way through the first reg and onto the steep inclines that guided the cars up towards reg two. So high did we climb that it wasn’t long until we disappeared into the gloom with nothing but the snow poles lining the sides of the road warning us of an impending drop and certain doom, although the view out across the Lagerfljot and out to sea was something to behold before the low cloud enveloped the crews.
This regularity, on loose gravel, felt decidedly sketchy and understandably people were taking their time, but the misery of the murk was about to become part of Iceland’s magic as the descent from the mountain brought the cars back into daylight and rewarded the journey with one of the most spectacular views, and roads, the country must have to offer. With clouds skimming below and the sun high above, the crews descended into a series of curvaceous switchbacks, that dropped straight into the valley floor.
Another regularity took the route further through farmland, but the landscape was taking on an altogether more volcanic outlook as another climb began and soon the horizon was dotted with a myriad of volcanic peaks and sparse swathes of black rock. This lunar desert was somewhat of a land before time and propelled the rally ever onward to its lunch-stop, via more areas of volcanic activity at the Geothermal Pools of Hverir, with bubbling mud and great sandy mounds that were more resonant of something Martian than anything Earth born.
It all capped a tremendous mornings rallying, and one could be forgiven for forgetting that there was indeed a competitive element to all of this, but a post lunch test and two quickfire regularities that fired the teams onto the evenings stop soon reminded everyone of the contest. The last regularity of the day was a particular highlight, on another of Iceland’s marvellous gravel roads that have more of a stage rally feel about them than a transit route. It transported the cars through a wonderful rollercoaster of peaks and troughs and turns, finishing up next to the Husavik Kalina geothermal powerplant.
The steaming plumes that rose from the plant shot high into the air and the noise sounded like a squadron of Chinook Helicopters rotating into the sky, although the other big noise today was coming from rally leaders Owen Turner and Rachel Vestey’s wheel bearings, who by lunchtime today had pulled a small amount of daylight (for this rally at least!), with 6 seconds back to second placed Whyte sisters who had a further thirty seconds in hand over new third place runners David and Edward Liddell in their Triumph TR4. With this evenings results delayed slightly it remains to be seen if the mechanical gremlins have slowed Turner up at all, although when asked by fellow competitor Rob Henchoz about the Mini’s bearings being somewhat diminished he seemed non-plussed and replied “Well, it all depends on what your definition of diminished wheel bearings is.” Confidence indeed, but could it come into play over the last few days of competition, especially on Iceland’s rougher roads?
Photos by Will Broadhead