Not content with finishing Day 9 at the top of the Temple Rally, Tomasz Dzitko and his partner in life and car, Beata, stood on Mount Etna and decided to celebrate by going even higher with a cable car to the summit.
After a good day but one which had some worries and saw their lead cut, it was the perfect way for the Polish pair to ease their way into a rest day where everyone can recharge the batteries in Sicily and plan their campaigns for the final surge in the HERO-ERA 2500 mile run from Athens to Rome.
On a day which began in the blazing heat in Agrigento and ended at 6200 feet on Etna with a beautiful warm breeze helping create a perfect temperature, it was always going to be demanding on roads which at times look as if they were made of the black solidified lava which has to be seen to be believed.
After a high speed test on a karting circuit which was longer and wider than most, giving the more powerful cars a chance to let the horses loose, the cars climbed high and then began the task of keeping to the regularity speeds while picking a path on roads which were often twisted and broken as if being pushed by geological forces below.
“It was very bumpy with a lot of potholes, too,” said Tomasz, only to be corrected by Beata. “No, these roads are jumpy, not bumpy,” she insisted with a grimace. “It’s really uncomfortable when you are being thrown around” she added having already donned a knee brace for her daily wear to stop the bruising as her leg banged against a safety bar.
“We managed a zero on Regularity 3, so that was great.” said Tomasz “but then we overheated which is easy to do in these temperatures and with big climbs. We had to sit and wait for the car to cool and that cost us. To be honest, I am glad it’s over and it is a relief that we are still on top. Now we look forward to a rest day and it’s not just for us, the car has earned it, too.”
Their’s was not the only MGB GT to have overheating issues for Steve and Penny Gale also suffered during a fiercely hot day and then lost the brakes after making the hairpin littered descent from Etna, being given a helping hand by the HERO-ERA sweeps on the way home.
The lead over Swiss father and daughter combination, Benno and Nina Britischgi has been reduced to 56 seconds after another good outing for the Mustang. “Not too bad and amazing views but hard work,” said Benno. “There’s a way to go yet so let’s see what happens.”
In third place remain the very constant Mortons, Peter and Louise, who survived a couple of problems of their own. The first was again sorted out over lunch by the HERO-ERA mechanics when the gearbox was using too much oil. In the afternoon they suffered their BMW 2002 spluttering at times in the regularities after filling up at a mountain village fuel station.
“The fuel might have been dodgy,” said Louise. “But it wasn’t a bad day for us and this is yet another amazing spot we have stopped at on this rally, standing at Mount Etna at 6250 feet. It really is wonderful.”
Nigel Dowding and Mary Antcliff, from England, edged their 1934 Aston Martin up a place to fourth at the expense of Scotland’s Andrew Laing and Ian Milne who described their run in the Datsun 240Z as “terrible.”
Wrong turns, getting lost, over-shooting corners, loose surfaces all added to the tales of we in many cases as the rally finally came to a pause in the popular coastal town of Taormina. By then, some of the crews had even found time at lunch to visit the nearby world-renowned Villa Romano Del Casale with its beautiful mosaics which are wonderfully preserved.
Rest day or not, the mechanics will be at work tomorrow looking again at Christian and Beatrice Collenberg’s BMW 1800. The Swiss couple have been going well but on Day 9, on the tricky roads, he found sand which blows off the fields, and hit a wall, damaging the suspension. The car limped home but they dropped a lot of places.
Another father-daughter combination is that of Ivan Pusnik and Tisa, Slovenians who live in Switzerland where they have taken part in a lot of shorter rallies together. Ivan, who has 20 cars, has entered his slowest, a 1973 Saab 99 which is running in 11th place and they are working well together.
“We are pretty slow,”says Tusa, 29, “down to 12kph coming out of uphill hairpins. I get so nervous that I want to get out of the car and push but we knew it would be like this when we entered. We’re having a great time, we get on so well that sometimes I know what he is going to ask before he does. “It is different in this rally from the way we do things so this is like a test because after this we are doing the Lima to Cape Horn.”
A very different car is coming out to play for the HERO-ERA event in October with Ivan’s 1939 V8 Ford Coupe being unleashed for the four week event. “The Temple Rally has been so useful for me, apart from seeing so many great things, I would have been clueless for the Lima – Cape Horn.”
“The Temple is great but I am looking forward to doing the Lima rally in what I call our Al Capone car. The really cool thing is that when you hit the horn it plays the theme from The Godfather.” Ivan , who admits finding modern cars “boring” relishes the idea of doing 12000 kilometres in South America with his daughter but says his immediate aim is for them to reach Rome next week.
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases