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!”.
Words by Tony Jardine
Photos by Blue Passion Photo