The London Lisbon Rally picked up the pace and turned up the level of technical challenges of the regularities during the long haul from Nantes to Bordeaux, across the Cognac wine growing region of France.
James Ewing, navigator in Michael Moss’s rare Fiat 2300 Abarth Coupe said; “ Terrier du Puyrolland regularity four today, was like one of the tough military area stages on the RAC Rally of the Tests, except it was in daylight. Bang, bang the instructions kept coming along with so many junctions, you really needed a good accurate trip meter! It was great.”
Helen Morris who is navigating her husband Peter’s distinctive black Porsche 911 RS agreed with James; “ there were so many junctions and such twisty roads, it was tricky and there were times when we were caught out, but it was a great day though.”
Rural France has been a sight to behold. The 46 crews in the event from 12 different countries are really enjoying the wonderful countryside and historic sights, when they get a moment!
After seeing the impressive ruins of the Abbaye Saint Pierre dominate the skyline of Maillezais, teams drove across the farmlands of the Charante Maritime then along the edge of the Cognac production areas. One highlight was the time control and coffee stop in the Medieval City of Pons in the shadow of the 12th century 33 metre high ‘Keep of Pons,’ the dungeon.
The competition at the front of the London Lisbon was almost as tight as some of the twisty roads through the vineyard. Second to fourth place were separated by just two seconds at the lunch Time Control, La Revetizon. It was indeed close with some changes as Stephen Owens with navigator Ian Canavan in the Porsche 911 had moved into second place, but only just from Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage’s V8 Sunbeam Tiger. Fourth was now Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte in the Porsche 911.
Still out front though with a classy performance to extend their lead slightly to 22 seconds was Alexander and Stephen Chick in the 1959 near standard Austin Healey. Once a little bit of rain fell the duo were forced to re erect their hood, although it doesn’t look to be the best fitting top in the event, but they are certainly the tops at the moment as they increased their lead to 33 seconds at the end of the day. Also at the end of day three, Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte had taken second place from Stephen Owens and Ian Canavan with Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage fourth.
Paul Wignall and Annabel Jones were fighting their way back up the field in 10th place despite their problems in the afternoon with the Alfa Romeo.
Another absorbing regularity of the afternoon took the cars in a triangle around a high walled cemetery. This was immediately followed by some tight choices of junctions for navigators to pick from. Out of the open top of the 1955 Triumph TR3, navigator Julia Robertson could clearly be heard giving firm instructions to her driver and husband Steve as he rightly hesitated at a downhill fork just after the graveyard. He listened!
The Mercedes Benz 280 SL of Daniel and Barbara Wiedemann did stop and turned into the wrong road before quickly reverting to the right course to retain their 12th place by lunch.
But it wasn’t easy during the afternoon as New Zealander Mike Donald asserted. “ We’d had a good couple of regularities in the morning, then around 3.0 pm we had a few lapses and threw it all out of the window. What gets me is sometimes it can be the easy ones!” It was very annoying for Mike and his navigator wife Paula as they had climbed from near the tail of the field to 25th.
One of the super sights on London Lisbon is the array of sports cars taking part. Gary and Sue Johnson are competing in their 1985 red Lotus Excel which looked wonderful gliding through the Mervent Vouvant forest in regularity three this morning. But Gary didn’t just make a mistake, he was also the target of a pelting as he explained!
“We made a wrong turn which meant I had to reverse around a hundred yards along a farm track! But the worst was being overtaken by Drexel Gillespie in his Tiger at quite a speed and then being peppered by his flying stones! There are a few stone chips and so I’ve had a few words with him but we are expecting recompense in the bar!”
There were no tests along the route yesterday, a disappointment for Jayne Wignall the Sunbeam Tiger driver who really enjoys them and thought there should be more on the event. But she got her chance today at the Fontenay Kart track, a mixture of fast and medium speed corners with a couple of tight sections. As today’s running order was formulated using the alphabet of sir names, Jayne ended up on the track at the same time as her husband Paul Wignall. It was fascinating to see the pair throwing their cars around, Jayne using all the Tiger’s 4.2 litre V8 power whilst Paul was flicking the nimble 1959 1600 Alfa Romeo around as if it actually was a kart!
Later however, he was to encounter a speedometer cable issue which the mechanical assistance crews were helping with but which turned into what Paul described as a fraught afternoon as he pulled a screw driver out from under the bonnet where he had just found it!
“Yes it was fraught. After the cable issue the trip stopped working but some incredible work by my navigator Annabel Jones saved the day! I don’t know how she did it manually, but there was some amazing mental arithmetic going on. Despite that on the last three regularities we only dropped, five seconds, then four and zeroed the other – brilliant!
Annabel said; “ I just had to work off the road book and guess, then I kept fiddling with the sensors and managed to get the intermediate time on the trip to work but we kept it going.”
Tony Mather and his navigator wife Pauline were delighted to be back in the London Lisbon Rally after Tony fixed his fuel pump issues yesterday on their crowd pleasing and elegant drop top 1970 Citroen DS23. And they keep the top open, “rain or shine” said Pauline. “What’s more the French people really love the car almost as much as we do, they keep tooting and waving at us!”
Phil Stainton who is driving a striking green Porsche 911 2.7 RS Lightweight, was pleased with their stealthful progress retaining sixth place at the lunch halt. As navigator Tony Davies confirmed; “ we are keeping our noses clean and just trying to stay under the radar”.
A rapid local bicycle race and their marshals with red flags brought a short mid regularity halt to the last of the day. It was soon re started as Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford explained; ”My CoC equivalent in the bike race and I conferred, we had both been issued with the same permit for the same time by the same local council! We sorted out an extra crossing then just restarted the regularity, but he really was a lovely bloke.”
The HERO of day three had to be Annabel Jones for her brain power and persistence with a failed trip meter. However, the surprise of the rally so far was the very French looking gentleman with the complete gallic look including full grey beard, beret and a dog who approached the communications team to ask what was going on in a thick Lancashire accent with a twist of French. He was told it was the London Lisbon Rally whilst he told us he was ‘Bob from Wigan’ and had lived in Guitte France for the last 14 years – and he loved it!
Words by Tony Jardine
Photos by Blue Passion Photo
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases