It really is tight at the top and just too close to call as to who will win or fill the other podium positions in Lisbon on Saturday night. The underpowered but agile Mini Coopers S which has lead since Sarah and Ken Binstead’s Austin Healey 3000 broke its exhaust five days ago, has been under serious threat from the Maris Carr 240Z for the last two days. And yet somehow Dick and Harry Baines have been clinging on, albeit by their fingernails, despite the two runs of historic Caramulo Hill Climb which witnessed more powerplay from the sweet 240Z as it ate into a 28 second lead from this morning, reducing it to just eight seconds by the close of the day.
Nick Maris and Henry Carr are performing so well together they could sing a duet. They are definitely in harmony as their results proved today, losing just eight seconds in penalties this morning and closing in for a potential kill on the last day. But they weren’t fastest on Caramulo, that honour fell to David Coxon and Peter Hawkins in the surging Austin Healey 3000, and they visibly looked the fastest on the hill! Peter has been busy outside the cockpit too, as he is quick to help, which he did, trying to sort out Tony Sutton’s rear lights.
Tony Sutton and Bernard Northmore were fast on Caramulo but lost time with a ‘stop in the box’ infringement as Tony overshot, the four seconds they lost contributed to their return to fourth place but who knows what could happen on Day 10 – it is too close to call. Steve and Julia Robertson are still in fifth place but have been snapping at Stephen Owens and Pete Johnson’s heels all day, they could still appear on the podium on Saturday.
Pete Johnson is an experienced and winning navigator, equally adept behind the wheel, he has in fact showed tremendous spirit and camaraderie in how he has helped fellow competitors here on London Lisbon. He has been freely giving great advice and providing help to newcomers such as Graeme Presswell and Phil Cottam, and even the relatively inexperienced Harry Baines, despite the fact that they are podium rivals.
Graham Platt and Neil Ripley still hold sixth in their Austin Healey 100M, although it was touch and go for the second run of the Caramulo Hillclimb after the top suspension mounting broke which had to be temporarily held by a sticking plaster after help by the technical assistance crews, they advised against running, but it was Graham’s choice, so he ran up the hill slowly for his second run which helped in his quest for the class win. John Evans and Tristan Judge are really going well in the gorgeous and rare Alfa Romeo 1600 GT Zagato even though the car is finding the going a bit rough at times.
Dave Maryon and Andy Ballantyne have been inside the top ten for quite a while now and running a strong eighth overall, as Dave says, ‘that’s because of Andy, he is in a different league, it’s great to have him with me.’
Almost straight out of the start this morning, Noel Kelly and Andy Lane were in trouble with alternator failure and despite sourcing a new one and fitting it, Andy had to watch the technical assistance crews take it out again and refit it. Their Volvo was rather smoky on the final Caramulo run too.
Dick and Harry Baines, Mini Cooper S
Harry; “I think we might have lost a little bit of time this morning, just a couple of seconds, nothing serious. The others could well have dropped as well. But, we’ve had a good morning in general, although we had a bit of a scare. There was a time written in the wrong box that we didn’t see, but we thought we’d missed the control, but it was put in the page before. We thought we’d missed the control but we hadn’t! And that’s all sorted now, but we panicked for 10 to 15 minutes.
Dick; “Then we came out of the coffee halt and within a 100 yards the car just stopped. I’m not sure, but I think it was maybe a distributor wire with a joint just dropped onto an earth. I played with the wires and we got lucky. Well, we were especially good today. I think we did all we could, it was as good as we could go.”
David Maryon and Andy Ballantyne, MGB
David; “It’s hot in the cockpit but you know, it’s been really going well. This is the second time I’ve done this event and now I’m doing it with Andy Ballantyne, he is on another level because I have to step up my game to try and keep up with him. We’re really going well.
“This morning it was getting harder, bumpy grounds and a bit rougher, the hairpins are tighter but the speed, where allowed, and conditions are what you come for”.
Andy Lane and Noel Kelly, Volvo 122S
Andy; “Just after we left the hotel this morning the alternator light came on to show the failure. So we stopped in the village and hijacked the next Volvo that came through and wrestled a spare out of their boot. We called the sweeps and I thought I had it just about changed it when they got there, but it wasn’t working so they had to take it all off again and undo all the good work. And then we just got into the coffee, exactly on our 10 minutes penalty free lateness after being stopped for about 15 minutes. So then we pushed.
Peter Johnson, Porsche 911 with Stephen Owens and Nick Maris, Datsun 240Z
Peter; “We were just saying that Stephen and I have had a really good morning we’ve dropped 13 total out of 11 Timing Points. But Nick, and Henry only dropped eight! Totally brilliant.
Nick; “For two days I’ve been pleased with progress. I’m over the moon in the truth. But the thing now is just to take one control at a time and keep it going, find the thing.”
“There’s still a gap and then the Mini is very well driven. I don’t think the events that we’re going to do now gives us the chance of big changes at the top, but who knows. Genuinely it is just control by control that we are working on.”
Peter; “For example, take the last control yesterday, probably three quarters of field didn’t turn in on the ‘NO’ board. we went past it and dropped 29 seconds!”
Nick; We’ll see if we can take time out of the Mini up the hill climb. I mean, it’s class, isn’t it that counts there. And then we have the other Porsche which takes the seconds out of us every time and actually it’s really hotly contested. I don’t even know which cars they are. But I think one of the Healey’s and one of the other cars in our class routinely beats us on the tests. So occasionally, we can be second and sometimes we’re fourth in the tests”.
David Coxon and Peter Hawkins, Austin Healey 3000
A great performance yesterday morning and best performance of the Day 9 morning but overall a good day too as David commented; “Excellent. I mean, we were delighted actually, we had all sorts of stuffing knocked out of us previously when we had a very poor day. But then we’ve consistently grown in confidence again, yesterday was just brilliant. I think everything seems to going right at the moment.
“We are very lucky, of course with the car because you get to the places it needs to, especially on some of those regularities yesterday where you have to get up there and get on with it. We were very pleased with yesterday, it was a great day and excellent navigation by Peter.”
Peter; “Yes, good, and just two more to do this afternoon. Obviously, we want to try and do it again, then we’ve got the Caramulo Hill Climb, and I’m looking forward to that!”
David; “Yes the car looks great. The car is set up for this sort of thing. We had a lot of work done to the engine and suspension. Basically, it was a complete wreck when I bought it but the car has been totally rebuilt. We’ve done quite a number of rallies, but in our first few rallies we had lots of problems with it, like on Three Legs of Mann. We did the Scottish Malts with some problems, and LeJog. There’s been a lot of effort to get it right and we’re now starting to see the results so we are very pleased.”
Tony Sutton, Bernard Northgate, Porsche 911 SC
Tony; “I’ve just started to try and fix the rear brake light, it’s not performing as well as it should. And a couple of the locals decided to race me up hills recently, so it’s nice to know, I can let them know I’m braking.
“I think we’re pretty good. We’ve been doing fours and fives and you know, a second or two at each place, so it’s pretty good..
“I still had to do a couple of turns in the severe hairpins but I didn’t get a wheel over the gutter like a couple of people so I managed to get through fairly unscathed. But we were certainly on it after that point because it was 10 or 15 seconds doing those turns. We didn’t bottom out though so that has been pretty good, it’s got reasonable ground clearance for a car of this type. I haven’t crunched anything so far either!”