Father and son Stephan and Alexander Chick have maintained their lead in the London Lisbon Rally over Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte, the Austin Healey 33 seconds in front of the Porsche 911 at the end of Day four.
Father and son Stephan and Alexander Chick have maintained their lead in the London Lisbon Rally over Daniel Gresly and Elise Whyte, the Austin Healey 33 seconds in front of the Porsche 911 at the end of Day 4. There has been a battle raging all day between Jayne Wignall and navigator Kevin Savage with Stephen Owens and Ian Canavan’s Porsche 911, Jayne just kept the third place podium position in her Sunbeam Tiger by 5 seconds. She is just 7 seconds off second place. The podium positions are tight with a long way yet to run to Lisbon. Max Behrndt and Seren Whyte are holding fifth in the Datsun 240Z but second in the family battle with Daniel and Elise, father and sister respectively.
If the action between the top four wasn’t enough, there was a super forest regularity called Floret de Compet which not only had its traps for the unwary but also the French Air force streaking through the sky overhead whilst the gunshots from hunters on the ground seemed a bit a close for comfort at one point!
Add literally, a ‘monster’ one hour regularity that caused some confusion and bravado for others, it was aptly named ‘Armagnac Monster’, mix in a cheeky final regularity called ‘Route Du Rallye’ and you had the recipe for an exciting day.
You just knew there was more to come when American Melvin Andrews and navigator Andrew Duerden had to squeeze their compact Porsche 914/6 between the swing arm of an excavator and its large water scavenge pipe astride the first regularity of the day. Their spare wheel on the roof just scraping by.
Stephen Chick and his son Alexander who is driving the leading Austin Healey, had a few moments to reflect on their success so far whilst waiting at a Time Control; Stephen said; “at the moment we’ve been lucky, but there’s a long way to go, it’s only Monday. We don’t really care about those behind us because if we wreck it, it will be down to us not those behind!”
When asked if he was feeling the pressure Alexander replied; “ All anyone is asking us at the moment is how you can win it.” Stephen chipped in; “ suddenly we are the font of all knowledge so we have to make up answers, but we don’t know!” Commenting on the performance of the car and the look of the rickety hood, Stephen continued, “ that’s part of its charm, it has to go across the top rollover hoop so it looks a bit like a Bedouin tent!”
Had Alexander had any time to check out the scenery? “ You get into such a groove you forget where you’ve been, I’ve seen some places and thought I must come back here but later I have just forgotten it all!”
When asked how it was going after the fourth regularity, Foret de Campet, Roma Handley who navigates her husband Paul in their MGB Roadster, was rather despondent; “ we missed a Timing Point, but so it seems did many others!” Steve Farmer’s navigator John Gearing in the MGB V8 was one who had spotted the board in time, saying that you just had to keep ‘your eyes open’ whilst others in the group ribbed him for his straight forward answer.
Tony Davies an experienced navigator in the beautiful green Porsche 911 2.7 RS lightweight, felt that “if the driver was awake they would have seen the board, there were a number of skid marks of crews, some whom would have had line faults, but it was perfectly fair. You have to keep your wits about you. It’s in the name HERO, Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation, it’s not a walk in the park, this event counts for the HERO Cup and the Golden Roamer awards for drivers and navigators”.
As it turned out, more than twenty cars had failed to spot to the TP board 4A so Clerk of the Course Bob Rutherford went to inspect the location, ruling that it should be scrubbed.
The very next regularity, the fifth of the day was the big one. The Armagnac Monstre representing an hour of team work and concentration, a real afternoon jolt for those who had enjoyed a marvelous break at Labastide D’Armagnac, a favourite village of the French as it is a real step back in time to the 12th century. The competitors were fortunate to be able to drive slowly through ancient village and on into the splendid square of the Chateau du Prada for exclusive ‘rally car’ only parking!
The road wound its way through a variety of terrain, including some real twists around a lake where gunshots could be heard at one point followed by the deafening noise of the French Air Force on exercise above. This didn’t perturb Tony and Pauline Mather in their open top classic Citroen DS23 as they concentrated on trying to pass a large agricultural spraying vehicle. Just as they were losing time the massive machine turned into one of the many lanes allowing the Citroen to sprint off.
Minutes later the Ford Mustang of Swiss duo Christiane Leupold and Veronika Karrer burbled past with Paul Wignall and Annabel Jone’s recovering Alfa Romeo closing in. Christiane and Veronika are on their very first classic car rally but really had nowhere to pull over in the big American car in the tight lanes. Paul had no option but to nip past before the Timing Point, but to do that he had to take a little launch over an inclined bank! It was no problem for the nimble 1959 Guilietta Sprint! The pair have battled back to 13th overall.
Confusion and lots of quick turn arounds over a complex of gravel roads ensued as some crews turned into a right hander too early. The MGA of Chris and Sue Green, the VW Beetle of Thomas and Merion Herold were all followed by the growling Sunbeam Tiger of Drexel and Pat Gillespie as they passed each other on the wrong road. David Coxon and Peter Hawkins were also visitors to the gravel in their 1965 Austin Healey, but the surprise was Michael Moss and James Ewing in the Fiat 2300 Abarth Coupe as they are rarely caught out. However, the experienced pair were quick to make amends clocking into the next control on a zero!
Following the fun of the final regularity and a day of long driving and concentrated action, teams headed to Dax, the Roman Spa town for the final night on French soil.
Words by Tony Jardine
Photos by Will Broadhead
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