And the winner is..!
Not so fast, this hasn’t been one of those one horse races, far from it. Over 2000 miles, five countries, land, sea and, with the heights reached on some days, we may as well throw air in their too. It has been a colossal adventure, with a tremendous route that has generated competition throughout the field and a tussle for the top spot of the podium that has gone down until the last day.
Over the past ten days the cars have climbed 41,000 metres in total altitude, that’s 25 miles or, almost into space. A galactic achievement for our Galácticos that have made it to the finish of this epic, and their machines. Many of the cars are of an age where they ought really to be enjoying an easy retirement, but instead have been used as they were designed and pushed hard. Not everyone has finished of course, for some the route has taken its toll, this is an endurance and reliability trial after all, but even those that haven’t made it have got involved in other ways, diving in to help with marshalling for example, and for that we thank them.
There must also be thanks given to the marshals for doing their bit to ensure the rally can be run at all, for the most part they have enjoyed fabulous weather conditions, but they have also endured torrential downpours and long hours in remote locations, all to ensure we can enjoy our sport. A special mention to the Warboys, for the efforts at camouflage, often hiding their control to catch out unwary crews. I do however feel that they took things too far, when yesterday they hired a local farmer to help conceal their timing point, complete with his tractor!
They weren’t quite as concealed today though, and even had they been our front runners were on their A game, determined to finish with a flurry. Tony Sutton and Bernard Northmore were really on a mission, and it turned out best in class and therefore pipping Stephen Owens and Pete Johnson to third by the smallest of margins.
So, to the head of the field, and in the end the Baines boys in the super Mini dug deep and held firm over the final three regularities, pulling a small margin on Maris and Carr in second before the final tests, just enough of a margin for them to hold off the charging pair in the Datsun who have pushed so hard over the past few days. I daresay both pairs would say the other car deserved to win, offering each other plaudits in the sporting manner that befits such a sporting competition.
At the finish a heroes, or should that be hero’s, welcome greeted all of the cars involved, but the biggest cheers were adorned upon the winners. The champagne was sprayed, and Harry Baines in particular was soaked, not that he cared, a special moment for the young navigator, shared with his father. Dick may not say much, but there was no hiding the pride in his eyes, speaking volumes all on their own.
So that is how it ends, an unexpected victory and a new name on the trophy, for a crew that this time last year were preparing for the Novice Trial event at Bicester Heritage. For so long it looked like Ken and Sarah Binstead would win it, until mechanical gremlins forced fates hand. But that is rallying and irrespective of the positions in the final results table, the one thing we all have in common is the enjoyment of the adventure, the spirit of exploring a road less travelled, opening our eyes to parts of these countries seldom seen by their inhabitants, never mind foreigners, and in the same breath sharing our sport with the residents of these parts of the world. But now it is time to close the route books and celebrate the miles travelled. This journey has ended, but you can be sure a new one is just around the corner.
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases