This time last week the competitors on the 2022 London to Lisbon were scratching around the lanes of southern England, today we were touching the heavens and enjoying the best roads of the trip thus far, this is a rally that keeps on giving.
One person, however, let’s call him Andy Jointer, almost missed out on the day completely after a navigational mix up travelling between hotels this morning left him standing at Leon station, either that or he had decided that the company in his car wasn’t up to snuff and so a train direct to Lisbon was the best option. Either way, after being pointed in the right direction balance was restored, and all it cost was a little bit of pride.
Out on the road and the sun was shining, but at the altitude we were travelling it was certainly chilly and the walkers on the Camino de Santiago pilgrims trail were wrapped up against the elements, staring in wonder at the array of motor cars passing them in the early morning light, possibly taking it as a sign.
The signs were certainly good for the larger cars chasing down the Mini, finding the towering ascents much easier going with their more impressive power plants, but it takes more than power to win an event like this and by lunchtime the bigger machines had only made small impressions on the lead of the Mini.
To be honest though, with the calibre of the mountain passes this morning everyone’s minds were likely far from the timesheets, and up in the clouds. The competition sections were sparse in any case, with long transit sections as the rally crossed the Alto de la Cruz and the Puerto de El Morredero. The Puerto de los Portillinos, at damn near 2000 metres was one of the highest points on the route, and the most memorable, with its steep ascent, which at some points was 19.4%. Everyone made it up though, including the American LaFrance and anyone who took the opportunity to gaze at the views from the top would have been treated to a panorama of the Montes de Leon, and on this clear day views for hundreds of miles.
Post lunch and the border crossing into Portugal was the next main event, a blink and you’ll miss it experience as we travelled in surrounded by a lunar landscape with boulders and erratic’s deposited by glaciers many eons ago. Aside from the transforming geology, the only other indicator was the sudden change in road surface, which for the first kilometre or so at least was extremely well rendered.
In contrast with the morning the altitude had dropped, although we were still reasonably elevated in the hills of this part of Portugal and the ascents and descents would still prove challenging in places. The competition sections increased in frequency, with three regularities to up the ante a little in our new country of residence, all of around 19 kilometres in length and each offering something slightly different.
The last one in particular took place in one of the more populated locations of the day, darting in and out of the small villages that make up the area, and their associated myriad of junctions, just the thing when to spice things up after the largely linear route that had been present on the most recent competition sections!!
As the last part of the day drew near, cobbled roads welcomed the cars to Vidago and the extremely salubrious Vidago Palace, a hotel befitting of the heavenly roads experienced during this leg. But what of the competition, had any divine intervention taken place on the pilgrim’s trail? Well, as it happened second placed Nick Marris and Henry Carr had halved the gap at the top, dropping just 32 seconds all day and, just for a change, Porsches 44 and 14 had swapped positions again, with Tony Sutton and Bernard Northmore getting custody of third place overnight.
The mighty Mini of Dick and Harry Baines continues to hold station at the top though, but with a reduced margin Marris and Carr will have hope and both cars will be hoping for kindness in the Douro Valley on the penultimate day tomorrow.
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