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An account of the event by Bryan Purves navigator to Roger Gourd driving a 1932 Austin Seven Ulster.
Paris to Marrakesh/Tangiers
"You are definitely sub normal", "possibly mad"," we know you did the 1998 Monte Carlo Challenge in an Austin Seven but this beats it all". What can I say both Roger Gourd and myself along with Peter Maguire and Bill Smith, in a second Austin Seven Ulster took the challenge to drive for a duration of ten days covering 3000 miles exposed to temperatures well above 100 degrees fahrenhiet in the smallest cars in the event. The Rally was run under the FIVA regulations with the organizing body The Classic Rally Association specifying that no support vehicles were to be permitted. As with the Monte Carlo Challenge we had to be selective as to the spare parts that we were to carry and also to consider carefully what personal clothing we would require for this event.
As part of the challenge of the event Roger and myself set out to raise money to help towards the development of the East Surrey Hospital Breast Cancer Unit, Redhill, Surrey. To date we have realised nearly £2000 and are always willing to accept further donations towards our appeal.
On Friday afternoon 4th September we had to be present at the Palace of Versaille for scrutineering and this gave both the local residents and visitors the opportunity to look at the variety of cars and talk with the competitors.
We departed from the Palace of Versaille, Paris at 9.09 hours on Saturday 5th September and looking at the sky I wondered whether we were going to be subjected to what looked to be torrential rain sooner or later. Once we were on the road and away from the Paris traffic the journey was straightforward through very pleasant countryside on our way to Saint Chartier where we were to have lunch at the Chateau de la Vallee Bleue. As we drove towards the Chateau and the thought of a pleasant lunch the heavens decided to open and being in an open top car we got extremely wet. Fortunately whilst we were having our meal the sun came out which gave us the opportunity to dry-out our clothing and the car.
The remainder of the afternoon saw the rally travelling to Aurillac; although a little overcast; but the evening meal made-up for the unpleasant aspects of the days' journey.
Sunday ... rise at 5.00 a.m. and within the hour we were on the road again with 487 kilometres to cover on our journey to the Principaute d'Andora. Just after leaving our night stopover and still a little sopoforic we had to swerve severely to miss what looked like a 'hound of the Baskervilles' barking aggressively, it lunged itself at the car. Yes we missed it! Travelling through the mist and down what seemed to be quite severe bends we eventually arrived at Requista where we had breakfast. From there our route took us through to the fortified city of (Carcassonne and allowed us to have a one hour lunchbreak under the medieval ramparts. The air temperature was starting to rise and the sun was high in the sky with Roger and myself now starting to feel the benefit of our white driving overalls. The application of sun cream to our faces and the backs of our hands was now beginning to play an important part of our schedule whilst also ensuring that the backs of our necks were covered.
On crossing the French border into the Principality of Andora we saw infront of us traffic queues as far as the eye could see travelling in both directions. Unbeknown to us it was the French driving into the Principality to purchase petrol at tax free prices. The Austin Ulster only being 4 feet in width allowed us the opportunity to drive up the middle of this traffic queue to the great ammusement of the car occupants. From our point of view time was important as we had to make Andora by the scheduled time and to undertake the next regularity; a hill climb; at the Coll d'Ordino in Canillo, altitude 1981 metres. This hill climb course was once within the European Championship Hill Climb Circuit and had catalogued 24 cars having left the road. It might seem rather slow to the reader of this article, but we had to average 17 m.p.h. on this steep gradient with its' acute bends. We only lost 8 seconds over 4 kilometres and that was when as navigator I had to climb out of the car and check in at the control. That is the trouble with having a 'gammy' knee.
The night was spent at the Hotel Panorama in Andora but it was early to bed as we had to be up by 4.00 a.m. and on the road by 4.30 a.m. heading for Ubeda, Spain some 921 kilometres drive. At 5.00 a.m. we were at the Spanish border and requested by the Customs Officer to open the rear tail hatch. Seeing it packed tight with both spare parts and clothing he shrugged his shoulders and sent us on our way.
Having driven approximately 200 kilometres the foot brake pedal decided to become detached from the lever so a quick repair and a drop of Loctite the situation was soon resolved. This section was a hard 475 kilometre drive to Calanda arriving in good time to check in at 10.00 a.m. having driven through a bleak and barren landscape, on unmade roads passing through this flat topped rocky landscape. This was the first time control of the day where we had decided like many crews to have breakfast. A bad decision; but it was food, and that was what we needed.
Upon leaving Calanda we were suddenly faced with another problem a sudden drop in oil pressure to 15 Ibs. per square inch from 40 p.s.i., Peter in the other Ulster had experienced a similar problem earlier at Requista and had overcome the problem by bleeding the oil pressure relief valve. Problem solved!