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A sociable start for Tuesday with our departure time at 10.18 hours and heading for Grenoble. Passing through a small village we were suddenly face with a lorry unloading and there was no way that he was going to move until he had completed his delivery. Time was ticking by so I said to Derek to ask a guy walking along the pavement for alternative directions. Little did I realise that he was blind with a white cane. Another local came to the rescue and quickly gave us perfect instructions in English.
Grenoble can be a difficult place to navigate through subject to the time of day and careful planning is essential. Whilst entering the outskirts of the city and decending around winding bends we suddenly came across one of the rally cars ; which had apparently gone out of control, rolling onto two wheels then hitting head-on a car coming towards them. The navigator sustained a broken rib and had to be hospitalised. Ten cars did not make the forthcoming check point at Vif from Grenoble over a distance of 19.5 kilometres. That evening saw the rally stop at Valence our check-in time being 18.48 hours. Throughout the day we had only accumulated a further 4 minutes 04 seconds on the regularities. To break our points down: alternator 30, late start at Troyes 7, regularities 5.25, totaling 42.25minutes.
Our Valance departure was again late at 10.38 a.m. which meant that the latter end of the day would be driven in the dark. We were always in plenty of time for the Controls working on the philosophy that always keep in front of the time in case of breakdown, puncture or re-fueling. At Time Control 11 (CH 11m) we were given a map of the next regularity. Many teams miss slotted, we thought that we had taken the wrong route but realized that we were correct and had to re-trace our progress passing a Triumph TR4 that had driven off the road. We later found out that he had driven across the field to get back onto the track.. The reason for him going off was that his front tyres were worn out. As usual we were early at the next check point giving us time to have a drink and sample the apple cake that was on offer. On pulling away a metallic sound came from the engine for split second. We did not think anything of it and continued on our way to Buis-les-Barronies with no problem. As Navigator I made my way to the control in the bar des Passions; the proprioter being a motoring fanatic with Renault Alpine parts covering the walls, half a body on another wall and the beer pump passing through a cylinder head. The television was showing rallying and Formula 1 music was booming forth. An ideal control point. Meanwhile outside one of the Rover Discovery support vehicles had pulled up with Richard the driver asking Derek if he had lost anything from under the bonnet; hands behind his back! Derek discovered that one of the air filters was missing and as luck would have it Richard had found it just after the exit from the last control. With the bolts missing we just dropped it in the navigators footwell and progressed to the following controls without trouble, continuing for the remainder of the rally without the filter.
At the roadside control at CH14M (Montbrun-les-Bains)for some reason I had extreme difficulty getting the navigators door open, I think that the body must have twisted sufficient to jam it on the lock.. In order to have the route card stamped with the time it is essential to get out of the car and place the card on the table adjacent to the time clock. We made it I must say!
After the control at Rosans at 15.52 hours it was starting to get dark and we were once again climbing through the Cols to Col de la Rossas at 1115 metres. The road was extremely windy there was ice on the roads and the visibility through the fog was no further than 50 metres. Taking it carefully and on a very sharp hairpin bend we came across another MGA that has taken the corner too quickly knocking over a 100mm square post pulling out the concrete with it and coming to a halt with all this directly underneath the rear of the car. But what was most disconcerting was that all that had prevented the car from going over the edge and falling at least 50 metres was a single length of straining wire. The occupants having to climb out on one side. The Service Crew as usual seem to appear from anywhere and eventually the car was on the road and driving towards the next control and the night halt at Gap with just damaged front wings. That same day an MGB GT had missed judged the road and gone over the edge dropping 70 metres. The crew we understood were not injured, just a badly damaged car.
The final day of the rally saw an early start with a morning call at 4.00 a.m. and on the road at 5.08 a.m. Today was to see the end of the rally driving higher through more of the Cols to a height of 1678 metres culminating with a breakfast stop at the famous Col de Turini scheduled for ourselves for 11.53 hours. We were making good progress with no air filter, one nut missing off the manifold and that funny little whine in the back. Then after 201 kilometres driving the little whine became a grinding sound and finally went bang just 1 kilometre from the Valberg control. The differential had broken up and that was the end of our rally with just 87.5 kilometres to the Turini and also loosing our third position in the team prize.
We nearly made it and who knows what next year will bring forth!
Thanks for the loan of the car Rob.