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London to Cape Town: Day 17 & News from Hayden

By John Glynn. Pictures: Bert Callens and

Day 17 of the London to Cape Town Rally and all dreams of a quick breeze down a ‘civilised’ East African coast have been smashed to smithereens. So have most of the cars competing on the rally, thanks to the horrendous Marsabit to Nairobi road.

Had a text from Hayden today, huge essay packed with nice insider detail from the cockpit of the 912. He’s been suffering a stomach bug hence the radio silence. Here’s what he says:

Has been a tough 72 hours. But in spite of the rigours, we have still picked up a position I understand, was told 6th last night.

Ethiopia was fantastic. Hundreds of thousands, if not into the millions, lined the roadway all the way. Friendly, curious, proud: not at all like my preconceptions of Ethiopia. Crossing the border at Moyale was a complete let down: that part of Kenya is in poor shape compared to their northern neighbours.

Day 15 only had one tight time section with a 107km/hr average, turned out to be on Tarmac across the plains so I expect everyone cleaned it. In contrast, day 16 was a car breaker: only the Tuthill Porsche cleaned this section and the 912 (other than 4WD’s). It was at some expense to us: we had a puncture in the first 15km, then in our push to get back on time, we broke the LR damper. We did not stop to check, just pushed on with about 30km to go. The noise was horrific and when we stopped, the upper mount had been battered to pulp. We were able to fix it with parts on board and continue.

The balance on the day – another 170km was equally insane, roads like a quarry floor, not really roads at all. We had another puncture and blew the RF damper insert getting into Marsabit. In contrast to the P2P, equally rough, but for 10 times the distance. Other blogs may have better descriptions.

My last 48 hours has been a fevered mess, as I got a stomach infection in Moyale and was next to useless yesterday afternoon when we got to Marsabit. Doc Moe gave me the good stuff and it seems to have knocked it. I am looking forwards to a meal tonight: my first solids in 48 hours. AC has taken the 912 across town to the workshop we will be using on the rest day tomorrow.

The 400km of extreme stony roads has taken its toll on the 912. Today in some soft sandy tracks we had to take down some small trees – at speed – resulting in a bit more body damage. We gave up 29 minutes today when one section was impossibly fast for us, plus we had a puncture which after a flat tyre this morning before the off gave us no spares, so prudence was necessary. I am sure we lost time to the Volvo we are battling in Class C but not sure if it was enough to reverse our positions.

More later, need to sleep and be fresh to work on the car in the morning.

Here’s the day’s headlines from the organisers:

Cars are now arriving at the big thatched awning of the old-colonial Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi. It’s hard to believe that one of the worst roads in the whole of Africa is actually the main road to Nairobi.

  • The Joost Van Cauwenberge Porsche breezed it, as did Andy Actman’s Hilux but most of the rally are limping to Nairobi.
  • The Atherton/Henchoz Volvo reeks of petrol with a split rubber petrol pipe and broken Range Rover engine mounts. “…otherwise it’s a mint condition Volvo” says Richard.
  • David Spurling, Peugeot 504 arrived happy to be only 40 minutes late describing “130 km of tracks comprising a mix of goat tracks churned up by JCB and vile corrugations.”
  • Stuart Rhys-Williams and Colin McConnell, Nissan Patrol, used a tow rope to pull the BMW X5 of Robert Belcher and Stephen Cooper back onto four wheels after it fell on its side. The BMW is now on a truck.
  • The Tomas Prenosil, Lukas Kuttler Porsche 911 (964 C4) is also on a truck.
  • Jane Edgington and Gill Cotton were the first small car to reach Nairobi. They have a bonnet pin torn out by vibration. Jane said “it’s the only thing broken but it’s crying out for some service …I now know what hell looks like, truly dreadful road …it’s an amazing car, I just don’t know how it got here. There’s carnage out there.”
  • The remarkable catch-up drive of Ben and Mike Dawson’s Escort Mk2 continues. At 19:30 local they are just 260kms from Nairobi.
  • Alex Thistlethwayte and David Hiscox, who are running very close to the Dawson Escort, have tweeted that they spent last night camped on the roof of their Datsun 240Z believing that hyenas do not jump.

Would still love to be on this rally – sounds absolutely epic. Found the pic below last night: could be my favourite of the rally so far.

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