Specialist Vehicle Restoration
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Classic Marathon continued...
Working our way to Ifrane we then had to drive on a road that was being built with loose gravel being laid on the top of bitumen. The air temperature was in excess of 120 degrees fahrenheit and both the cars and crews in open top cars getting covered in this sticky mess. The cockpit temperature was even hotter with Roger finding it difficult to keep his foot on the accelerator pedal due to the heat that was permeating through the sole of his shoe. Even the gear knob was too hot to handle.
Through the day we had noticed that the engine temperature was reading towards the 100 degrees on the gauge so upon reaching our destination we put l litre of a product called 'Water Wetter' into the radiator as it is said to reduce the latent heat by 15 percent. This proved its' worth latter in the rally.
The next morning soon came around with 440 kilometres to drive to Erfoud and the regularity in the Sahara Desert. The surrounding landscape during our journey became somewhat volcanic with a lack of vegetation and the occasional oasis as we headed towards the lush green valley and the River Ziz. It was then that we were hit by a sandstorm combined with driving rain. I have been in a snow blizzard before but this was a new experience with our mouths becoming distorted and our right nostril being forced closed due to the direct force of the wind on our right-hand side. The sand got everywhere within the car and our goggles even had sand inside the lenses making it very difficult to see let alone Roger to drive. As navigator I tried to get as low as possible behind the aero-screen but even that did not work. This was the first rain that this region had experienced for seven years.
At 6 a.m. the following morning we were again behind the wheel the dust had settled and we were on our way to the Sahara Desert. We collected a numbered card from the passage control this acting as a method of counting the cars back in should anybody going missing. After a 17 kilometre drive following small marker posts we arrived at a desert fort Erg Chebbi where we were told that the water used was drawn from an artesian well ten metres below the desert.
From Erg Chebbi competitors undertook a regularity across the desert at an average speed of 50 m.p.h. taking a different route from the outward drive back to the control. This was great fun and an experience never to be forgotten. Back to the hotel for breakfast and to check over the cars. We did not succeed in having breakfast, it was car service initially and then to find that the rear tyres were virtually treadless so we had no alternative but to change them over with the fronts and to try and prolong the life of what rubber remained. We then discovered that the brake springs in the nearside rear brake had broken so with somewhat of a struggle these were changed in situ. By this time it was a quick wash, a glass of orange juice after talking nicely to the hotel staff and on our way to Ouarzazate pronounced 'Oor-Za-Zat'. The journey proving to be a straight drive passing more camels, mules and Berber tents en route.
The Saturday was to be a steady drive for 200 kilometres to Marrakesh. Yes five secret regularity controls through the Atlas Mountains but little did we realise that we like many other participants were starting to become de-hydrated. We thought that we were drinking enough liquid to be informed later that day that we should be drinking at least 1 pint of fluid every hour. Roger was starting to show signs of wearyness and it must be highlighted that we were exposed continuously to the bright scorching heat of the day. We made a couple of mistakes with the heat melting the adhesive backing holding the stop watch to the dashboard dropping it to the floor I then had to make all the calculations using the second hand on my wrist watch.
We made it to Marrakesh and this was scheduled to be an afternoon off and a rest period. Roger went to bed drinking through the night six bottles of flat Coke Cola and three litres of water. I was still standing and joined other rally participants on a tour of this famous city and the Medina with its' snake charmers, craftsmen, a hive of activity; well worth a visit and an experienced not to be missed.
The penultimate day was a return to Ifrane, a drive of 500 kilometres. Peter and Bill in the other Ulster along with ourselves were now feeling the effects of being exposed to the direct sunlight and the heat so we decided to cut and run the direct route to our destination. It was to our surprise that as the day progressed we met several other cars who had also made the same decision as ourselves.
Monday and the final day of the 10 day rally with 331 kilometres to drive back to Tangiers. So far both the Austins had performed extremely well with only minor problems we were keeping our fingers crossed that we would make the finish. Then problems hit our car with the voltage control box not cutting in and the battery went totally flat. Fortunately we were carrying a small motorcycle 6 volt battery so by connecting it into the circuit we were on our way again as we needed the electrical supply to operate the electrical fuel pump. Following along the unspoilt Atlantic coastline we arrived at our destination and the end of the rally, Hotel Salazur where we had departed from six days previously. The two Austin Sevens had completed the 10th Classic Marathon virtually unscathed. Bill and Peter finished 5th in class and Roger and myself only 3 minutes behind them in 6th position.
On reflection a brilliant well organised rally but very demanding on both the car and the crew especially in an Austin Seven Ulster. Our thanks must go to Peter Maguire of Hermitage Engineering for the preparation of the cars, Eurotunnel for the passage to Europe, Racecar for coverage on the World Wide Web, Castrol for the supply of Castrol R oil, and my own company for making the seats comfortable.