Day 14 from Bahir Dar to Awasa was long – 750km in all – and harsh from the word go: beginning with 200km of difficult gravel, it started off particularly rough. Early starters drove it in the dark. Daybreak at Mota Road, the first of two World Cup Sections saw battle commence – the Subaru Impreza of Steve Blunt and Bob Duck set the best time, nearly a minute quicker than the Belgian Porsche of Joost Van Cauwenberge and Jaques Castelein.
Several crews finished with broken exhausts but the saddest casualty of the day was the Guliker/Hart BMW535i which hit a large rock that split the sump. It was running 4th, so this created a vacancy at the top, which would be filled by the ex-Dakar winning van Cauwenberge in his 1973 Porsche 911, who finally leapfrogged the girls in the Maestro, who stay fifth. Pim ‘t Hart returned to Bahir Dar where the BMW’s aluminium sump has been welded but will have to wait until tomorrow to return to Mota village where Renger Guliker remains with the car.
Five cars completed the second World Cup Section within the allowed time and without penalty, with Alastair Caldwell next up losing just 3 seconds. Overall, Owen Turner’s MG ZR stays third with the Blunt/Duck Impreza second and Actman and Elcomb holding first in their Hilux.
Those watching the Yellowbrick tracking page will notice that Owain Lloyd and Peter Scott are making good progress catching the event after fitting a replacement engine in Gedaref. At 10pm Saturday they were north of Addis Ababa, about 320km from Awasa. Eric Claeys and Ben Deleye still have some distance to drive before reaching Awasa…they were delayed after filling their Toyota with petrol instead of diesel. They are travelling quite close to the Peugeot 504 of Jean-Pierre and Mireille Demierre.
Unfortunately the parts needed to fix Ben and Mike Dawson’s Escort missed the overnight plane from London. They were seemingly left with an almost impossible task to repair their car and catch the rally, though an update by a relative on Facebook suggests they’re underway with some improvised solution while the new stub axle wings its way to Africa.
Gill said: ‘Day 14 was completely overwhelming. The scenery was absolutely fantastic and thousands of people lined the route cheering and clapping us. We did some fantastic gravel mountain tests, travelled through some amazing scenery including the Blue Nile gorge and stayed at a beautiful lakeside hotel in Awasa. Unfortunately when we looked over the car Jane noticed a leak on one of the shock absorbers. Thanks very much to our friends Owen and Matt – car 33, for helping us fix it. Ethiopia was a real surprise, an absolutely stunning country with really welcoming people.’
By contrast, Day 15 was short and easy – for a change – bringing the crews from Awasa to the Kenyan border at Moyale. Rapid formalities completed, they were soon driving what the Chairman of the Kenya Motorsport Federation describes in his letter to us all as “God’s own rally country”.
Gill recalled this challenging day: ‘As day 15 started from the lovely hotel in Awasa we were still in fifth Position. Joost and Jaques in the Porche have finallygot past us. We had some fun teasing them that it took 14 days to overtake a couple of birds in an old Maestro!
‘However we were still in fifth place as the BMW in front of us damaged his sump yesterday and had to miss several controls. Today we had a long very fast road section which we were able to complete in time, so we maintain 5th for now.
‘We have crossed over into Kenya into a grotty town called Moyale. Unfortunately there has been a shortage of petrol today so we ended up in the middle of a massive frenzy to buy fuel from the locals at a much inflated rate. Not exactly a great introduction to Kenya and such a contrast to Ethiopia.
Tomorrow will be a very hard day, we simply need to get through it safely. The roads are apparently awful and we will doubtless lose lots of time to the 4x4s and other tough vehicles. Now is when we drive to survive!’
Top five at the end of day 15
1 14 44m 37 1 E Andy Actman GB Andy Elcomb GB 2010 Toyota Hilux 3000
2 23 48m 46 2 E Steve Blunt GB Bob Duck GB 2006 Subaru Impreza 1994
3 33 1h 15m 10 1 B Owen Turner GB Matthew Fowle GB 2002 MG ZR 1589
4 45 1h 42m 39 1 D Joost Van Cauwenberge B Jacques Castelein B 1973 Porsche 911 3000
5 15 1h 47m 26 2 B Jane Edgington GB Gillian Cotton GB 1986 MG Maestro 1598