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London to Sydney Marathon

5th June - 4th July 2004

Day 15 - Munnar to Coimbatore (India)

TWO QUICK MORNING TEA BREAKS FOR McRAE

The rally left the hill town of Munnar this morning shrouded in swirling morning mists with the early monsoon tipping down brutal showers from the heavens. How high is Munnar? From the narrow winding roads you to look down into clouds in the valleys! Yes, that high.

Today's stages are set in the thousands of acres of the Tata tea plantations where the famous Tetley tea is grown and sent around the world. Tea bushes cling to the hillsides and women workers move through, hands a blur of speed as they pick the tips of the leaves.

The other blur was the cars as they raced through the two tone green tea bushes, exhausts roaring as the plantation workers, having been given the morning off work, became amazed first-time rally spectators.

Jimmy McRae did the business with 40 minutes of full-on racing through the misty plantations to record a pair of stage wins increasing his lead over Joe McAndrew to a useful 63 seconds.

"I got the tyre choice right today,"he said, "and I kept in the middle of the road. There were times when I felt both wing mirrors being brushed by the tea bushes."

Less fortunate was Steve Blunt in his Toyota who flew off and beached himself on the tops of bushes. Locals gathered to assist with co-driver Bob Duck making mimed sawing motions. One local returned with an axe and chopped the bushed down lowering the car to the point where it could be driven out. Blunts excursion cost him a stage maximum and dropping him down to 9th place.

Even less happy was Aussie Paul Darrouzet in his V8 Capri who had a big-time off and had to be dragged back up on to the road with a 30 ft winch dropping him right back to unlucky 13th place. An ignominious excursion for the car that won the last London-Sydney without a scratch on it. more...

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