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London to Sydney Marathon

5th June - 4th July 2004

Day 24 - Coober Pedy to Mungerannie

McANDREW QUICK - OTHERS GROVEL IN THE GRAVEL

Today was the first real taste of the Red Centre outback. The tiny township of William Creek that consists of little more than its pub and fuel station with town sign that states it population was the first clue to what happens out here. Population 18 it said. And handwritten at the bottom was the encouraging advice of an increase - "But Elsie's pregnant."

The next stop was the town of Marree where the Oodnadatta stock route meets the Birdsville Track. An old Afghan town with the remains of a mosque. An Afghan town in the middle of Australia, you ask?

Yes, at the turn of the century when the telegraph line was laid in from Adelaide to Alice Springs camels were needed to move equipment so they were imported with their cameleer owners from Afghanistan. Hence the mosque and the herds of feral camels that still roam the outback.

This is tarmac-free country; it's going to be many days before any of the crews see the black stuff again. This is the land of gravel both for stages and main roads.

And Joe McAndrew went out and did the business over 60 racing kms of stages. Once again it was Jimmy McRae who shadowed him. But Joe was 20 seconds faster over the first stage and 23 seconds faster over the second which gives Joe an overall lead of 1m 57 seconds.

Honda teammates Mike Montgomery and Shane Murland are bemused by their boss's pace. "It seems that every time we turn up the wick and go a bit quicker he has this amazing ability to go even quicker," said Montgomery.

Amongst the classics it's still Anthony Ward in his Escort who heads the category with sixth place overall. Closing in on him is veteran Richard Martin-Hurst in his V8 Capri, second in the category and 9th overall. Aussie Peter Cochrane in his Mustang has moved to 11th overall and third in the classic category. Softy, softly is 'Cocko's strategy.

A sad retirement from the rally is American Paul Shaver in his Honda whose engine was using oil faster that Paul and his co-driver Geoff could pour into in. They pointed themselves towards Adelaide to put their car onto a ship home hoping to get themselves to Sydney for the Awards dinner on Sunday.

Norwegian Vidar Christensen in the only Peugeot 307 in the rally is climbing towards a top ten position. more...

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