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Midnight Sun to Red Sea Rally

17th June 2002

Day 15 - Adana (Tukey) to Damascus (Syria)

CALLINAN – GETS SERIOUS IN SYRIA

Some great mountain roads, a bit slow going in places early on but spectacular distant views.

A tarmac stage in the mountains before we drop down to the Syrian border. Our Syrian friends will lay on a formal welcome at the tiny frontier. Welcome to Arabia - it's different, not just the signs all in fretwork Arabic writing but the whole life style is just very relaxed and very polite.

Then a run to Damascus which is the worlds' oldest permanently inhabited city and a chance to take an evening tour of the city and it's souks and mosques.

Our hotel is 20 minutes out of Damascus because there's no way you'd want to try driving in the centre amongst the million yellow cabs each one which is piloted by a Syrian who goes like Schumacher on steroids.

For the second successive day Keith and Mary-Ann Callinan blitzed the opposition with a stunning time over the 22 km tarmac stage – the last in Turkey - to record their third stage victory.

Today’s stage was fast hilly tarmac, well suited to the bigger engined cars and from there it was a run to the Syrian frontier where a warm welcome awaited the competitors. The Minister of Tourism’s department had laid on a slick Fast Lane to process the cars through the normally time-consuming procedures.

A band and a troupe of traditional dancing girls greeted the competitors all of whom were presented with gifts of flowers and scarves. “Quite the most impressive welcome we’ve had so far,” said John De Stefano as he struggled with a local tv interview.

The big blip of the day was the American BMW of Paul Shaver. “Peter Hall overtook us and we tried to keep up. Not a real smart move. I went off backwards 50 feet down and bank and got towed out by an army truck with about 20 officials present all laughing and giving instructions. No damage apart from a broken mud flap and a shattered ego,” reported a chastened Shaver.

Hall’s problems were confined to the rope that was holding their alternator on burning through. The bolts had broken two days ago. What to do about a repair tonight? “Buy some more rope,” said a straight faced Peter Hall.

Steve Blunt’s Peugeot had developed a wonky steering rack that was making coffee grinder noises. “It was giving me heaps of erratic understeer and with 300 ft drops into Turkish nowheresville - I backed off a bit on that stage,” said Blunt.
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