Midnight Sun to Red Sea Rally

19th June 2002

Day 17 - Amman to Petra (Jordan)

A DAY OF GOATS, CAMELS AND GETTING LOST

Two Regularities in the desert, short but demanding and tough. Then a run along the famous Kings Highway over the roof of Jordan stunning views as the road wanders and weaves through tiny mountain towns and villages. Not a long day so we get in early and catch the famous rose red sunset from the balcony of our hotel overlooking the jagged mountain range and strange spooky rock formations which start right in the grounds of the hotel. 

Today’s two traditional desert stages saw event leader Joe McAndrew on the charge making up time he lost in yesterday’s penalties. He blitzed the first stage by 24 second from an on form Peter Hall in his lime green Escort.

In the second stage he was fastest again with Keith Callinan in the awesome sounding V8 Monaro shattering the desert silence 27 seconds in arrears.

The great thing about the desert is there are no trees to hit and no banks to slide down. But crests, undulations and wind erosions are traps for the unwary. But today there were other things that caught out desert virgins.

Andy Pidden in his Cortina, fed up with his car filling up with rainwater in Poland, had removed the rubber grommets in the floor to let the water drain out. And forgotten to replace them! “Within 500 metres the car was full of talcum-like dust and Mike Cotter couldn’t see to read the Road Book. It was a bit spooky, driving blind until we opened the windows the let the dust storm out,” said Pidden looking for all the world like General Rommel, the Desert Fox.

Peter Hall, in his Escort, had a huge incident crossing a railway line just before the finish line. He took off and then nose dived which removed the front bumper and deranged the steering eventually crossing the line in a cloud of dust to post second fastest time over the stage. It was a real Indiana Jones style finish. Co-driver Mary needed some deep heat liniment and a hot bath. The car needs some serious spanner work.

Tom Ryan in his Proton was making good time along the stage until a herdsman in a pick-up with goats in the back decided to appear from nowhere and joined rally route. “He had no idea that today this was a stage and he didn’t know I was behind him. Luckily it was only a few hundred metres to the finish so we didn’t lose more than a few seconds,” said a bemused Tom.

It’s unlikely that any of his London motor club mates will be able to better that for a ‘why I dropped five seconds on a stage’ excuse.

Nick Starkey in his Astra, probably the only competitor with desert stage experience – he ran in the Middle East Championship some years ago – was ironically the only driver to get lost on the stage. He managed to wrong slot and came out ahead of the car that started in front of him without passing him gaining several minutes in the process! For this indiscretion he collected the stage maximum as a penalty.

Lennox McNeeley in the Canadian Mustang with his alternator rebuilt and repaired by a local enthusiast appeared at the stage having mislaid his instructions. Officials gave him a revised start time after the tiny Toyota Prius Hybrid, part petrol power - part electric. “It gave Michael Greenwood something to aim at up ahead and we were able to follow his dust cloud.”

Tomorrow competitors tackle the famous tarmac hill climb out of the city of Petra, famous because the late King Hussein of Jordan once held the record over it.

Then comes the daunting 20 km Canyon stage before they spend the night, Bedouin-style enjoying traditional food, music and sleeping under canvas in the eerie silence of Lawrence of Arabia’s desert hideaway at Wadi Rum. more...

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