Alastair's Blog

Round the horn to finish 2nd

Alastair Caldwell - Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It is so good to be back in Argentina for the Cape Horn Rally in November. Brought back some great memories and we created a few more!  As always I wanted to win and cross the line to see the chequered flag but sadly just pipped into 2nd place by Paul and Sandra Merryweather in their 1974 - Mercedes 450 SL - well done to them after a hard fought drive.

I was joined by Laurel Smith in my 1968 Mercedes 280SL Sports, gleaming red under the beautiful Argentinian sky at the start line. That look didn't last long however as no sooner had we started than the head gasket blew! But I'll come back to that in a minute.

Before the rally started we arrived into Buenos Aires in good time so had a couple of days looking round and doing a few visits to old haunts from my days coming here with McLaren in the 70s. The Grand Prix in '74 win was a memorable one for me as we won after local hero Carlos Reutman led the race and Juan Peron, the President of Argentina at that time, flew his helicopter to the track late in the race to view this triumph. The army used tear gas and gunfire to control the crowd and then Reutman's car failed and Peron left swiftly as Hulme won the race. It wasn't a friendly end to the race and and we had to be guarded from the crowd.

Anyway, after reliving some of those great memories the rally, as I said, got off to a very bad start when the cylinder head gasket failed on the very first test! So we finished the day in a cloud of steam but actually leading the rally. With the help of the rally mechanics I changed the gasket that evening and the car ran very well after that - although it proved very hard to start when hot which is an old problem.

The next two days were very good. The second day test was cancelled and we won both tests on the third day so finished off after three days still leading and still smiling.

17th November saw us crossing the desert - what a scorcher it was! Sadly Laurel's navigation duties were suspended as she went down with a tummy bug from the day before. So combined with car action, stress and heat she had a horrid day. The following day we had a rest day in Mendoza so a chance to recover for all of us.

The following few days saw a lot of activity with Paul & Sandra just 8 seconds behind us, a Chevy, a few dinks here and there and some clouds of steam from cars in our rear view mirror. There's never a dull moment on these rallies!

The last week of the rally went relatively smoothly driving through and visiting some great places with some majestic sites.  Glorious weather and a great drive over the Andes from Mendoza to Santiago - great drive over the Andes up to 11000 feet and down again with such beautiful views.  When we arrived in Santiago, Chile after the day's test, we had a second day as a rest day and ended up sitting by the fantastic pool of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.  At this stage all was still going well on the rally, car running well and still leading - but Paul & Sandra closing the gap.

I spent a lot of time as we travelled trying to locate another head gasket to replace the one I used on the first day - not tempting fate just like to make sure we had one in reserve in case the rally took its toll again.

Sunday 24th was a rest day in Bariloche, Argentina and still all going well and the car still leading the rally - just! We stayed in a fantastic hotel - Resort LLAO LLAO - which they tell us is the leading hotel in the World. I can believe it. Perched on top of a hill surrounded by lakes and snowy mountains. It was probably the best place to discover that we were no longer leading the rally, my good friends Paul & Sandra finally overtook us, which is fine with me.

We finished the rally in Ushuaia, Argentina second to Paul & Sandra, with the 1966 Ford Mustang GT 289 Cabrio of
Christian Dumolin and Regine Dumolin-Petillion third behind us. Felt really happy for Sandra as not only did they win it was also her birthday so a double celebration for them.

Great drive, great rally, some marvellous sites, great racing and good times with some great friends in wonderful hotels en route. Can't wait until the next rally!!

Keep following here and on my social media channels – updates coming when I can get time.

 

 


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