Motoring: Cheers, then a tragedy: A weary and dusty Gavin Green rides the potholes, as the London-Sydney Marathon goes east to Turkey

DAY FIVE: Bratislava to Zegred, Hungary - Bratislava may be one of the world's ugliest cities but the Slovakian capital's people certainly gave us our friendliest welcome so far - and the friendliest goodbye, too, the mayor flagging us away and schoolchildren cheering and waving from the roadside.

There were three special stages today on closed roads. The first two - both tarmac - were in Slovakia. The last was on sandy gravel in Hungary, near Budapest.

Two of the big Australian- entered cars are doing well: the current Asian rally champion Ross Dunkerton's Falcon V8 is sixth after scoring the fastest time on the gravel. And Terry Daly, against whom I used to race single-seaters in the late Seventies, is running fourth in a Mustang V8. He was doing more than 120mph at times on the gravel.

DAY SIX: Zegred to Rousse, Bulgaria - The longest day so far: 499 miles in 13 hours, passing through three countries. We left Zegred at 6.07am - the first car left at 6.01 - heading for the Romanian border. We entered Ceausescu's legacy about an hour later, and the massive drop in living standards was shocking. But the people were out in force cheering us on.

We stayed on tarmac all day, but Romania's roads are so appalling that all cars took a battering. Some of the potholes are big enough to rip off wheels.

We had a special queue at the Romanian-Bulgarian border, one of the most notoriously difficult crossings in Europe. Today's queue for lorries into Bulgaria stretched back five miles, which apparently is normal.

We were greeted courteously by Bulgarian officials and cheered on our way - and all the way into Rousse. Crowds lined the pavements for three miles before the finish at our hotel overlooking the Danube.

Graham Lorimer keeps the lead. Terry Hunter's Porsche - quickest today - is clawing back after running off the bridge in Austria. The Porsche has been ideally suited to the special stages: it is nimble yet very powerful. Our Escort, despite its specially prepared engine, hasn't the power to keep up with it. The Escorts in front mostly have 16-valve twin- cam engines - more powerful than our motor, but, say experts, less reliable. We'll see.

All 106 starters are still running, but some crews are having to work through the night on their cars.

DAY SEVEN: Rousse to Istanbul, Turkey - I'd long wanted to go to Istanbul, I spent most of my first and only night there in a car park underneath the Sheraton Hotel. We changed tyres and made one or two minor repairs. We'd driven across Bulgaria to the Turkish border, stopping for a nine-mile special stage - a mixture of gravel and tarmac - which wound through a forest. We were 20th quickest, which lifted us to 28th overall.

DAY EIGHT: Istanbul to Ankara - Maybe the slog is getting to me: I ended today very tired. It was hot, too, which didn't help. I finally saw the Istanbul of the travel brochures as we crossed the Bosporus into Asia. We headed east to a high, windswept area on the Sea of Marmara for today's nine-mile stage on tarmac: tight and undulating, through woods. Then it was east on long, straight, bumpy roads through old dusty towns before reaching a new motorway that led us into Ankara: a sprawling, hilly, characterless place.

A Dutch DAF which had rolled became the first car to retire from the rally. Heroic act of the day was performed by two Australian women in a Volvo. They spent all today getting their engine rebuilt in an Istanbul Volvo dealership, before driving through the night to Ankara, arriving two hours before they were due to leave again. They've lost lots of time, but are still in the rally.

DAY NINE: Ankara to Erzurum - A hard slog through eastern Turkey, with one 13-mile special stage near Ankara. We did 560 miles, mostly on appalling roads - full of gut-wrenching, car-destroying potholes. Most of the cars, and the people, are starting to look very tired and dusty. Erzurum, an old city, very Eastern and Islamic - it's not far from the Iranian border - welcomed us enthusiastically.

DAY 10: Erzurum to Ankara - Woken at 4.30am by the muezzin. Then, back whence we came, via a hilly, snow-covered area towards the Iranian border, where a special stage was held on a treacherous track covered in mud and snow.

The way back to Ankara was along the same road we used yesterday. It is the only westerly run of the rally: we need to return to Ankara to meet up with the planes that are going to transport the cars to Delhi.

The problem of poor roads was aggravated by the brisk pace we had to maintain. Our longest day to date: just over 600 miles in 12 hours.

Graham Lorimer still leads, but the Briton Francis Tuthill in a Porsche 911 is closing. We have climbed to 26th; 104 cars are still running.

DAY 11: Ankara to Ankara - We looped north of the Turkish capital to hilly, heavily wooded countryside, taking in two special stages. One went alongside a cliff, and had a drop of at least a third of a mile. There was no crash barrier.

Today, tragedy struck: a driver was killed. Brian Ginger, an Australian in a Holden Monaro, hit a coach head-on on a narrow road. It was on a transport stage (on the special stages the roads are closed). They collided on the crest of a hill, apparently, neither being at fault.

Mind you, Turkish coach and truck drivers are probably the most dangerous in the world. Almost every driver has a tale about narrowly avoiding a head-on with a lorry or bus.

News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own