Motoring: Up a gum tree when lightning strikes twice: Despite breaking down on the way to Broken Hill, Gavin Green nurses his Escort across Australia to take 13th place in the London-Sydney Marathon

DAY 25: Kalgoorlie to Eucla - Today, two special stages. One, from Zanthus to Balladonia, in south-eastern Western Australia, was billed as the most difficult of the event. It was certainly the longest: a 120-mile stage down a narrow, sandy gravel road. Ruts and rocks and wash-outs scarred much of the track, lined with stumps, gum trees and acacias.

We started 18th, in keeping with our overall position. In the first 10 miles we passed three stranded cars: one had hit a tree, hard; the second had broken an axle; and the third one had suffered two simultaneous punctures.

Less than 10 miles from the line, I slowed a little, happy to finish, and on a detour around a fallen tree, we became bogged in a mixture of deep ruts and sand. It took 17 minutes to get out, and instead of being third-fastest on the stage, we were 21st.

Some cars were irreparably broken. Some drivers slept the night in them. Help came next morning. Those who finished spent the evening camped in Eucla on the Western Australia/South Australia border. Many drivers spent much of the night in Eucla's only garage, trying to fix broken cars. Our front wheel bearings were ruined, our exhaust was badly bent and battered, and our rear suspension was starting to sag.

The Porsche of England's Francis Tuthill, ninth-quickest on today's stage, has retained its lead. Despite being bogged, we've moved to 16th.

DAY 26: Eucla to Port Augusta, South Australia - One rough special stage today, in the Gawler Ranges, trying to avoid big rocks and ruts. The transport stages, too, were mostly on rough gravel roads, which punished all cars severely. Most of the 550 miles was across flat, dry, worn countryside, bordered by dull green scrubland, rocks and red soil. Spent much of the night in Port Augusta, north of Adelaide trying (unsuccessfully) to find new wheel bearings for our Escort, fixing a broken wheel stud, broken exhaust bracket and broken alternator bracket. The car has taken a dreadful pounding.

DAY 27: Port Augusta to Broken Hill, New South Wales - Through the Flinders Ranges, a lovely area of green hills, vast white-barked ghost gums, massive rocky gorges, rich red soil and fast-flowing creeks. There were four special stages: my Dad, who knows this area well, did two of them. In the original 1968 London to Sydney Marathon, he dropped from fifth to 21st in the Flinders Ranges, after being stranded when a wheel bearing failed. We had a puncture in exactly the same clearing.

We went well today, climbing two places to 14th. Andrew Cowan, driving the same Hillman Hunter in which he won in 1968, broke his engine bearings, had the car freighted to Adelaide, fitted the new bearings, then drove through the night to Broken Hill for the 6.30am restart. He dropped to 66th.

The Australian Dave Thomas, once running third, retired after the rally's most spectacular accident. He hit a rock and cartwheeled into trees at more than 100mph. He was unhurt, but his co-driver, Jenny Britten, wife of the event director, Nick Britten, was flown to hospital with broken ribs.

Out of 106 starters, 86 cars remain in the event. We finally got new wheel bearings fitted.

DAY 28: Broken Hill to Wangaratta, Victoria - The longest day: 700 miles of driving, including two special stages in northern Victoria forests, one at night. That stage scared me. It involved wending our way through eucalyptus, down a narrow, twisting gravel track. I drove cautiously, and for the first time on on a special stage of the rally was overtaken by another car: the Peugeot 504 of the French rally champion, Bernard Consten, with whom we've been neck and neck for the past week.

The camaraderie in the event has been exceptionally good. The New Zealander Graham Lorimer in an Escort, running fourth, lent his spare steering rack to Britain's Roger Clark, who was running sixth. Otherwise Clark would have been out, and Lorimer had no other spare.

DAY 29: Wangaratta to Canberra - Through the Australian Alps, in northern Victoria. This is one of the most handsome parts of Australia: tall, majestic gums, green fields studded with vineyards and colonial-style homes, brilliant clear light and a film of snow on the ground. Many of the trees are a lovely autumnal orange. The special stages were all on muddy, snowy tracks, always treacherous.

The local Ford dealer at every Australian town we've stopped at has stayed open late to help not only the Ford drivers. In most cases, they've been charging a flat rate of dollars A20 (just under pounds 10) for help.

As usual, to bed after 1am. I've been averaging four hours' sleep a night across Australia, such is the maintenance work now required to keep the car competitive. Most drivers, including all the front-runners, are putting in similar efforts. Everyone is desperate to finish this great adventure.

Day 30: Canberra to Sydney - Finish we did, at the Sydney Opera House, at 2pm, in 13th place. Tuthill, a former works rally driver for Audi, deservedly won. He had led since Turkey, and was the quickest driver across Australia.

All cars assembled in Homebush, at the proposed site for the Olympic Games in 2000. A 16-strong motorcycle police escort led us to the Opera House. It was a showery day, and the water on Sydney Harbour was a cold, steely grey. But for the weary crews of the 86 cars who finished the greatest motoring adventure of modern times, no sight could have been more welcoming.

(Photograph omitted)

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
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
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