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 - Motoring - Life and Style - The Independent

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)

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'I felt like that was the lowest I’d ever felt'
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
News
A plane flies close to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano
newsAnd yes, it's quite something
Sport
Tito Vilanova passed away aged just 45
footballThe club's former manager died in April, less than a year after he stood down
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch
artAnd it's even for a good cause
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Life and Style
techCriminals are targeting an e-reader security flaw
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
newsBut just how much does a 122-carat coloured diamond go for these days?
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

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

    PE Teacher (Female)

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Teacher of Girls PE for Wiltshire scho...

    Retail Business Analyst - Retail-J

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week