Alastair's Blog

2CV in Marrakech Express turns out to be a winner!

- Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Winners in a lovely Citroen 2CV!

When Graham Nash was in Morocco writing Marrakesh Express I had recently left New Zealand and I was starting to make a name for myself at McLaren F1. I never crossed paths with Crosby, Stills and Nash but the words of the song could have been written for me as they were as relevant then as they were during this hard fought rally:

"Had to get away to see what we could find
Hope the days that lie ahead
Bring us back to where they've led"

Just how I felt in 1966 when I left New Zealand 'looking for new adventures' and on my arrival in Morocco for the 2014 Marrakech Express Rally, looking forward to the 'days ahead' and hoping to get around and to the finish line in one piece. And we did - finishing in style in first place!

There were 15 runners in the race and to level the playing field all the 2CVs were supplied by the organisers, 2CV Adventures:

I know a lot of you have been following me on facebook and twitter so I'll try not to repeat myself here and there are lots of photos on this page that I didn't get a chance to post - so enjoy them!

We started in Malaga in Spain and the route took us through Malaga city centre to Tarifa and onward to Tangier, Meknes, Beni Mallal, Marrakech. Then it was back to Malaga via a different route of Ouarzazate, Merzouga, Midelt, Chefchaouen, Tangier and across the finish line back in Malaga. During the rally we went through the massive Todra Gorge and the glorious Atlas Mountains covering just over 3,000 km.

I completed the rally with my good friend Hayden Burvill, Porsche fanatic, and owner of WEVO Porsche specialist parts company who came over from California to co-drive. We know each other well as we did the London to Capetown rally together a few years back.

The great thing about the rally is that the organisers ensured that we had plenty of time to take in the sights as we went across Spain and Morocco:

Day 1 – Malaga to Tarifa 184kms - all lined up with the 2CVs we'd spend the next 2 weeks in....

Day 2 – Tarifa to Tangier to Meknes 290kms - on the ferry and into the hills for some 'casual racing'

Day 3 – Meknes to Beni Mallal 348kms - into the Middle Atlas mountains, through the Bab Mansour gates and the ancient town Place el Hedim and on to Ifran known as the Switzerland of Morocco because it is so near to ski resorts


Day 4 – Beni Mallal to Marrakech 265kms - the first real mountain challenge and a testing Regularity section – 470m to 1320m climb in 50kms!

Day 5 – Marrakech - a rest day (!) and a chance to visit the world famous Jemaa El-Fna Square.

Day 6 – Marrakech to Ouarzazate 212kms - 100kms of competition climbing out of Marrakech on the famous Tizi n’Test, a demanding 20kms that climb 1,000metres and then back down through the Berber villages and deep river gorges, ending up at Ait Behaddou, the Hollywood of Morocco - so called because it has been the location of many famous films from Sean Connery's 1975 'The Man Who Would Be King' through to the James Bond classic 'The Living Daylights' and more recently the TV series 'Game of Thrones'.



Day 7 – Ouarzazate to Merzouga 377kms - out into a flat stony desert and views of the Grand Canyon of Morocco and a 10kms regularity section.

Day 8 – Merzouga Camp - Technically a rest day but instead we took to the desert for a bit of fun in the dunes.

Day 9 – Merzouga to Midelt 380kms - Long trek (7.5 hours) but beautiful mountains, gorges and some wonderful competition. 

Day 10 – Midelt to Fes 315kms - high passes of the Middle Atlas mountain range then on to the quiet roads of Imouzzer Marmoucha.

Day 11 – Fez to Chefchaouen 330kms - as we came out of Fez we went into the Rif mountains - a full day of twists and turns!

Day 12 – Chefchaouen to Tangier to Malaga 298kms - that's it, the last day and over the winning line in first place!









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Vintage Paris-Madrid Rally and the winner is....

- Monday, June 03, 2013

Just a couple of weeks after the London to Lisbon rally I was on the road again at the Paris to Madrid Vintage car rally. This time with the lovely Alfa adorned as usual with my lucky elephant Space Station sticker. 4th place in class and 13th overall in the London to Lisbon rally was good based on all the mechanical problems we had - but I hate not winning (!) so I was determined to do better on this rally.

I thought everything was going to come undone before we'd even started when we discovered a water leak the night before.  So radiator out of the Alfa and into the repair shop overnight and fixed - but it wasn't done until late in the morning! So a late push to the starting line in Paris.  Fortunately for once we had planned to arrive a day early so we had time in hand and arrived in Versailles with plenty to spare and ready for dinner. We even managed a bit of tourist activity walking the Palace Gardens of Versaille which are really beautiful especially at this time of year. Great trees and old statues and some brilliant bronzes all on a theme of full size trees. Well worth a visit and free to enter!

The 52 pre-war cars were flagged away to start the rally from Versailles to commemorate the incredible 1903 Paris-Madrid race - 110 years to the day.  Our rally started well but we had poor brakes to start with, but a bit more fiddling saw them feeling and working better and we finished the day in the lead. A good omen for the days ahead.

The field was full of some fantastic cars that had entered this year's rally. Some really interesting early vintage classic ones. The rally follows the original 1903 route wherever the organisers can arrange. The three day 1300km (815 mile) event reflects the society of the period with the drivers and passengers having fun by dressing up in appropriate clothing for the pre-war period!

To reflect the mix of vehicles the organisers had sorted the field into classes for four, three and two wheeled motor, steam or electric driven vehicles:

 -     Veteran in two classes: Up to 1905 and 1906 to 1919.
 -     Vintage from 1920 to 1929
 -     Pre-war from 1930 to 1940

As with the original schedule the event is made up of three legs, with our first stop Angouleme (instead of Bordeaux in the original rally). Here we were met with locally produced fortified wine and some delicate pastry’s organised by Club Charentals de Belles Voitures.

We left Angouleme on the second day heading south via Saint Emilion (a lovely wine region!) and the Pyrenees Mountains to our overnight stop at Pamplona, famous for its bull run - not just yet though! In Pamploma we were greeted by local classic car enthusiasts, lots of kindred spirits and reveling in the fun of the day. We did well again today and in the top three. After arriving we all enjoyed a marvelous cocktail party and local celebrations.

The third leg takes roads that are much more fun, less traveled across to Navarra and Rioja - it's a wine fest every time we do this run. There was a regularity set on gravel on this last day, which was very hard to do on time. We did well but the chasing Italian driven Aston did slightly better. But any chance of them winning went out the window when they threw it all away with a wrong test which dropped them right down the field. Sad for them but good for us! A really good day today and we were feeling really confident when we arrived in Madrid to take the chequered flag.

And with a major effort and finishing in style the winner is... Us!

Great feeling to going across the finishing line in first place. The evening was rounded off with a a gala dinner and prize giving. I drove the car to the Gala Prize giving at the Madrid Ritz where it was on display for the evening looking both grand and resplendent with it's winners rosette across the bonnet. Catriona Rings my faithful navigator on many events gave a nice speech. At the end of the evening the Alfa stayed at the Ritz... I was in no shape to drive the car back after the dinner and celebrations!

Oh, and I nearly forgot, we met up with Michael Portillo celebrating his 60th birthday. So a good evening was had by all!

There’s more photos on my facebook page. For those of you that don’t already follow, might be an idea to more photos on my facebook page like my page now as there are more rallies coming, you can also see instant comments on my twitter channel so you can follow me there as well.

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