After a buffet-style breakfast in one of Tangier more established hotels where we spent our first night in Morocco, Rod Kirkpatrick and Alex Broadway, the rally’s official film crew jumped in their hire car and made their way back to the port to await some good photo opportunities of the 2CVs disembarking from the early morning ferry from Tarifa.
Meanwhile we got into our car (Skoda hatch-back, excellent as it happens) and navigated ourselves out of Tangiers to get to our first regularity event. Five ‘tulips’ in and Simon was congratulating me on my adept navigations skills – when of course I took my eye off the ball (and the map/sat nav/GPS etc) and sent us off onto a coast road, past a Kasbah and well away from our intended route. After a rather heated exchange between husband and wife, and a few unsuccessful attempts on my part to try and establish where we were on the map with a few taxi drivers, policeman and eventually a group of soldiers guarding the Kasbah, we eventually got back on track. While the husband was tearing his hair out that we were going to be extremely late for the first Time Control we got a call to say that there had been quite a delay back at the port and so we had the opportunity to calmly set up our control in a fairly convenient layby and waited for the cars to arrive.
As it turns out, Moroccan bureaucracy can be very time-consuming and four hours later we saw our first tin-snail come flying into the Time Control. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was No 8 – ‘Dally’ driven by Alastair Caldwel and his navigator Hayden Burville from San Francisco. Mindful of my initial fear I tried to write down the hour and minutes quickly on the time sheets and allow them to get on their way quickly – although when counting down, I actually forgot to say ‘Go’…. It could have been worse.
All but one of the cars checked in to the TC – unfortunately one husband and wife team Reg and Michelle Toohey from Australia had whizzed on to the A1 instead of the N1 and were happily travelling down the motorway – which was no bad thing for them given that we were running about four hours behind time; it gave them an opportunity to get to the next destination in good time. Most decided to press on without lunch in order to get to Meknes before nightfall. However, because of this we were a good hour behind the first car and had to try and ‘leapfrog’ the competitors to ensure that we could get to the next TC before they did. This resulted in a faintly hilarious but embarrassing game of cat and mouse with Lesley Stockwell and Nicholas Pryor in Dominique No 5.
Each time we managed to overtake them and a few more lorries, buses etc but then got caught in a speedtrap (there are many!)…we did this no less than three times. Luckily the Moroccan police were very friendly, giving us a caution each time and warning us that the purpose of the 60 KPH limit was indeed for our benefit as it was quite a dangerous road. Feeling more than chastised and just a little sheepish we decided to hang back behind Dominique. Luckily John Brigden, the Rally Director was on hand to end the regularity event down a little dust track buzzing with locals going for an early evening walk who looked inquisitive and not a little amused at the sight of these cars in their neck of the woods.
About two hours later we had all arrived safely at the excellent Hotel Transatlantique with stunning views across the city of Meknes. After competitors spoke to the mechanics about any concerns and had a quick shower a debrief and a G&T we were seated for our supper and began to talk about our impressions of the day. The general consensus: a challenging drive mainly caused by the knock-on effect of the delay in Tangiers putting everyone under pressure. Most of us were focussed on getting to the Hotel before dark and so perhaps had not had a chance to properly adjust to our new surroundings and the fact that we were in Morocco as much of the terrain was still fairly similar to Spain at this point. Although Sean and Mike in No 1, Daisy had stopped for a spot of lunch and to take it all in, most had pressed on. However, rather than dwell on any negatives, this seems to be where the bonding starts – talking about the trials and tribulations at the start of a rally when some rough edges have to be smoothed out and nervous energy abounds. Certainly, at the end of the day much laughter could be heard amid the satisfied scraping of plates and clinking of glasses – soothing away any stresses of the day. It would seem that the mantra ; ‘tomorrow is another day’ definitely rings true on a rally.