By way of introduction; my name is Jo Skelton. I have never been on a rally before so this blog will be a record of experiences through the eyes of a novice but will also include the thoughts and comments of fellow (and on the whole, far more experienced)rally-goers. My husband, Simon is bit of a ‘petrol-head’ who occasionally goes away for six weeks at a time as crew on classic car rallies in far-flung places like India, Nepal and Thailand. When we married, it was pretty much a given that at some stage I would be asked to accompany said husband on one of these rallies. I looked forward to the day. So it was with great excitement that we accepted an invitation to join the 2CV Adventures Marrakesh Express rally around Morocco as Crew. From my husband’s stories I knew that a rally would be full of unforgettable sights, experiences, adventure and a lot of fun.
This rally in particular was also going to be unique; instead of driving their own classic cars, the competitors would be driving one of a fleet of classic 2CV’s that had been specifically modified for rallying. Most people go gooey-eyed when you mention the fabled 2CV with the iconic looks and odd gear stick. They have a unique Gallic charm, often compared to an upturned pram. They are the French equivalent of the German Beetle or our Mini sometimes also associated with left-wing activists in the 70’s with their ‘Ban the Bomb and ‘Save the Whale’ stickers – it became a car often linked with hippies. So it also seemed entirely fitting that these little ‘tin snails’, so full of character, would be the perfect car for taking on the ‘Marrakech Express’.
We are going as Time Marshals, involving timing the competitors during various stages and reading not only a map, but a route-book, plus a sat-nav and a hand-held GPS almost simultaneously. As sometimes my own time-keeping can be a bit erratic, this worried me a bit. Then I found out that a rather well-known figure from the world of motor-racing would be joining the rally and that made me break out in a cold- sweat that I would do something very stupid like send him off in the wrong direction at the wrong time and be ‘outed’ as the complete Rally-Virgin that I am. So, it was not without a tiny bit of trepidation that we boarded the 10.05 Easyjet flight to Malaga to meet our fellow rally-goers prior to getting the ferry over to Morocco the next day.
After an incredibly easy journey we arrived at our four-star hotel just outside of Malaga and there we saw them; a gorgeous row of 2CV’s all lined up and waiting to take us on our adventure. Much like the reindeers in ‘The Night before Christmas’, they all had names: Daisy, Dally, Delilah and Daphne. Doris, Dolly, Dally and Dilly. Dominique, Dotty, Ducky and Dizzy. Daphne and Daffy, Ducky and Dinny. With their little round headlamps glinting provocatively in the Spanish sun, they looked cute and the epitome of fun on wheels.
Toby Kilner the owner and the creator of the event had sourced and bought the cars and along with mechanics Andy, Dave and Albi they had worked night and day for three months in order to get them rally-ready in time. The love and care that went into this feat really showed. While the mechanics were busy making the last minute preparations for the days and roads that lay ahead, some of the contestants were already familiarising themselves with their allocated cars; stroking the bonnets, pulling on the gear stick, revelling in the comfort of the seats and soft suspension. You could almost hear the 2CVs purr with delight.
At 7.30 sharp we had our first briefing from our Clerk of the Course, John Trevethick and the opportunity to meet the rest of the crew and competitors over a nice glass of beer or wine or two before going on to a slap up dinner. A number of the drivers ( mostly husband and wife teams) are seasoned rally goers and many swapped stories about the various other adventures they had been on including the longer rallies such as The Peking to Paris, the Trans Am, the Tiger Rally. The competitors that I spoke to were really looking forward to getting the chance to drive such an iconic car around a fantastic country. For those who usually took their own classic cars on events like this it was a novel way of going on a rally without all the usual bureaucracy involved with shipping cars etc … this was literally ‘arrive and drive! Everyone was very jolly and obviously passionate about rallies and cars. You could tell that going on these rallies could become quite addictive – and if you had the time and money to do so, could mean anything up to three months spent on the road across a variety of countries. Everyone saw that this event was unique and there was definitely a buzz of excitement in the air. I went to bed feeling much less concerned about silly little worries and really looking forward to getting on the road the next morning.