Band of classics takes on mighty Sahara Desert


A ragtag band of 45 classics has set off from Madrid on the opening day of the Sahara Challenge, with the city of Marrakesh their final destination. The flag dropped on the ten-day event on 5 October, when the group – which ranged from a brace of early 1920s Vauxhall 30/98s through to a plucky 1984 Renault 4GTL – set off from Toledo’s Parador Hotel towards Africa.

“The event is an ideal shakedown for those contemplating some of the ERA’s more intense events, such as the Peking to Paris or the Rally of the Incas,” said rally director Fred Gallacher. “It’s also a short, sharp burst for those who want an adventure but are limited by time.”

The field of 45 classics is divided into four classes: Vintageant, Pre-1941, and Classic Cars in production before 1975, with under two-litre and over two-litre engines. 

The oldest car taking part on the rally is the 1925 Vauxhall 30/98 of Charles and Nellie Bishop, while the oldest is a Renault 4GTL dating from 1984, which was given special dispensation as a late substitute. 

They are joined by a 1972 Austin Mini, a brace of Datsun 240Zs, a Derby Bentley Open Tourer, plus the customary Chevrolet Fangio Coupes, Porsche 911s and Volvo Amazons more commonly used in classic endurance rallying. 

“This is the first time we’ve had a Mini on a modern ERA event,” said Gallacher. “We’re all very keen to see how it acquits itself.”

Along the route, the classics will face numerous obstacles including the hills of Andalucia in Spain, and the Todra Gorge and Erg Chebbi dunes of Tangier. 

Photos: Gerard Brown

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