Heroic rally crews arrive in Cape Town

| 30 Jan 2012

A last-day turnaround meant that a Subaru Impreza was the overall winner of the epic London to Cape Town Rally from a Toyota Hilux, but there were no major upsets among the classics in the final throes of the event.

The Porsche 911 of Joost van Cauwenberge and Jacques Castelein came home an astonishing third overall, while the 912 of Alastair Caldwell ad Hayden Burvill – complete with bucket air scoop – was sixth.

Next classic to finish was the 1970 Volvo 144 of Atherton and Henchiz in ninth, three spots ahead of the same vintage Datsun 510 of Pickering and Boddy.

First of seven Peugeots to reach Cape Town was the 1972 504 of Chriqui and Thiolat in 15th.

There were range of class awards, but classics unsurprisingly featured a lot in the special awards.

The True Grit prize was given to Ben and Mike Dawson who drove their 1975 Mk2 Escort non-stop across Ethiopia after losing two days to a broken stub axle (main image).

It was no shock when the Stephensons picked up the Against All Odds gong for their heroic efforts in a 1923 Vauxhall OD 23-60.

Organiser's final briefing

At last! We finally see the silhouette of Table Mountain…and roll down the long drive lined with palm trees to the Table Bay Hotel - the South Atlantic a pebble throw away. We have made it.

It's an emotional moment. Tears roll down the faces of grown men. The weeks of tension finally evaporates in the hot sun. Shrieks of joy from wives and girl friends. Sheer relief from mothers, all combined with hugs and kisses amid the froth of champagne spray. Engines are turned off for the last time.It's been a tense day - Africa has been throwing surprises in our tracks from the moment we arrived in Egypt. Today, rally leader Steve Blunt, after extending his three second lead into a still slender 38 second margin, ran out if petrol. The gauge was faulty. Minutes ticked by waiting for someone to save the rally leaders.

All the Peugeots lined up alongside each other, crews sat on the roofs shaking hands, camera crews snapped away, as families and loved ones who have not seen driver or navigator for a month threw their arms around grimy shirts that looked as if they have been worn for weeks. The stories and adventures unfolded in South Africa's summer sun and the beer bottles lubricated dry throats, to improve upon the telling.

So, rocky goat tracks in Greece that followed on from dark woods in Kent and muddy tracks of the poppy fields of Northern France. Egypt's Snake Valley, to the thousands that cheered us all the way across Ethiopia, the amazingly rocky track that is Kenya's road to a place called Marsabit …Tanzania's muddy jungle trails …to a country called Namibia, so vast, so open, and so empty, one driver remarked: "Does anyone live here?"

In 14 countries, touching three Continents, driving 14,000 kilometres in 26 driving-days we have, today after reaching Cape Town, experienced an event only made possible by the combined enthusiasm and encouragement of many along the way… Tonight we now gather together for one last time, and cheer those who are taking home a silver trophy. But, deep down in our hearts, we are all agreed on one thing. All those who drove into Cape Town are very special winners.