The epic London to Cape Town Rally set off from central London last night and already there have been retirements.
One of the first fallers after the Westminster off was the Triumph 2500 of Chris Butcher and Sean Moriarty which fell off the road and was then damaged further after Andy Actman’s Toyota clouted its rear end.
The results by Dover showed strong performances from the smaller cars in the event, with Owen Turner and Matt Fowle in their 1600cc MG ZR emerging as overall leaders from the wet, muddy and slippery lanes on the North Downs of Kent plus two off-road forest sections.
They now cross to France with a grip of over six minutes ahead of the field. The first overnight halt is in Beaune, completing a 20-hour, overnight drive broken only by some time to regroup in Dover and the ferry crossing.
Second place overall is the 1600cc MG Maestro of Jane Edgington and Gill Cotton, 30 seconds ahead of the big 4x4 Toyota Hi-lux of Andy Actman and Andy Elcombe, with the Subaru Impreza of Steve Blunt and Bob Duck a further 30 seconds behind, and Renger Gulliker and Pim't Hart in their unlikely BMW 535i in 5th.
A good effort by Rachel Vestey and Suzy Harvey puts another small car into the top ten, ending the night in 9th place with their MG ZR. Car 1, the ambitious crew of Richard Atherton and Rob Henchoz in their Volvo 144, are a steady 10th at this early stage.
Second fastest car in the two forest sections was the Belgian Porsche 911 of Joost Van Cauwenberge and Jacques Castelein, who then struggled a little with navigation from maps and slipped down the leader board, reminding us that a fast car on a rally like this is sometimes no match for well-directed MG Maestro
Prior to the off, the competitors spent the day at Brooklands for scrutineering and attracted a crowd of more than 2000 people.