Day 16 & 17
We have arrived in a small place called Vanderbijlpark about sixty-five kilometres south of Johannesburg.
Yesterday, day 16 of the rally we left Francistown in Botswana for a very long and hot drive totalling five hundred and ninety five kilometres.
This included the border crossing to South Africa in a small border town called Martins Drift.
The drive to the border was long hot but on nice and often empty tarmac roads. Little traffic and its difficult to concentrate when driving on such long runs.
Unfortunately our cars has temperature gauges for everything so oil, water and oil pressure are constant monitored during these drives when outside temperatures rise to 36, 37 Celsius..
I have found that in fifth gear at about 2900 -3000 revs I can drive with an average speed of between 120 – 125 km. At that speed I keep all the temperatures oil and water between 85 (water) and 90 (oil)
After lunch when the engine and gear box are really hot I drop down to about 2900 revs and everything stays steady.
Please realize that all day long we are at at least 1400 meter altitude sometimes over 1700 meters.
Today near and through Johannesburg we were over 2000 and even at 2200 hundred meters.
You don’t realize that it is that high as you mostly drive through flat and even countryside.
The altitude also has a great effect on the car temperatures.
With the alterations we made to the cooling system of the car before the rally I can now say that they have been very effective.
Before this rally we never realized it would be so hot in Namibia and Botswana.
The border process is the same procedure at each border. First you get you passport stamped and Car Carnet stamped going out of Botswana and then you drive a kilometre to the South African border, fill in some papers and get your passport and Car Carnet stamped into South Africa.
However the Carnet stamps are rather important, because if I arrive back in Cape town with a Carnet with not all in and out stamps in it, I might loose the hefty deposit I have had to pay to bring the car into South Africa. This deposit is worth the price of a small car.
Until this border crossing everything went according to plan. We even saved a few stamps by taking a bus into Zimbabwe and leave the car in Botswana on our way to Victoria Falls.
Now however the Botswana customs man assured me several times I did not need a stamp out of this country.
I asked him six times and eventually drove the kilometre to the South African border where the customs man said that he would not give me an S-Africa stamp in without a Botswana stamp out…
Can you still follow me.. Behind us were another 36 competitors in line with the same issue.
The customs man would not budge so I left the group arguing with this man and rally Marshall Jim (yes the same Jim that saved my car from drowning in a river in Mongolia last year) drove me back to the Botswana office where reluctantly they did give me the stamp.
When I got back to the South African border office all mayhem had broken loose with thirty six competitors trying to convince the custmons staff to give them a stamp for South Africa. A senior official had turned up and declared they would not give any stamps at all…….
When I turned up with my stamp he could not refuse to give me the S-African entry stamp because he had told me to go and get the exit stamp in Botswana.
So I got my stamp and left the rest behind who then also got their stamps. It took an hour and a half but we are now back in South Africa. This is part of the experience and in general the border crossings have been quite good.
There was a lunch stop and regroup about one hundred kilometres past the border at a lovely fish and sushi restaurant .We enjoyed a very good plate of assorted sushi. When I parked the car I noticed my right rear tire looked a bit low and in the restaurant ERA rally mechanic said he has seen it as well and that there was good tyre place across the road where they could check it.
After lunch a drove to the tire place which turned out to be a very modern garage. The two white African managers were very friendly and helpful and interested in our rally. Before I knew the wheel was off and checked.
They then showed me that the inner rim of this wheel was dented probably by a rock on one of our off road excursions That is what made the tire deflate very slowly. They asked if they should fit the spare wheel but a moment later one of the tire mechanics had already hammered the dent in the rim back in shape. This should last but I might change the wheel for the spare wheel just in case. The tire shop did not want any money for the work.. Very nice people and many thanks..
The run to our night destination Sun City near Johannesburg was long and hot again. The nice green landscape changed a bit and we passed some large mining facilities with some poor villages surrounding them.
Sun City was built in the seventies for the rich white South Africans and resembles a bit Las Vegas.
It is set in 25 acres of botanical jungle surrounded by rocky mountains. The are various hotels a casino and some attractions like a crocodile park. Crazy place and we stayed in the Sun City Palace hotel. The hotel was huge and a bit impersonal for the rally but good for one night.
Today day 17 we left the hotel quite late for what we thought would be a short day. The first stop was at the Zwartkopf raceway a very nice and well-kept circuit and actually not very far from the South African Grand Prix track Kyalami Raceway.
At the race track we were to do two laps each on the kart track within the circuit. This was to be the first competitive stage after the accident of Jan and Dana last week.
The lap was short, twisty and narrow but our car does quite well and we ended in the top six of fastest laps.
We had a short lunch break at the track and then drove another 25 km to a place near the Kyalami GP circuit where we were invited for a visit to the workshop of the official Team Toyota Dakar team. They were preparing three cars for the next Dakar event that starts in January 2018. Impressive set up and nice to see these rally monsters are fitted with the same – Dutch build - Reiger shock absorbers that we have fitted to our Pagode.
The Toyota race engineers immediately cornered Mario Illien who competes with us in his Citroen Tractionavant and quizzed him about and engine design issue they had with their rally engine . Mario is an expert F1 engine builder and was responsible for building the Mercedes F1 and Indy car engines for many years ( Ilmor engineering) Look it up on internet. The Toyota guys had a free consult and seemed very pleased with his advice..
When leaving Team Toyota we still had another 80 km to go and Grace and I did not realize that this meant crossing right through Johannesburg from north to south. It was around 4 pm when we started and we got stuck in the evening rush hour traffic.
Again 34 degrees and here we were in our open car passing the townships. We followed the road book and Grace held her head cool, but god forbid if we had made a wrong turn or if the car had had a problem.
I was very relieved when we hid the open road again and cleared the outskirts of Johannesburg.
We are now in a small town with many gated house compounds in a nice and clean business hotel.
Tomorrow another day and another 500 km run , but no time trials or tests.
Mick & Grace