The Africa Record run

The Africa Record run

When the British Army set a new world record for the non-stop drive from Cape Town to London in 1983, it had no idea that its record of 14 days would last for 30 years …

This year, however, a fresh attempt will be launched on February 1 as two British rally drivers, Philip Young and Paul Brace, set out in one of the smallest “eco” city cars you can buy from a British showroom – a two-cylinder, 875cc Fiat Panda.

Both drivers have experience in the 10 300 mile (16 576 km) long route and have driven through Sudan and across the top of North Africa through Libya. 

The vehicle has been lightly modified with updated suspension and a long-range tank that enables it to drive 600 miles (965 km) between top-ups. Veteran long distance rally driver Tony Fowkes has also fitted the vehicle with extra under-body protection.

A Yellowbrick tracker (the device that plots yachts in transworld yacht races) has been fitted to confirm that the Panda’s progress is within local speed limits.

Young and Brace aim to drive 1 000 miles (1 610 km) a day for 10 days, and to cross the line at Marble Arch in London on February 11 at the exact spot where Neil Gibson, head of the Motor Sports Association at the Royal Automobile Club, camped out in a deck chair to clock Brigadier John Hemsley’s arrival in 1983.

The first record was set in 1933, taking five months to complete and using 15 gallons of oil. A journalist from Motor magazine then took over the title in 1939, reducing the trip time to 31 days, driving a new Wolseley, only to be beaten after World War II by the newly announced Austin Hampshire.

Rootes then entered the fray and took the record in a Hillman Minx, beating that in a Humber Snipe, before Eric Jackson snatched the record by just 18 minutes driving a new Ford Cortina 1 500 Super.

This year the pair hopes to raise over £10 000 (R140 000) for the UK charity Farm Africa, which has agricultural projects in several countries along their route.

Young and Brace will leave Cape Town in the Panda with a giant map on the website (www.africarecordrun.com) monitoring their progress and updating followers every 30 minutes.

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