Two British adventurers have smashed the records for driving between Cape Town and London.
Philip Young and Paul Brace left the Mount Nelson hotel in Cape Town at 6am GMT (8am SAST) on 1 February in their 875cc Fiat Panda on a daunting 16,000km drive across two continents including former war zones.
They arrived at Marble Arch in central London at 5.28pm local time on Monday night - which meant they had taken just 10 days, 13 hours and 28 minutes.
The grinning pair posed for photos in the middle of the rush hour on top of their little city car, which Young said had not even needed topping up with oil or water on the trip.
“I just can't believe how well the car went.”
“It's been a long ten days since we left the Mount Nelson which now feels like a month ago,” he said.
“There were some tough times on the trip but we don't feel too bad because we did actually get some sleep in the car. Probably the most difficult bits were crossing the Egypt/Sudan border at a new crossing where there wasn't any customs office. They ended up stamping our passport on the bonnet of the car.
“The other difficult bit was in Libya which wasn't supposed to be letting in any foreigners. At one point when we were waiting for stamps in the passport we heard some muffled explosions. We asked what it was and the official shrugged his shoulders and said 'some people with no visas risk walking around the outside of the walls, setting off landmines'.
“When they spotted the Union Jack on the car they saluted us. Bizarre.”
Their time easily beat the previous record of 14 days, 19 hours 26 minutes set by British Army officer Brigadier John Hemsley and his wife Lucy in 1983 in a Range Rover V8. Hemsley was at Marble Arch on Monday night to offer his congratulations.
However, Young and Brace also beat the north to south record of 11 days, 14 hours and 11 minutes set by three British drivers, brothers Mac and Steve MacKenney and Chris Rawlings in a Land Rover Discovery three years ago.
Young, 64, who is chairman of the Classic Rally Association and Brace, 45, a car restorer, covered about 1600km a day, taking in 13 countries at an average speed of 69km/h. After starting in South Africa they crossed Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia before taking a sea crossing to Sicily in Italy, France and then a cross-channel hop to England and London.
“POTHOLES THE SIZE OF OUR PANDA”
The record is all the more remarkable for the fact it was completed not in a powerful 4x4 but in a 62kW twin-cylinder Fiat Panda. The cramped car could fit just one spare wheel while a bigger-than-normal petrol tank meant it had a range of 1000km.
They encountered tropical storms, searing heat, desert tracks, bureaucracy and potholes 'the size of our Panda'.
As well as trying to break the record, Young and Brace were raising money for British charity Farm Africa which works with farmers in east Africa to combat hunger and starvation through agricultural innovation. As of Monday the pair had raised £12 500 (R175 000).
The pair wrote regular blogs on the trip and took pictures which they uploaded to the website. They took it in turns to drive while the other slept on a mattress in the back or ate from army-issue self-heating cans.
Young added: “We could have done it in a 4x4 but that wouldn't be much of a challenge, would it? It was hard because we were living and sleeping in the car, stopping just for borders and fuel stops.
“We passed some amazing places and the whole thing has been an eye-opener. It's tested us but the car performed brilliantly, nippy and powerful when it needed to be.” - Cape Argus