Epic trans-continental dash breaks records

Two British adventurers have smashed two world records for driving between Cape Town and London.

Philip Young and Paul Brace left the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town on February 1 at 8am in their 875cc Fiat Panda for a daunting 16 000km drive across two continents, including former war zones.

Philip Young, left, and Paul Brace after arriving at Marble Arch in London on Monday night. Picture: Farm Africa. Credit: Farm Africa

On Monday night they arrived at Marble Arch in central London at 5.28pm local time. Their trip had taken 10 days, 13 hours and 28 minutes.

The euphoric duo posed for pictures, sitting on top of their city runabout, which Young said had not needed topping up with oil or water on the trip.

“I just can’t believe how well the car drove – it’s been a long 10 days since we left the Mount Nelson, which now feels like a month,” he said.

“There were some tough times, but we don’t feel too bad because we did get some sleep in the car. Probably the most difficult bits were crossing the Egyptian-Sudanese border at a new crossing where there wasn’t any customs office.”

The pair’s passports were placed on the car’s bonnet for stamping.

“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 they were 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.”

The duo beat the previous record of 14 days, 19 hours and 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 last night to offer his congratulations.

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 1 600km a day, crossing13 countries at an average speed of 69km/h.

The record is remarkable as it was completed not in a 4x4 but in the two-cylinder R98 000 Fiat Panda, which generates just 85bhp.

The pair encountered tropical storms, searing heat, desert tracks, bureaucracy and potholes “the size of our Panda”.

They raised R175 000 for British charity Farm Africa, which works with farmers in east Africa to combat hunger.

They took it in turns to drive, with the other sleeping on a mattress in the back.