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Panda duo aim for TransAfrica record

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By Minesh Bhagaloo

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the world record for driving non-stop from Cape Town to London, English adventurers Philip Young and Paul Brace will attempt to break the current record in a 875cc two-cylinder Fiat Panda.

The attempt will start next year on February 2 in Cape Town, and challenges the approximately 16 100km record set by Brigadier John Hemsley in a factory-prepped Range Rover, which took 14 days to complete the trip. The record for the opposite trip - from London to Cape Town - is 11 days and 14 hours, set by Englishmen Mac MacKenney, Chris Rawlings and Steve MacKenney in 2010 in a Land Rover Discovery, and is also the current record for driving Africa in the fastest time.

The Fiat Panda crew will be attempting to break both these records.

Young and Brace will undertake the journey up the East side of Africa with no back-up crew, and a target of 1600km non-stop a day (in three-hour shifts per driver) starting from the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, up to a ferry to cross the Mediterranean, and then on to the finish line at London’s Marble Arch. Both Young and Brace are seasoned off-roaders, having driven the route more than once on events such as the London to Cape Town World Cup Rally and the Trial to the Nile rally.

Clocking up 1600km a day over ten days (the time they plan on nailing both records in) will require an average speed of a little more than 64km/h, which may be difficult over terrain which includes mud, jungle, desert - and even war-torn Libya! The RAC’s Motor Sports Association, which also timed the Brigadier’s current record, will be keeping an eye on the clock again this time around.

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT

The Panda has been modified to include an extra 40-litre fuel tank (for a combined-tank range of more than 800km), two spare wheels, sump and tank guards, stronger springs and shocks (with cross brace across the struts), a front towing eye and external body catches.

The air-intake has also been moved higher up in the engine bay for better cooling.

Inside the cabin a foam bed replaces the back seat, the passenger seat has been modified to recline completely, and the driver and passenger seat are covered in sheepskin for more comfort.

The Fiat Panda follows eighty years later in the footsteps of a humble 900cc Morris 8, which was the first small car to drive the length of Africa in 1933 and used 68 litres of oil in the process.

To follow the progress of the record attempt, visit the Africa Record Run website. - Star Motoring

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