Cape Town - Other people their age might have retired to their rocking chairs, but a 71-year-old Californian and his 68-year-old wife rumbled into Cape Town on Monday to win a grueling 8000km rally through four countries in a 1961 Ford Falcon GTO.
Dennis and Kathleen Varni, from San Jose, won the Endurance Rally Association's fifth Classic Safari Challenge, beating 30 participants from around the world in a race that began on 2 May in Cape Town, headed up the east coast, went through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and then back to Cape Town.
2014 8000km ERA Rally Route
- Cape Town to Mossel Bay
- Mossel Bay to Cradock
- Cradock to Golden Gate
- Golden Gate to Mbabane
- Mbabane to Sabi Sands
- Sabi Sands to Victoria Falls
- Victoria Falls to Etosha
- Etosha to Swakopmund
- Swakopmund to Solitaire
- Solitaire to Clanwilliam
- Clanwilliam to Cape of Good Hope
Dennis Varni said the people, the spectacular scenery and "of course winning" were the highlights.
"Seeing it was my first rally I didn't know what to expect."
Varni has been a car enthusiast since he was 14.
He said he would never forget some of the landscapes he had seen.
"And we came across some of the friendliest people. The children in the small towns were always excited to see us."
Despite minor technical difficulties, the Falcon performed brilliantly, finishing the journey with the same set of tyres. Of the 8000km, 2000km were on dirt roads.
"In some parts of the race we were slipping and sliding, and all we could do was hope that we didn't crash."
Though the event was intensely competitive, participants were able to enjoy the sights of the countries on the race route on rest days.
"This country and all the other countries we've passed through are unbelievable," Varni said.
"Cape Town reminds me a lot of San Francisco, but unlike the American city, when you travel a few miles out here, you can find yourself in another world. This journey was perfect," he said.