SEPTEMBER 16TH, 2010
Peking to Paris Motor Challenge update. More about the race here
The landscape had regained its clear sharp colours by the time the final crews tumbled down the wooden steps of the old village hall where breakfast had been hastily served. The line up for a cauldron of hot porridge, with salads in the centre, and fried eggs and omelettes coming out of two frying-pans at the far end of the queue had started at 5.30 am.
At this time of the morning, the horizon was nothing more than a brown smudge where the far mountains join the sky, changing gradually to a purple streak as the rising sun climbs over the dark summits, presenting yet another big sky across a vast plain. Like a shoal of iron filings being pulled by a mysterious magnet, we seem compulsively drawn further and further down into Middle Earth. By the time the first car fires into life, the dusting of frost across 500 miles of grass begins to thaw.
Robert Kitchen and Alan Page in one of the mobile-workshops were bracing themselves for another hectic day. Their final job before finding their bed before midnight had been to fix two punctures. Earlier they had sorted out a small electrical fire in Car 81, Jean and Anne Stenhauser’s monster La Salle Cadillac, and rebuilt the valve-gear of the pink Chevrolet Coupe of Toby Kilner, who happened to have a spare rocker arm…just what you need when you’ve just broken one.
Highlight of today has been three river crossings. The first was a real sort-out, as it was wider, and deeper, than anything found on the original route survey due to recent freak rains. The day was shorter than the last two days at a mere 320 kilometres, and contained two Time Trials – sections timed to the second, otherwise known as Selectifs, on dirt tracks.
We continued our way down a vast wide valley fringed with mountains on either side, and ended up pitching our tents beside a large tranquil lake. The final run into camp was an appallingly rough road and it was enough for Daniel Ward’s Lancia Theta to again break a front stub-axle. We hear he has managed to find a local blacksmith to weld the two halves back together again.
Driving the Impossible
Others, however, have bigger problems. Car 101, Frank Bird from Australian in a Holden is back in Ulaan Bataar, engine parts have arrived and they hope to catch us up by Sunday. Tim Scott on the motorcycle is on a truck and hopes to meet us at the Russian border. Bruce Washington from New Zealand in a 1929 Chrysler has failed to sort the big-end problems so they hope to buy a local car and catch us up to tour the route, and Roger Allen and Maggie Gray have bought a local car through a local mining company, and also plan to play catch-up having given up on their La Salle. The Stutz of Andrew Bailey and Micky Gabbett ran out of petrol at the end of the day today, succeeded in getting a tow to the petrol station they had missed, only to find that all supplies of petrol had run out. The second Stutz of David Berks and Bob Bradfield hit one of the river crossings with just too much gusto, causing the fan to be pushed through the radiator. This becomes the second incident of a stuffed radiator caused by a fan. The Rolls Royce Phantom of George Howitt arrived at the camp site with a broken front spring and an exhaust downpipe squashed flat – Andy Actman and Ian Langford of Lenham Sportscars are grafting in a section of fresh pipe. The spring can wait, says George, until he finds a village. Leaf-spring repairs by local “trucksmith” are everywhere.
The last half of today has been down appallingly rough roads. It seems to have suited the big La France with its tractor-like tyres on big wooden wheels as it was the 10th car into the camp tonight, arriving ahead of the Porsche 356 of American Steve Harris.
Steve Hyde in the yellow Chevy needed a tow out of a river and dropped a lot of time, but made up for it by setting good times of the two Time Trials to retain his lead in the Vintageants. Michael and Anne Wilkinson in their Alvis SA are second with the Chrysler 75 of Michael Thompson and Andrew Davies in third.
Gerry Crown leads the Classic Category but Garry Staples Junior in the red VW Beetle Cabrio took some time off the Holden, and was ten minutes quicker than his dad – the white VW however arrived at the camp looking immaculate, their only problem being a missing hubcap.