Road to Saigon 2018

4 February - 2 March 2018


FEBRUARY 17, 2018

Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai


The day of the 1000 hairpins dawned, and the town of the Misty Hills lived up to its name as there was barely 25m visibility across the hotel grounds and into the teak plantation for which it is famous.

The mist didn’t last long though and soon enough there was blue sky and the promise of full sun wherever there wasn’t a mountain throwing its shade on our parade.

As we’d been led to believe by John Spiller, the Clerk of the Course, this was going to be an upper body workout sort of day and almost as soon as we’d left Mae Song Hon, the fun and games began. Up, down, around and around. This was a corkscrewing helter skelter sort of road where one bend required full footed braking whilst the next needed full gas.

David and Karen Ayre gunned their Itala through these tornanti with a grace and precision which seemed to fly in the face of a piece of engineering more than a century old.

Aside from the driving, a Thai money tree festival held our attention on the way to the Time Control in Pai. In this elaborate and noisy gathering crowds of women dressed in their best clothes paraded brightly coloured trees hung with notes of varying denominations. These trees are then be presented to the local monastery for the upkeep of their monks and the buildings.

The Time Control in the exquisite Coffee in Love Cafe was a welcome break after such a morning and whilst Graham Goodwin enjoyed the coffee and cake, he admitted to feeling short changed as he’d counted only 627 hairpins so far. He was reassured though that there were plenty more to come.

The regularity at Ban Man Don Ton certainly brought the total closer to the 1,000 Graham was looking for. In something like 5km, the narrow concrete strip of road rose, fell and turned through the driest and most dense jungle we’ve seen so far.

Paul and Ben Smith suffered a clutch problem on the way to this section and were late into it as a consequence but they recovered sufficiently to make lunch and the afternoon test.

Sadly, some kilometres further down the road we found a forlorn Manuel and Irene Dubs sat by their Rockne at the passage control in Pooh Tanak. The popular and resourceful winners of last year’s Classic Safari had suffered a major breakdown, so the car was loaded onto a truck and sent straight to Chiang Mai for further diagnosis and, hopefully, a repair.

Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson, along with Marco Halter and Claudia Englehardt were seen topping up their tanks - the old fashioned way. Using fuel from a hand pumped drum, just before they themselves refuelled at the lunch break in the Kun Khan National Park where the now firmly established Bistro 315, served up a nourishing tuna and bean salad, fresh strawberries, pastries, fruit juice and tea and coffee.

Today had a press on sort of flavour to it so, after twenty short minutes most of the crews were back in their cars and had set a course for the Tiger Woods Test, a 6.5km fast-flowing jungle track with some sharp rocky sections, off camber corners and steep slippery climbs. Everyone enjoyed it, whatever their level of expertise!

Erik Andersen and Peter Elkington’s Oldsmobile 88 found the day just a bit too much and, over the course of it lost both its suspension and steering which meant that they were a little late into the night halt.

There have been some changes to the results table. This evening we see that whilst Graham and Marina Goodwin still hold onto top spot in the Vintageant category, Andrew Webster and Ian Robertson have moved to second with David and Karen Ayre in third. Manual and Irene Dubs sadly have fallen to last.

The Classics category seems to change everyday but today the first five places remain unchanged, Marco Halter and Claudia Englehardt are still leading with Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson in second, David Gainer and Kerry Finn are in third.

Tomorrow is a rest day and our hotel for the next two nights is the Shangri-La which is renowned for its Asian hospitality and at this, the half way point of the Road to Saigon Rally, most crews are ready for a bit of pampering.

Syd Stelvio



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