The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2007

May 27 - June 30 2007


Tyumen to Yekaterinburg

Ah! What a breeze! 

Ah! What a breeze! A short day of half the usual distance from our normal daily grind of crossing Siberia. Knocking off 350 kms has brought us from Tyumen to Yekaterinburg. The odd shower of rain mixed in with bright sunny periods, and mostly good roads, has given just about all of us a short-haul day.

Our early morning start was from a street closed down specially for us, with all the cars lined up under police guard, a noisy early morning call for the locals when the big 14-litre La France was first to explode into life, almost literally with large bangs and pops through its four-inch exhaust.

We welcomed another starter who has finally caught up. Tim Scott, in the oldest entry of all, the 1903 Mercedes, car 19, has finally made it. He came into town late last night and found his first hotel bed in days… he has been camping by the roadside for the past three days, the only competitor still forced to use his tent and sleeping bag, in a heroic effort to rejoin the Peking to Paris.

Regular readers will recall he took time out in a village blacksmith’s workshop to repair his petrol tank, which had lost pressure, so his nine-litres were unable to receive regular and constant fuel supl;ies. With that repair carried out, he was away, now having lost a day. But after crossing the border into Russia, a stray cow roamed across the road…1903 Mercs with no front brakes, cross-ply tyres worn extra hard having driven the full width of Mongolia, don’t stop on a sixpence and the poor cow was hurled back into its field with rather more force than it bargain on…alas, the Veteren now had a radiator stuffed with cow-hide. This cost yet another day in repairs…so the crew were forced into mega-long 800 kilometre driving stints, up at first line having just put up the tent whenever it became too dark, too tiring, to continue….the car in driving rain can’t have been easy, it has no windscreen.

The oldest car on the event has rejoined us having driven the entire distance on its own wheels, having refused offers of lifts in trucks. The engine sounds remarkably healthy.

The roads today offered us an hour or so respite from the horrors of the past with perhaps the smoothest since leaving China, running on fresh-laid tar, then, suddenly a reminder of what rally across half the globe is all about with a sudden chassis-jarring crash of large ruts, rippled and folded up bitumen with giant holes that can catch out the unwary.

We came across the two Bentley Speed Sixes of Ioannis Katsaounis and Franco Lup, and Peter Livanos and Bruce Blythe, giant hoods billowing in the windy conditioins, and sounding fabulous… running in close company with the growl of the white Mercedes 630K, top down, of Etienne and Sven Veen…. young Sven left all of today’s work to his father, as he covered most of today totally oblivious to the conditions, the road, the weather and the scenery as he was sound asleep, slumped back with his head on one side, despite the fact that the car is running fully open… and a cold wind blasted all the open cars today. Even when the giant Merc was lifted totally airborne by a sudden crater in the road, the navigator of Car 51 showed no signs of life. It must have been a good night out last night, not even the icy blast of a fast run in an open car across Siberia cured this hang-over.

Car Six, the five litre Knox that started out from China as seven litres, now sounds like a dumper-truck, but continues to rumble along, with a loud huff-and-chuff, huff-and-chuff, rolling into more miles of Russia, the crew however look increasingly worried.

Gain one, lose one. Coming into town this afternoon, the solo-effort of Jan Vorboril was involved in a minor traffic accident at a cross-roads… reading the road-book, and driving while checking that the car is making the right turns is harder than it sounds in a Veteran with no navigator, and the car that has performed without a single mishap was involved in a collision with a local driving a modern Mercedes. The Veteran has a bent front axle, bent front wheels, and the film crew’s Land Rover of John Quincy had to winch the car to a nearby parking slot. So, the remarkable effort that has seen this car cross Mongolia and most of Siberia single-handed looks now a very sorry sight. It remains to be seen if the car can now be straightened out…

The roads today saw numerous passers-by form into huddles to cheer us on… the interest from crowds of spectators grew thicker by the mile, and our final parc-ferme was thronging with a vast crowd of onlookers as we came into the town centre. And more television crews than we have seen so far.

It helps that tomorrow is a rest-day. Everyone will be involved in running repairs and servicing (well, unless you are out clubbing with the co-driver of Car 51). The Itala crew of Car One hope to drop the crankshaft to replace an oil seal, a truly major undertaking. David Ayre looks perfectly calm about it all, however…

We then have four more driving days before we finally reach Moscow. 


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