The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2010

September 10th - October 16th, 2010



OCTOBER 11TH, 2010

Istanbul to Thessaloniki

Acropolis Country…


We crossed into Greece this morning – delays at the Turkish border when the computer system crashed meant we all got started into the first Greek Time Trial later than planned. A short tarmac blast around a headland with sea-views and it was on towards Thessaloniki. We then took in a further two tarmac mountain climbs before dropping down to this sea-side resort.

Now we are in Europe, we are running our test sections at an average speed of 50 kph, (up to here, the national motor-sports authorities until now have helped organised our time trials slightly faster), and a good many crews found the targets well within reach, including the Hickling’s MG SA, the Manner’s Oldsmobile, and the de Sousa MG Magnette were among those who were able to clean one climb.

We set out in bright sunshine this morning but rain began to fall by later in the afternoon, this caught out the Turkish duo in the fibreglass Anadol, which understeered off on one wet corner, and required a tow back to the road by a local farmer – a scary moment, but they have built up a big cushion of time in second place overall in the Classics Category, ahead of the Aston Martin DB5 now going really well exploiting twisty tarmac to the full, and sounding glorious in the process.

One of the rising stars of the Time Trials is the big Dodge Coupe, Car 70 of Bill Shields and Daniel Day, who have put in some impressive times in a big car which seems to like nothing better than romping up steep climbs, exploiting its low-down torque to the full. On all three test sections the Dodge made light work of it all.

The Roberts in Car 88, the Sunbeam Alpine, went well today, having had a new differential. The little 1955 Peugeot 203 of Pierre-Yves Maisonneuve arrived into town tonight on the back of a truck with clutch problems.

Geof Robinson in Car 9 has sorted the problems of the Vauxhal and hopes to join us tomorrow at the ferry terminal for crossing to Italy. Someone else who is driving again are Australians Reg Toohey and Antoon Spanjers, who had to go to Tehran after having their passports stolen.

Two who are now off trucks and running again, are the Lagonda pair of Nigel Gambier and Hugo Upton, who have repaired their broken oil pump… and Chris Lunn’s Lagonda is now back running again, having been fixed at the garage of Anadol driver Ahmet Ongun, whose team were briefed by a London specialist on the phone step by step as the garage fixed their first Lagonda timing-chain transplant. They can now add a sign outside the workshop: “Anadol and Lagonda Specialists”.

Talking of Hugo Upton…we hear that he stole two policemen’s hats, and whistles, today, in order to direct traffic at the border. This begs the question: Will they now let him out of Greece?

We are now on our way over some classic Acropolis hunting-ground, our third test coming up is the Kalambaka stage, filmed in a James Bond epic, this is the place where monks built monasteries on the top of tall pillars of rock, and where access is only possible by basket on a rope. Sound’s an ideal challenge for Hugo.

We have now had four excellent hotels of a high-standard in a row, and tonight’s meal was particularly noteworthy, in a modern hotel yards from the sea. Surprised hotel receptionists greet oily handed competitors lugging into the reception area batteries for re-charging overnight in bedrooms.

Tomorrow night we are on an overnight ferry from Ingoumenitsa to Ancona. Nothing concentrates minds quite like the deadline for a ferry crossing.



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