The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2007
May 27 - June 30 2007
The car parks of both hotels are a scene of complete carnage with most cars now reduced to dusty piles of bits. Itís a day off and a bright sunny day, a chance to fettle and fidget with bits that are broken, about to break, or look like they could be next to crack up under the strain. The rally is going nowhere, but it's another hard day for the teams of mobile-workshop crews.
The Morgan of David Spurling is looking dirty and dishevelled, doesnít it always, but has fewer problems than just about anyone on the entire event. We spotted David at the reception desk of the hotel asking if he could borrow a Hoover to give the inside of his car a good vacuum clean - this is firm proof of course that rallying the Peking to Paris is a life-changing experience. At home he also doesn't know where the Hoover is kept.
Any day now he will be asking the service-crews for a tin of Simoniz to give it a polish up for the Moscow parade. The Morgan still wears its set of Colway Emjo remould tyres with the pimples on the blocks, its hard to think this car has just endured the toughest, roughest and hardest few days of rallying in its long career and we are not yet over the first week. Captain Morgan has to replace the brass screws holding the dashboard to the rest of the car, as they are not up to the job, and there is a bit of sewing going on to the hood. The most serious complaint is a broken radiator mounting - a common problem all round the car park right now.
The good news of the day is that the mighty Knox, the seven litre two-seater in the Pioneer category that was forced to retired and truck back to Beijing a few days ago is with us once more - the engine block was welded up in the car park of the Shangri La Hotel, and with the help of hotel staff is now back in the rally, with one piston disconnected it still has plenty of puff, despite three cylinders reducing it to a mere five-litres.
Here's a summary which just goes to show how hard it is to drive across Mongolia - bear in mind we only a few days into this vast country, which is six times the size of France, and with fewer miles of tarmac than Tunbridge Wells.
Car 133, Bentley Special of Michael Campbell and Robin Widdows, fuel problems, running rich, consumption down to four miles to the gallon, also misfiring on the poor 80-octane fuel, crack in petrol tank near the fuel-filler pipe.
Car 111, Tom Hayes and Andy Vann, bright orange Studebaker, broken front shockabsorber mounting. Lots of things rattling lose. Crew say they are deliriously happy...
Car 110, Ford Pilot V8, rear shocks now removed after shockabsorbers punched large holes up through the floor at the rear, slats in the front radiator all lose and falling out.
Car 117, Here's how to do it: No other car has so few problems passenger door lock jammed with vibration pounding over corrugations, the Lancia Aurelia of Nicholas and Annabella Marks is running virtually trouble free.
Car 85, Chevy Coupe of Xavier del Marmol has broken mountings of the axle allowing too much sideways movement - the back of the car is heavily loaded - and there are worrying noises from the gearbox.
Car 88, Chevy Coupe of David Williams, electric fan at the front has holed the radiator, we see this on every event - so, the rad is now out and off being repaired, but as itís a conventional brass core this should not be a tricky repair. No news of the other Chevy Coupe, car 87, as the driver is not up to speaking to anyone, having instructed Syd Stelvio to remove himself from the car park, using words of fewer syllables, but also has radiator problems, judging by the steam coming out from car and driver.
Car 80, the big Buick Coupe of Igor Kolodotschko and Robert Moore is running better after changing the points and plugs.
Car 123, Jon and David Goodwin report nothing but minor servicing to the Aston Martin, they appear in good shape - the DB6 was seen pulling several cars out of the sandy stretches, but the Aston of Steven Byrne and Linda Marston-Weston spent a long time out in the desert yesterday waiting for a truck after bending the rear axle tube. They are optimistic it can be fixed.
Car 60, Chris and Jan Dunkley in the Derby Bentley Special - the most travelled Derby Bentley of all time - is suffering from fuel feed problems, blocked filter and sludge at the bottom of the tank. Driver looks worried.
Car134, Bentley Special of Stephen Moore and Alan Smith, split in the side of the fuel tank, lashed up with Opal Fruits has stemmed the flow (they packed tubes of Starburst sweets - Opal Fruits - just in case), but the tank is going off to a local workshop for brazing, radiator mountings broken despite using the excellent rubber Mini Cooper exhaust-buttons, and splits appear in the radiator.
Car 46: Diff broken, axle is out, parts being flown in, the Bentley looks very sad - it been attacking the ruts harder than most.
Car 113, Citroen 2CV of Simon and Liz Chance, broken suspension tie rods, stronger ones designed on the back of a menu now being put into prototype production in a workshop down the road. "We didn't get this in the Sahara on the London-Dakar".
Car 128, Volvo 1800S coupe of Richard and Judy Ingham looks set for an Autoglym Concours, only complaint is a noisy exhaust.
Car 19, denies trucking into town in the early hours this morning, the nine-litre Pioneer is having the radiator repaired. It looks right now like a Meccano outfit.
Car 108, Riley RM saloon of Michael Wilkinson, wings are breaking off the body of the car due to vibration over the corrugations, large lump of Australian wood is being turned into a vibration-proof washer, starter motor bracket broken.
Car 106, lovely looking Sunbeam Alpine of the type rallied by Stirling Moss on Alpine events, now looks like its been rallied by Stirling Moss on Alpine events, with overheating (usual for these), no horn, no wipers, broken axle straps that catch the axle on full droop, crumpled exhaust, and, a broken brake pipe. Looks even more authentic now its covered in dust.
Car 107, front wings falling off, broken speedo for Alan Crisp's Citroen roadster.
Car 102, engine of the Beetle is eating push-rods but spares are being flown in from China and an all night session on the engine is planned. When it runs, this car goes well.
Car 105, Sally McCarthy complains of splits in the front wings, everything falling off or coming lose, drive shaft worries, and no exhaust mountings.
Car 114, the Rover 80 that has already seen the best of the Africa as well as the Around the World in 80 Days Rally sits the car park with no sign of John and Joan Fallows, who have gone shopping - the car requires no attention.
Car 95, Albert Hodari says he is oiling plugs as the oil is getting past the pistons so its time his car retired - he plans to go home - and Car 58, the Bentley of Dirk Lindenbergh is also retiring.
Car 47, the big Delage, came in at 3.30 this morning after a frustrating day of fuel-feed problems.... the most common bug on this event.
We gather the Triumph TR3 is planning to catch us up today. The slow-slung TR lost time stuck in sand, and had to be towed several times by other competitors, resorting to their sand-shovels and letting air out of the tyres to get through.
Car One, the 1907 Itala of David and Karen Ayre has a problem with an axle bearing and came in very late last night, but, it's here... and the other Itala of Jonathan Turner and Adam Hartley is not here, as it has engine problems... the event's Penelope Pitstop says its too early to send for a search party as the crew have probably just discovering the all-night disco.
The atmosphere is tremendous, and the camaraderie terrific.. with a sewing kit and a packet of Opal Fruits, vast rolling pastures of Mongolia unfolding to the far horizon under bright blue skies, and only the odd horseman to get in the way, what more could you possibly want.
As Sandra Merryweather said over breakfast, "out here a car is the only worry in life... the roads may be a challenge but this sure beats driving to the office".