Road to Saigon 2018

4 February - 2 March 2018


FEBRUARY 10, 2018

Trang to Phokeethra

Kings of the Jungle

Dawn broke on our first morning in Thailand and, as our heads stirred on the pillows, a strange metallic sound filled the air. Clerk of the Course, John Spiller was up early and, from what we saw from the windows in the breakfast buffet, he was a busy man.

Through the sparks from his anvil we could see that he was forging machetes; the reason being that, apparently we’d need them along the route today. A full day was scheduled once again, but this time there was going to be a lot of back country action involving unmade roads and dense woodland. Many crews were also asking, would this be the day that Paul and Ben Smith got to use the shovel, which is strapped to the front of their car?

Almost as soon as the rally set out from the Rua Rasada therefore, it found itself deep in another world, namely that of the dense rubber plantations for which this area is famous. Itala, Bentley, Porsche, Mercedes et al, jockeyed for position with the ubiquitous step through scooters on roads barely wide enough for two of them to pass. Workers scurried to and fro with gallon drums of the precious white latex which had dripped laboriously into tiny bowls from millions of trees.

This sort of terrain was hard work for both the driver and navigator, the distances between the turns were short and there was a lot of unmade ground to be carefully picked over. An accurate trip meter was essential as was using it correctly. There were few visual references - this was flying on instruments but, tense as it was, all those who came out of the other end were rightfully well pleased with themselves.

Their reward for escaping this arboreal labyrinth was another fine lunch, this time in a floating dining room at the Chobrimnam Restaurant on Lake Kathun. Jim Smith and Pete Stone manned the Time Control here as the crews walked the rickety plank to the dining shelter across a storm tossed lake to enjoy delicacies such as Thai fish soup, spinach and beancurd and fragrant rice.

The afternoon session was a little easier on the crews, although there was still some tricky woodland to negotiate through Song Phraek on the run into the Krabi Kart circuit where any pent up rage could finally be released.

Our halt tonight is the beautiful beachfront Sofitel in Phokeethra which has, apparently, the largest swimming pool in Thailand. It also has a large carpark which is where we caught up with the sweep crews and their tales of a quite remarkable day.

Erik Andersen and Peter Elkington’s Oldsmobile needed some help before lunch primarily because of a fuel evaporation issue, which isn’t uncommon in this heat, but they also discovered a tank venting problem and a cracked exhaust manifold which will need welding on the rest day in Kanchanaburi.

Martin Hilti and Renate Hilti’s Mercedes Benz meanwhile needed nothing more than a throttle linkage repair.

Russell Jordan and Bill Crossan’s Austin Healey had a bit of a prang this morning unfortunately, but the crew are both well and the car will continue in the rally tomorrow. Jamie Turner though managed to hit himself in the ribs with a hammer whilst on panel beating duties and will be hoping not to laugh to heartily for the next few weeks.

Tomorrow we push even deeper into Thailand.

Syd Stelvio



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