The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2007
May 27 - June 30 2007
Khakorin to Bayankhongor
A grim struggle
We have knocked off another 400 kilometres today driving south and west from our Yurts at Khakorin to arrive at our camp for the night on the grassy bank of a river at Bayankhongor.
It’s been a grim struggle to reach this place, with 200 kilometres of a cross-country dash over rutted, rocky barren desert scrub often offering a choice of different tracks to choose from, requiring the utmost concentration from navigator and driver alike.
It’s been particularly tough on those without good ground clearance like most of the Viintageants. We have charged up and down rolling hills that steadily became more and more challenging as the day unfolded, and the roughness of the tracks, the residue of a harsh winter, has caught us all by surprise, given we all hoped the worst was behind us.
The American cars of the 1930s, designed for crossing Praries, have romped it – everyone else has struggled.
Today has seen quite a few cars suffer suspension and chassis problems as a result and we are all feeling rather weary – putting up our tents beside the river is not as simple as it sounds as the wind is steadily rising. It doesn’t take much of a breeze to make tent-erecting an experience that ads to the frustrations, and as the sun goes down the wind is threatening to only gather force.
Several cars are coming in on t ow-ropes, the first to arrive at the end of a rope was the big MG SA tourer of Harry and Catherine Hickling, with a blown head-gasket, which they hope to fettle tonight.
There were two Time Trials today. Among the Pioneers, fastest on the first Time Trial was the Vauxhall Prince Henry again of Michael Power, just over four minutes clear of the La France of William Holmes, but the La France was best performer on the second Time Trial, beating the Vauxhall by 16 seconds, the second Trial being notably smoother.
It’s ultra-close among the Vintageants, scrapping for seconds now in real earnest. David and Sadie Williams in the green Chevy Fangio Coupe put up another strong performance on the first Time Trial, which was rocky and rutted throughout, but the time of 13.54 was matched to the second by Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson in the big Buick. However, this time was one second slower than the best time amongst the Vintageants put up by Paul and Sandra Merryweather’s Chevvy.
On the second Time Trial, smoother and more free-flowing, with downhill sections on dirt as well as uphill, it was the Chevvy of Xavier del Marmol and Catherine Janseens that set best time of 9.45, David Williams was next with 10.3, Paul Merryweather on 10.8 and Gerry Crown on 10.17. It clearly could not be closer with this bunch now trading seconds. Another notable performance came from the tiny Singer Le Mans, with a time of 12.36 on the second Time Trial which is better than several Bentleys. It’s in the top ten when ever timing gets serious, which seems to suit the Dutchmen.
In the Classics Category, Garrick Staples and Jon Kennedy in the VW Beetle were really flying today, romping over the rough stuff as if they were on the Baja, the first Time Trial was clocked in 17.38, only beaten by the Mercedes Fintail of Hans Peter Linder who took a time that was only a few second slower than the Chevvies in the Vintageant Category of 13.59. On the second Time Trial, the Merc was best performer with 10.30, the Beetle coming in on 11.02.
The Jaguar of Richard Worst and Nicola Shackleton went well today, so too did the Studabaker of Tom Hayes, but the all-girl team in the Sunbeam Rapier really have the bit between their teeth and put up a stirring drive which has surprised many…the Rapier bounced over the rocks, stormed through the grit, splashed through the mud and took all its stride…the times confirm their progress, 17.54 on the first Time Trial, and 12.12 on the second, is good going indeed.
Today may have been hard work but the scenery has been absolutely stunning – Yaks and horses grazing across the abundance of dirt tracks, snow on the line of high mountains to the south, bright blue skies, and endless, endless dirt roads that sweep and turn, running all day, with patches of muddy slime now and then as a reminder that the sunshine of early summer has only just arrived in these parts.
One of the last in has been the Morgan of the Spurlings, looking shattered, but the car sounds rather more healthy than the exhausted crew. There are a number of walking wounded however, we await the Chevrolet Coupe of Terista Aguilar, car 97 which broke its steering this afternoon.
Another long hard and tough day, through the most majestically barren and beautiful terrain you could ever wish to bring a classic-car.