The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 1997
September 6 - October 18, 1997
Bulletin 02 - Mechanical troubles start...
Sunday 7 September Zhang Jiakou to West Baotou 507kms
"A longer day, into Inner Mongolia, along the southern edge of the Daqing mountain range, towards the great Yellow River. Northern China is fairly industrious, we do our best to chose the quietest roads."
After two days of convoy driving through the heavy industrial part of outer Peking, the rally has not been without incident. Lord Montagu, first driver away at the start, in his 1915 Vauxhall, has been suffering overheating problems made worse when the cooling fan struck the radiator while traversing a particularly rough section of road.
The Ford Model A of Francis Noz has been delayed with a dropped valve and the four strong team from Portugal, led by Jao Netto, suffered the disaster of an apparently blown engine in their 1932 Model B Ford, just 50 yards from the start.
The roughness of the roads has astonished some competitors. The route selected by the police has had little resemblance to the maps and has diverged completely from the roadbook. At one point the rally passed through a field 10ft high with maize! "We still don't know why" says Rally Chief Philip Young, in between satellite phone calls to the Tibetan authorities negotiating the clearing of the landslide-afflicted road out of Tibet (see previous bulletin)
Revelation of the event so far has been the 1907 La France which has had trouble running slowly enough to keep at the fairly modest pace selected by the police escort. Despite his car normally languishing in a German museum, German driver Hermann Layher has been reprimanded several times for overtaking the police outriders and only the intercession of Clerk of the Course, Martin Clark, has calmed tempers.
The crowds in Zhang Jiakou, site of the first overnight halt, were so great in the morning that competitors were escorted from the rear of the hotel by the police and cars were flagged away from the relative seclusion of the hotel car park. The crowd quickly re-organised itself to provide an energetic farewell to the cars as they headed off to West Baotou, some 320 miles distant.
On Monday morning, the police leave the rally and the event progresses at a more serious pace, the emphasis being on perfect navigation and time keeping, skillful driving and mechanical reliability to reach the target destination of Yinchuan, 350 miles to the west.