The Road to Mandalay

February 1 to February 24, 2015

Day 7 - Georgetown to Trang

We left the island of Penang early this morning, drove across the bridge to the mainland, and turned to leave Malaysia behind us – the frontier of Thailand beckoned as the sun rose over the Andaman Sea.

First challenge of the day was a timed Test-section unlike anything else we have experienced before – a long drive through paddy-fields of sprouting rice. The gravel track was a string of causeways, raised up above deep ditches with lots of 90-degree lefts and rights, with great clouds of dust hanging in the early morning air.  We were also in for the warmest day of the event so far, with temperatures recorded on the wrist gadget of Jim Allen rising to 35°C in full sun, over 100°F.

Cars corkscrewed their way across the network of gravel tracks with everyone succeeding in avoiding a slide into the rice-fields, with the best time set up by Gerry Crown in his Leyland, winning the Classics division with a good margin on 6:19 to the Datsun of Grant Tromans on 6:30, and Bill Shields chalking up a best time it in the Vintage section, with 6:55. The leaderboard changed little today but everyone enjoyed an interesting challenge, supported by 30 local motor-club marshals. Jim and Tanya Clark in their Ford V8 Coupe were relieved to regain the main road with a time of 8:28 after a white-knuckle drive with virtually no brakes. The ex-Arthur Freeman car has previously finished the Peking to Paris in 2010 trouble-free.  Mark Buchanan made steady progress in his Ford Mustang, Mark finished the London to Cape Town and is navigated by Kurt Schneiders, who also finished the London Cape Town World Cup Rally and Peking to Paris. We welcomed back the big black Rockne Six 75 of Mani and Irene Dubbs who suffered a broken stub axle on Day Two of the rally and got going again when a friend in Switzerland donated a spare stripped out from his own Rockne and flown out to get the Dubbs going again.

We all then headed for the Thai border. Car formalities went remarkably smoothly, as we all slipped through customs seamlessly, thanks to the prior work set up in recent months by the E.R.A. Rally Office producing spread-sheets of information on cars and personnel supported  by CARS UK’s Melvyn Palmer putting in his nifty footwork on the ground – this winning combination provided us with what proved to be a hassle-free transit through customs, with each car being processed in less than a minute, with paperwork being ground through additional printers provided by the Rally Office.   Good stuff, eh? Alas, this was not to last. We then lined up for passports to be stamped, and found ourselves marooned in a sea of red-tape as just one desk  with one beleaguered official tried to cope with not just  150 rallyists but busloads of travelling backpackers at the same time. The result was a frustratingly long session of standing around in the heat of the day.

We eventually got going to find the Rua Rasada hotel in Trang after a drive through rubber plantations lined with green banks of tall grass.  Car 37, Dennis and Jill Wilson in a Volvo PV544, were side-lined with a broken fan-belt, helped by Car 15, Mike and Georgie Butler in a Chevy saloon.

The road had become noticeably smoother after crossing into Thailand. Tomorrow we face a hectic day with an early start several timed sections.

Syd Stelvio


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