Dumpty Do, Here We Go Again
REPORT ONE – Peking, June 2019
After a good flight up to Beijing we are now getting into the final preparations for the Peking to Paris Endurance Rally.
The first formal obligation was the Chinese driver licence police briefing for all who had to have a new licence. We were instructed about the cultural differences that apply to their driving habits that are based on the days of the bicycle, and how to readjust our rear vision mirror. As a senior person who has held a drivers licence for 58 years I have to have a special licence for people over 70 years old. This was made available by paying a facilitation fee of 280 pounds.
Friday was car pick up day. It started with the first documentation we needed before we could move the car from the shipping warehouse. Chinese registration papers and a temporary number plate, and bugger me, two drivers licences, one for me and one for Ken. We accepted gracefully, someone had let this through.
We were yellow wristbands so were in the first bus to the shipping yard; it took over an hour to get there. The car started after about 10 seconds of cranking so all was good, then to a fuelling station for a full tank of 92 petrol.
The tulip route instruction to get back to the hotel included a measured section so you could check and recalibrate your rally trip meters. We missed the finish post the first time so had to go back around and do it again. 4 Kms and we were accurate to 3.999 so that means we are accurate to less than 20mm per KM. Then we got a bit confused and went the wrong way for about 2 Kms. It still took us an hour to get back to the hotel. Over the 5th ring road then all the way into the 3rd ring road, around that and then a further freeway into the area where the hotel is situated.
By the time we got back 60% of the cars were there. We got ourselves into the scrutineering queue. It took ages to finally get to us. We just breezed through! Our first indication of all the preparation we have put into this car. Then the major documentation! Getting our small minds around it all will take some time.
It’s now Saturday. We have taken everything out of the car and repacked. This is the only way to remember where the spare light bulbs are when you need them in a hurry. Its also the time you spend looking at all the other cars and having long discussions with their owners about how they interpreted the rules, and catching up with all the people we met doing the Rally of the Incas in South America. There is no doubt in my mind that the camaraderie at these events is part of the reason we all come back.
We have just been through the final competitors briefing, and yes we promise to be good boys, obey all road rules, not speed or at all times not do anything that would bring a bad name to the rally.
The alarm is set for 4:30 am tomorrow day one. Our next report will be from Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.
REPORT TWO, 15 June
First we wish to apologise to you all for not producing a report before now. Both Ken and I have concentrated all our efforts on keeping both ourselves and the car going. This is the most arduous adventure we have ever undertaken. So this report will be a summary of many of the things that have happened to us rather than a day by day report.
Out of the Beijing Hotel at 5:45 to get to the Great Wall for the 7am official start. We were given a special tulip instruction sheet to get there. Confusion started between the 3rd 4th and 5th ring road around Beijing before we got sorted and on our way, arriving in plenty of time to see the Dragon dancers the Lion dancers and all the drumming. All the oldest cars started through the arch first, so we did not go until 8:58.
Out onto our first Chinese motorway traffic jam. After sitting in the slow lane going nowhere for 10 minutes, rally drive set in, so into the emergency shoulder lane and we were off. All went well through many toll gates, then off onto a secondary road, past the many speed and surveillance cameras, past a big power station then a sharp acute right into a minor road and on past a fuel station that was not there. We missed a critical turn but thought we were still on course and continued to drive on trying to go to the next way point using our new Garman GPS as it was telling us to keep on going. After a while we stopped to try to reconcile the situation and the car engine just stopped and would not start. We were just four hours into the Peking to Paris Rally, we were off course, and the car would not go.
After some 10 minutes under the bonnet we found the points had closed up. That was an easy fix, and we also decided to turn around and go all the way back to the last point we were sure we had the route correct. We eventually found our way and took the correct turning, by this time we were well and truly late for a time control. By the time we got there they had packed up and gone. We pressed on and finally got to a hill climb test so we were back on the route and within time. Unfortunately the hill climb was cancelled as a car had hit the wall half way up. We then transitioned on to the hotel at a city called Hohhot.
Lost 60 points on the first day, not a good start but we could only do better.
The next morning we left the Hotel for the first track test of the event and the last until we get to Europe, TS2.1 Open Pasture. Ken went for it, every grass gymkhana skill ever learned was used to get us a very good time. From then it was a transition through the outer Gobi Desert part of China, through passage and time controls to the border town of Erenhot. A very average hotel but only 4 kms from the border with Mongolia.
On to the border, what an experience in frustration, inefficiency and arrogance. The instructions in the route book said line up in car number order. We in car 98 held back to our place, all other cars just went around us and barged in where they could. Subsequently we were the second to last car to go through the tortuous queues and paper stampings. It took just on four hours from the time we arrived at the border to get through. Lesson learned. As I later said to one German lady, “from now on I will think and act like an arrogant German”.
Then on into Mongolia, about 100 km of good tarmac first up then a right turn and into the Gobi Desert. The Mongolian experience was about to start! The landscape is just spectacular like nowhere I have ever been to compare. Flat terrain with stubby grass that must come up for a short time after the snow melt and then burn off with the heat by mid summer. No roads, just tracks through the desert, navigation is by Garment GPS waypoint to waypoint. We have got our tiny brains around how it works by now, the purple line is the straight line between waypoints, the red arrow points in the direction of the next waypoint and the small blue triangle is you and the direction you are traveling.
The tracks are basically parallel with up to six tracks running beside one another. The centre track is usually the oldest and roughest with each subsequent outer track. Usually the outer tracks are in better condition. All the tracks are rough, sand, stones, ruts deeper than our wheel clearance. Then comes the gullies and major holes that just appear, and you drop into at speed and down you go, bang into the belly pan, major shock through the car, all the time trying to maintain target speed to make the next STC (sporting time control). The target times are just not achievable if you want to drive your car into Paris so Ken and I just do the best we can without breaking the car. When you talk with the leading car driver who is 87 years old and ask how he gets his times, his reply is “you have to drive it like you have just stolen it”.
Many people have commented on our car passing them on an outer track. They say we look like we are just floating along so smoothly as they are banging and crashing about, but we assure them it is like a swan on water, graceful on top but going like hell underneath.
On to the first desert camp, find a place not too close to the generator truck but not too far from the toilets or shower block. The Nomads do a fantastic job setting up a camp for over 300 people. Bar, dinner hall, kitchen, buffet dinner and breakfast. Ken and I share a tent, many have two tents and some pay to have tents supplied by the Nomads. Our tent works well, blow up mattresses, sleeping bags and blankets. It was much colder than I expected but we slept well. The next days were hard and tough on both the car and us. The drive into Ulaanbaatar was difficult with many diversions. We were asked and ended up towing a French team’s Peugeot the last two kms to the hotel.
Our first rest day, we should have been doing this report but frankly we were just too buggered. We worked on cleaning up the car, getting some of the dust out, trying to find where it all comes in. We also had to drill an 8mm hole through the floor to fit a new piece of threaded rod to hold up the back bracket of the belly pan. Then found the first good coffee since leaving home, they did flat whites. Also the points system was changed and the penalty points we received for our first day indiscretion was halved and, as we had been by this time consistent, meant we were in 23rd place. Both Ken and I were just chuffed to be on the first page of the points table
Then it was back into the Mongolian desert, this time more rugged, not as flat but just as spectacular with mountains with snow vistas that went for hundreds of miles. Again tracks that were car and people breakers, the number of cars dropping out is growing day by day.
On to what was the toughest day of the rally. Even the veterans of previous P 2 P rallies said this was the roughest, hardest day they had ever experienced. The mountain pass was a rough, tough track. You just bounced from rock to boulder then into mud. At one stage we were charging through the mud, the limited slip diff was locked up with both wheels spinning and we just started to go sideways. We came to a stop and slid back into a bank with both rear wheels off the ground. Luckily there was a sweep 4X4 just there so we were hooked up and moving again in just a minute; embarrassing, but these things just happen.
We got over the top, over 7500 ft, many of the cars were having engine power losses that made it hard for them. Engine power was not a problem for us, just grip. On the way down we got to a wet grass patch and saw Steve Partridge in the 58 Morris Oxford do a full 360 pirouette, he just got out of the way and we did a 180 pirouette ourselves.
As we proceeded down the valley we experienced the most violent rain, hail, and snow storm. It covered the ground so fast, it was difficult to see the track, windscreen wipers on full speed and max demisters. Those in the open cars had a torrid time. Within five km it was all over and back into sunshine.
Of the 105 cars that started the rally, only 77 clocked into the MTC at Achit Lake Camp that night. We had given our belly pan such a hard time it had come up and pushed in our sump. So off came the belly pan, then the sump as we were worried that it would obstruct the feed of oil to the oil pump. The sump was hammered back into shape and the belly pan reshaped by setting it up on wooden blocks and getting our friends with their Rover 90 to drive over it. Reassembled and good to go.
The next morning we set off for the Russian border. There were two TC (time controls) where we put as much fuel as we could get into the car to use the last of our Mongolian money. The route book instruction was, I quote, “Assemble on the right in number order and get ready to enter the Mongolian / Russian border”. Bugger that. I put on my arrogant, middle European attitude, drove to the front of the queue and barged in. We got to within four cars of the barrier arm, then the Mongolians shut the border down for two hours for lunch. Finally, after a further three hours we were through and on our way through the 14 kms to Russia. Their border formalities were more complicated but efficient.
On to a smooth hotmix tarmac road for about 40 kms, then Russian road reality set in. As we dropped in altitude the country changed dramatically. You could have now been in the Canadian Rockies, green with many types of fur trees, rocky outcrops and rivers. On to our first STC on shingle in Russia. It was rough! We belted the belly pan again, this time up so high that the hand brake would jam.
We finally got to our first camp site in Russia. At this camp you could put up your tent, or stay in a yurt. We shared a yurt with two English guys, it was fun. Up went the car and off with the belly pan again. After much thought and discussion Ken and I decided we would take to this belly pan ourselves, so in true kiwi fashion devised a way to straighten it. You have to picture two guys under a massive four wheel drive off road adventure trekking truck, like a Unimog. Many blocks of wood, the belly pan and our trolley jack. By setting the pan up on the blocks, getting the jack into the correct place under the truck rear axle, we were able to use the weight of the truck to bend the belly pan back into shape.
The roads in Russia can be graded 1 to 10. A tarmac road can be a 10 and within 50m can turn into a 1, where you are bouncing from pothole to pothole. Many of the shingle roads are better than the tarmac. Some of the tarmac is so wave-like you feel like you are driving at sea. You pick out the big swells by looking for the tyre marks made by the third axle of a truck trailer as it hits the up side. In the rural villages there are still many traditional wooden houses with window surrounds painted blue.
Yesterday we nailed it with a zero day, no lost points. We are now 18th out of 74 cars that started in Beijing. We had the strangest experience, with millions of white butterflies coming at you like a blizzard, splattering all over the car and windscreen, and blocking the front grill to the extent that we started to overheat the car.
Today is a no driving day, and we have just finished doing an oil change and car wash. This is a third of the way through this adventure, tomorrow we cross into Kazakhstan, and start the second of three route books.
If you have not done so go to www.endurorally.com and follow the Peking to Paris Rally tracker car 98.
REPORT THREE, 24 June
First, I must apologise for not doing a report for the last week. My computer suffered from a Russian virus and just locked up. We had a young lady from the Russia rally support team take it away to some Apple people and it was back in an hour cost 1000 rubles NZ$ 23.
Our second rest day as they call it (most spend the day working on their cars so no rest) was at Novosibrisk in Siberian Russia. The oil I had in the car from NZ was a 10W40. It was getting hot and we had very low oil pressure at idle. So we went looking for a better oil grade, preferably 20W50 but at least a 15W40.
We set off at 8am to a couple of addresses we had been given but were not successful. As we were driving back to the hotel to try and find a better contact we passed a garage workshop that was just opening its doors. I said to Ken “let’s just go in there and see if someone could direct us to a supplier of the oil we need”. They looked at their computers for about 10 mins and said that they could have 8 litres of Bardhal 15W40 delivered to them in two hours and that we could use one of their hoists to do the work.
Just next door was the Nurburgring Car Wash so in we went for the full works. They noticed the Nurburgring transfer on the back of the car (I drove the car around the Ring in 2006) so were very excited and gave us the wash for free in exchange for a photo in front of their business.
The oil turned up at the garage on time, we had the car on the hoist, belly pan off, oil out, filter changed, new oil in, all grease points greased, down and out in about 40 minutes. We were back in the hotel car park by 11am feeling very pleased with ourselves. We found and booked a table at an Italian restaurant and had a pleasant meal with our Rover friends.
We set off the next morning using the second route book, meaning we were a third of the way to Paris. Transited through two time controls and two passage controls for 191.62 kms to TC15.3 at a German Village Square. The weather just got colder and wetter. Everything you have read or seen about Siberia is true. This is mid June summer time, the temperature would have been 5C, the wind straight from the north and rain just pouring down.
9.2 km to TC 15.4 Kamyshi and on to gravel. Only it was not gravel. It was just Siberian MUD. I can only describe the mud as the consistency of thick porridge with an average depth of 100 to 200 mm with pot holes you could not see. The test was 16.06 km to STC15.3 with a target time of 12 minutes, that is an average of 80.3 kph. In these conditions this was impossible, even for the best prepared classic Paris – Dakar Porsches.
We wallowed, went sideways, pushed a bow wave of mud before us, dropped into big puddles of watery mud that covered the car. At times we could not see out of the windows, at one stage my side was completely blocked but Ken had a small clear piece. He had to take the steering wheel in his left hand, stay on his side of the car to see out and give me instructions as to when to power off and on to keep the car going straight. It took us 24 minutes to get the 16.06 kms to STC15.5. At the control there was a welcoming crowd of locals with buckets of water to throw over your windscreen to help clear the mud. It got colder and rained harder as we moved on towards the border. This helped to clean some of the mud off the car. To see this MUD section, go to YouTube Peking to Paris 1907 – 2019 off road.
The border was cold and wet, standing out at the small window of the Russian border post, getting the car documents accepted seemed to take forever. I was very cold when I got back into the car so full heating on. Into Kazakhstan and at least the control was inside, car documentation was quick and on we went.
The weather slowly lightened and improved, and on to the Irtysh Hotel. Kazakhstan is a fascinating country of many contrasts, four and six lane concrete motorways just stop, and you are on rough shingle. Coal fired power stations, some 50 or 60 years old from the Soviet times belching carbon into the air. No talk of global warming here, just on how much coal and oil can be sold.
The next day after some time controls and passage controls we came to a test section that was on a track around an open cast coal mine overburden slag heap. It was 8.9 kms long. There were two further tests later in the day. We were early at one and got a two-point penalty. That will not happen again! Then a long 201 km transit to the Marriot hotel in Nur-Sultan, old name Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.
We are still on the first page of the result sheets at 19th place and working hard to stay there or improve. At this time, we are the top Mercedes w111 and the third Mercedes out of 11 in the event.
To leave Nur–Sultan without having a good look around was a shame. The new buildings with futuristic architecture are just stunning but the Rally moves to a tight time schedule so you must maintain your place. As the only test for the day had been cancelled, and we met all route and time controls, we had a 460 km day with zero points lost, to the final camping night of the event.
The entrance to the camp site was a ford that was deep, but I drove through with no hassles. There were a lot of local people all in traditional dress, horses to ride, music and dancing. We got the tent up before the rain. They had a big bonfire so everybody did the hokie tokie. It rained and got bitterly cold during the night, I was colder than in the Gobi Desert. Most people including us left all our camping gear for the locals as camping is now over and you do not want to carry extra weight.
Ken started Day 18 going out through the water crossing we came through the evening before. His approach was more aggressive than mine and dropped the car into the water at a much higher speed. Water up over the bonnet but somehow she kept going and climbed out the other side. On to a test on a narrow, paved track, through a valley with trees all round that is used in the winter as a Nordic ski training track. Ken nailed it and we got a good time.
We seemed to zig zag through the country side, through the other famous Kazakhstan feature, vast wheat fields, 30 km without a break. The rally used the tracks through them as tests. They were fast, mostly smooth and fun, some with deep ruts that gave the belly pan a bit of a belting; we did good times.
Later in the day we passed through a National Park with many types of pine and conifer trees. We had to pay a toll. Then on to a town called Kostanay and into the Medeu Hotel. Ken and I have stayed in some pretty suspect hotels over the years, but this set a new low. It was an old Soviet style hotel, still with the woman sitting at a booth on each floor. Our room had two rooms with three beds in each. I rebuilt the plumbing so we could shower. No maintenance for years. Ken took two mattresses off other beds to make a bed he could sleep in. The dinner and breakfast were Soviet style with older women standing about with white caps and dust coats.
Day 19 started with a 172 km transit drive through passage controls to the border and back into Russia. Back on Russian roads, pot holes and patches Two interesting tests in the afternoon, and then on to an older style Bannoe Lake Resort. Dinner was a BBQ style on the Lake edge. The whole set up was a bit hi-di-hi but pleasant.
We are now over half way to Paris and into what the Russians call European Russia, but are only the same degree west as Pakistan. Ken took the first real race track test we have been on and did a really good time, with much comment from the officials. It’s called ‘late braking’. I am now so accustomed to it I don’t panic as we approach a hairpin corner at what seems an impossible speed. The rest of the day was spent on some good, and some not so good roads, getting through many passage controls to the City of Ufa.
As we approached the city I spotted a car wash place, some other rally cars were already in there but we soon had the car cleaned. When they were finished, Ken took the high pressure gun and did under the bonnet and under the guards. The amount of mud that he got out was impressive. He just kept going not daring to look up at the attendant in case he was told to stop. The car came out looking like it had just left Beijing.
There are not many cars that have been as trouble free as our car. Our biggest problem has been our belly pan, skid plate, sump guard, or whatever you wish to call it. The construction is far too light. Ok for NZ shingle roads but not for the rutted tracks and metal roads in Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan. We have had it off the car four times, once was for an oil change but three times to straighten it. When it gets bent up, it starts rubbing on the exhaust pipe bracket and sends the exhaust vibration through the car, and the handbrake mechanism loses it’s clearance and will not work.
We spent six hours during the free day in Ufa working on the car. All wheels off to dig the mud out from the inside of the rims. It was making the wheels unbalanced. Dug the mud out from around the rear engine mount, wire brushed all the exhaust manifold and pipe to get the baked mud off. We had a puncture repaired. Put some more gear oil in the differential and generally had a big tidy up.
We are two weeks from Paris. We will drive this car to the finish.
REPORT FOUR, 27 June
RUSSIA IS BIG! UFA – KAZAN – NIZNY NOVGOROD – ZAVIDOVO – ST PETERSBURG
In the last four days we have driven 2375 kms through the steppes of Russia. Passed through eight master time controls, eight time controls, two sporting time controls, eight passage controls, five test starts and five test finishes, all on time. And coped with two time zone changes.
It’s not just following the route book with all it’s vagaries and inconsistencies but doing it on time and in the correct order that is challenging and exhausting. Enter a time control on time but from the wrong direction will cost you dearly.
We are still holding 17th position out of the 67 classic division cars that started in Beijing and are on the first page of the results sheet with 117.15 minutes. Our nearest challenger is on 179.14. We are confident we can hold or improve our position. This is a long game, it’s ‘Tortoise and Hare’ stuff.
The car is still holding up, a noise from the differential is getting louder but should hold out to Paris. We have an issue with the carburettors that lets the engine stall at idle. We have adjusted the high idle up to 1800 rpm. This also helps to hold the oil pressure up to 20 psi when the oil is hot.
As we pass through villages you notice the number of abandoned and derelict houses. Also, many disused very large industrial plants and buildings that date back to the Soviet era. Off the main highways and through the country side you see wheat fields for miles with just thousands of nodding donkey oil well pumps working away. The oil field just goes on for 50-60 kms, also the natural gas infrastructure with well heads and mixing and metering stations with their bright yellow pipe work showing just how large the oil – gas field must be.
As you move further west every aspect of life gets more affluent and European. The roads get better, the number of pot holes per km halve to the extent that yesterday we were on a four-lane express toll road that was one of the best transit roads I have ever seen. It went for over 200 kms with just forest trees on both sides.
Today is the last non-driving day we have until Paris. Most of the cars that are still in the Rally will make it to Paris. I took the opportunity to take Ken into St Petersburg city centre. We are staying about 30 kms out from the centre, close to the Peterhof Palace. The traffic and tourists were a bit overwhelming, but we managed to get photos of the car outside the Hermitage and the Cathedral of the Blood.
REPORT FIVE, 2 July
WHAT A CONTRAST
After the day off from driving in St Petersburg it is now back to the serious stuff of classic car rallying for the next eight days until Paris.
The passage from the hotel on the south side of St Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland put us on an extensive motorway system with spectacular bridges that took us around the outskirts of the city. Three toll gates and we were on our way north west through Vyborg and on to the border. A full tank of 92 octane Russian fuel at less than NZ$1 a litre. The Russian side was queues and much waiting around. The Finnish side was efficient and quick.
How such a dramatic difference can happen in just a few kilometres amazed both Ken and I. The roads are smooth with no pot holes, there is no rubbish, not a fag butt, not a piece of plastic, not a drink bottle, and grass that grows to the edge of the road. Small lakes that have white water lilies. Roadside wild flowers, white daises, multi-coloured lupins, lavender, and wild delphiniums. (I do know a little about flowers!)
The hotel was a very modern Scandinavian design with just two levels. There was a large crowd in the car park with beer and the best sausages I have had on the trip. I had one of the best days on the rally.
In the morning there were two track tests. The first was a rallycross track with a mixture of tarmac and gravel. Ken as usual really nailed it with a good time. The second was at a gravel track through the forest at a car club rally track. What fun we had. Ken went for it, power sliding around the gravel track amongst the trees. Coffee and rhubarb and strawberry crumble were supplied by the club. We will both be sorry to leave Finland.
Only a short drive down to Helsinki and the ferry terminal. The ferries are big, at least twice the size of the Cook Strait ferries and fast. A two hour 15 minute crossing of the Baltic Sea and we are now in Tallinn Estonia. The view from the 42nd floor of the hotel was spectacular, the sun still shining and setting shadows at 10:30 pm. It is light at 3.30 am. On the way first thing in the morning to another rallycross track at Laitse. Ken said he had seen this track on TV, a mixture of gravel and tarmac. As usual he went for it and had a time of 2:46. This all helps to keep the predators at bay that are trying to attack our overall position at 16th.
On we went through Estonia, the back roads are just glorious. TC 29.3 was at Halinga. There was a restaurant for lunch but Ken and I went to a car museum next door that had a collection of Soviet era cars, for a real look at what collective Soviet thinking can do to a car. On through some of the best country roads I have ever driven, good surface but not flat, sort of up and down but undulating. The Mercedes Benz w111 chassis structure was built for this. I just had the best fun I have ever had in this car.
The border from Estonia to Latvia was the usual EU border crossing where you slow down to 20 km and the border people just wave you through. Unfortunately, the road surfaces soon deteriorated, as did the general appearance. Rubbish, graffiti, and less well maintained roads. We had some gravel roads with both passage controls and time controls, then a really good track at Bikernieki. Ken did a respectable 3.36 lap. Next to the track is the Riga Motor museum. This is a world class museum with some interesting cars. I was really impressed with a 1939 Steyr 220 Gasser cabriolet, “Rolling Art”.
Out of the Riga Hotel and into the rally route. Interesting back roads, some mining activity with large slag heaps, wheat fields for miles. We passed from Latvia into Lithuania without even knowing. Then a test at Nemunas ring. Ken went well, 4 minutes flat. Minimum time 3.35 minutes. Maximum time 10:45. We are holding our position. The rally rolls on and soon we are crossing into Poland. Single lamp posts with storks’ nests, one with three storks on it. Red poppies in the wheat fields. Country roads lined with massive oak trees that meet in the centre making a tunnel of green; really special.
The final test for the day was at Tor Mikolajki. This is a half sealed, half rough gravel circuit, by far the roughest track we have been on. Ken did ok but it was hard on the car. The hotel is next to the track. It is the biggest hi-di-hi vacation hotel I have ever been in, just thousands of rooms.
So with only five driving days to Paris we are now in 15th place and 9th in class. We and the car will get there!
REPORT SIX, 9 July
PARIS AND FIVA
Out of the Baltic states and into Poland. The countries and the border crossings just roll by. Back to the track from the day before was a car breaker. We said to ourselves, take it easy, preservation at this time is paramount. Ken said yes but still was able to do a 2.26 lap compared to his 2.28 time the the previous day.
The rally rolls on into Germany. The only way you know you have crossed the border is from Ken’s phone that pings when a new mobile network finds him. There are no speed tests in Germany so the route is made complex by using B and C roads with tulip instructions that seem to come by every 500 meters, which is frustrating for the person navigating. We zig zag our way around Berlin and on to Wartsburg and to the MTC for the day at the Volkswagen Museum and marketing complex. Very impressive, a free beer and nibbles, although the museum is more general with a history of the car. A fabulous Bugatti Atlantic recreation just spun my wheels.
A zero penalty points day so all is still going well. Our troubles with the car not idling have somehow fixed itself so the engine is not stalling at the traffic lights.
Friday was always going to be long and frustrating, over 620 kms across Germany. We had a late start so as we progressed through the day the traffic just got heavier and heavier, to just about gridlock, 88 sets of traffic lights. Many you worked through three phases to progress. You start running late for time controls trying to make progress without being stupid and putting yourself or the car at risk. There were a couple of dents in other cars driven by frustrated drivers. Germany was frustrating and boring.
Into Belgium and on to a small track called Peugeot test track. It was at Spa just beside the F1 track. This was the last track in the rally and Kens last chance to rip some more rubber off the tyres which he achieved with a great time. This grand finale performance lifted us up to 10th place in the European cup. On to the hotel at Liège. A big crowd at the square, the Belgians are starting to party.
Our final rally day were time controls and passage controls that did matter, as we worked to maintain our position. Many short tulip instructions that were just about impossible to read at the speed each one came along. They even had a secret passage control just to keep everybody on track. A big penalty if you went straight to the lunch time control and missed it.
Some really lovely back roads through very picturesque villages. A TC mid afternoon at a commonwealth war graves cemetery at Pachendale, a very moving experience with a special wall enclave and names for the thousands of New Zealanders that are there. Also the many red Floribunda roses that are planted there that were the same rose that was planted in my grandfather’s garden.
The afternoon moved on to Ypres. We entered the main town through the Menin memorial arch into the main square and party time. The Belgium entrants in the event had got together and shouted 1000 beers for all the competitors for starters. I introduced Ken to Belgium chips in a paper cone with mayonnaise to go with the beers. We also found a car wash just outside the town – 15 minutes work and she looked just about as good she did in Peking.
A shuttle to a small hotel and then back to the Menin Gate for the daily playing of the last post. This is preformed at 8 pm every day of the year. With the rally people and others there would have been over a thousand people there. Three buglers, the magnificent acoustics, a very special place.
The final run to Paris was always going to be a transit run, some country villages and back roads through PC controls but you eventually end up on the A1 entering Paris around the Charles De Gaulle airport, and into traffic mayhem. On to the periphery and clockwise around to enter through Bastille, through red lights, down bus lanes, along past the Louvre then a right turn and we were at the Place Vendome.
THE CAR, KEN AND I HAD MADE IT!
Alison, Noeline and many friends were there. New Zealand flags on the car and being waved all around. Up to the finishing arch with all the medals and finishing trophies. Many mixed emotions, very pleased with the accomplishment, yet sad that it was all over.
For many reasons this event was sanctioned by the FIVA. (Federation International des Vehicules Ancients) It was while we were still at the finishing arch that we were presented with a special trophy called the Spirit of FIVA for the ‘most original car’ and for representing what the FIVA representative deemed to be the ‘sprit of the event’. To say I was overwhelmed by this accolade would be an understatement. Many congratulations from other competitors and friends. To finish 15th position out of 73 cars in the classic division and 9th in our class was a massive achievement.
We will look back at the last six weeks for the rest of our lives. The stories will be told and exaggerated.
The prize giving dinner in the ballroom at the Intercontinental Grand Hotel was a glittering affair. The room was just so magnificently decorated, with gilt chandeliers and statues, as only the French can do. Most in black tie, dresses and gowns to match. Trophies presented and speeches made. A video was shown that set the scene of the event. You can go to Youtube Peking to Paris 2019, The Highlights, to see it.
Garry Boyce & Ken Williams