Bas and Paul with Silvia at the Great Wall at the start of the race on Sunday, 2 June 2019
Bas and Paul with Silvia 35 days later in Ypres, Belgium on Saturday, 6 July 2019 at the end of the competition stage of the Rally
They made it! - Bas and Paul arriving in Place Vendome, Paris on Sunday, 7 July 2019
Bas and Paul with their winning trophies: 9th Overall in the Classic Category, 2nd in Class and 13th in the European Cup!
The 2019, 7th Peking to Paris Motor Challenge started from the Great Wall outside Beijing in China on Sunday, 2 June and finished 36 days later with a drive into Paris to cross the finish line in Place Vendôme on Sunday, 7 July, a total distance of approximately 13,695 kilometres (8,510 miles). The 105 participants travelled through China, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France.
For the second time, Bristol Owners' Club of Australia (BOCA) members, Paul Hickman and Sebastian (Bas) Gross from New South Wales, competed in Paul’s 1954 Bristol 403 named ‘Silvia’.
Follow the journey and that of other rally participants below:
To live track Silvia, please click on this link:
THE JOURNEY - ROUTE MAP
THE JOURNEY BEGINS FOR PAUL AND BAS
Paul and Bas about to depart Sydney Airport for Beijing on Wednesday, 29 May:
SATURDAY, 1 JUNE
The first video installment from the 7th Peking to Paris is here. Watch this short introduction to the crews, the cars and the beautiful city of Beijing. Tomorrow morning at 7.30 am, the 105 crews taking part in the event set off on their 36-day, 8,500 mile journey to Paris.
Photo courtesy of Gerard Brown
Paul and Bas collecting Silvia:
Pre-rally check over of Silvia in the Shangri La Hotel, Beijing, car park:
Day 1, SUNDAY, 2 JUNE - Pre-Rally Ceremony, Great Wall – Hohhot, China - 595 kilometres
Photo courtesy of Gerard Brown
The day has finally arrived ... Paul and Bas getting ready to start the race:
Video of the Crews Leaving the Great Wall of China on Day One:
Paul and Bas are on their way:
Day 1, SUNDAY, 2 JUNE - Great Wall to Hohhot, China - 595 kilometres
Bas reports that they had an early start out of the car park - 6.30am and arrived into the hotel in Hohhot at 6.30pm, having travelled 586 kilometres.
There were quite a few car issues already [other cars] and one small accident but nobody was hurt. Silvia needed a new coil and had some altitude sickness at 6,000 feet. They drank ten bottles of water between them and have a late start tomorrow morning, the second day, Monday, 3 June.
Syd Stelvio's report:
If anyone was in any doubt as to what day it was, the carpet in the elevators spelled it out to them in large letters. It was Sunday, and today was the day when it all was to begin.
Peking to Paris, a rally adventure with its own peculiar motive force and one of the most life affirming, life changing journeys that anyone can make, rolled away from the Great Wall of China one more time.
There had been thunder overnight, with a bit of lightning and some heavy rain. This made for a restless night but, if nothing else it cleared the air so that when we walked to the cars in the pre dawn half light, the sharp cool of the morning snapped everyone into action before breakfasts were gulped down and luggage was secured to the cars.
An early start was the order of the day. The run from the hotel to Badaling was only 65km but no-one wanted to be late and miss their date with destiny.
Within a few hours we would each be sketching out our own rough drafts of another epic chapter in the Peking to Paris story 112 years since Borghese, Pons et al set off into the unknown.
In addition to the rally, a troupe of dancers, drummers, acrobats and ceremonial lions had once again made the trip to the antique stones of the Great Wall to give us the send off we deserved.
As the 7.31am start time approached, the air was crackled with tension and emotion. The first car over the line was to be the Belgian three wheeler and five minutes before the flag was waved, Gonnissen turned and kissed his Inge, it’s been a long way to Beijing for him and he’s not underestimating the challenge of getting to Place Vendome, but with Herman Gelan his navigator up front, he’s confident that they can do this and bring the first ever Contal from Peking to Paris.
The drum beat was incessant and rose to a crescendo as every subsequent car pulled up the line and was flagged away by the Hero MD Patrick Burke, whilst Tomas de Vargas Machuca looked on with due respect.
Ahead of these 105 intrepid crews lies the adventure of a lifetime and the numbers are astounding. In 14,000 km and 36 days they’ll cover 114° of longitude, pass through 1,300 waypoints and 8 time zones whilst transiting through 12 countries.
Naturally there was a huge Chinese presence as well as the friends and loved ones who’d been bussed up the start and, as usual it was at times difficult to see the start gate through the thickets of selfie sticks and camera phones which always seem to spring up whenever the Peking to Paris rally rolls into town.
From the ancient environment of the start line, the way to Paris leads firstly along a modern expressway, which was a good way for the crews to settle themselves into the rhythm of the rally but, after a mere 4km however the crew of the White Pullman steam car had to take a break on the hard shoulder to adjust the burners.
For those not requiring this sort of attention though the only issues were the slow lorries which gradually thinned out the further we got from Beijing allowing us to appreciate the landscapes we were driving through. Vineyards, wind farms, solar farms and stands of newly planted trees rolled along the hillsides alongside us before we turned off the highway to a Passage Control on the outskirts of the walled town of Zhuolu. This is where the tempo of the day shifted and for the next 80km the crews were taken back in time on a selection of unmade roads, alongside well-tended fields, through hidden villages and across fast flowing rivers.
Some veterans of the modern event said this this was probably the best opening day of Peking to Paris they’d seen.
All good things come to an end though and soon enough we were back in the modern world with a Time Control in a fuel station cafe in Yangyuan before a run to the first ever competitive section to be held in China.
Tim Guleri and Raj Judge’s 1948 Bentley Bobtail however had to sit out the fun thanks to a blown crankshaft gasket on a section of expressway.
The Up Up and Away Test was a closed road hillclimb with expansive views over terraced fields and sections of the old wall.
Everyone who drove it loved it although Jo and heather Worth may be looking at a late night appointment with a panel beater after their brush with the concrete parapet on a tight right hander.
By the time the crews had reached the top of the climb, they were on the home run and for most it was plain sailing although Bruno Lang and Christopher Oechsle were slightly delayed thanks to a broken brake pipe on their Volvo Amazon P220.
The drive into Hohhot and the night halt was a spectacular one by any standards. Hundreds of tower blocks sat between brand new four lane highways perched on countless concrete pillars, whilst cranes and scaffolding marked out neighbourhoods not yet built. This city, if not the whole country seems to building for the future and, given the traffic we encountered on the way into the hotel, some of were glad of those sage words of advice given to us by the Traffic Police way back in Beijing.
Over dinner and a few drinks in the modern and well appointed Juva Grand Hotel it seemed that everyone had a story to tell. Whether it concerned a navigational “mishap”, a mechanical issue or one of the incredible sights we’d seen along the road.
There’s a slightly easier start for us tomorrow so the reflections on such an amazing day may well go on a little longer ... .
Unofficial Results at the end of Day One - 2 June in Hohhot - 11th Place overall
Day 2, MONDAY, 3 JUNE - Hohhot to Erenhot, China - 436 kilometres
There is absolutely nothing extraordinary on the border between China and Mongolia, just two kissing dinosaurs and a Bristol 403 named Silvia.
Erenhot is a county-level city of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, located in the Gobi desert along the Sino-Mongolian border.
“We have little chance of getting to the same position as before; the calibre of car is daunting. The route is possibly less arduous but that remains to be seen. It seems nine cars have had major issues, but some may return. There is mention of flooding ahead - who knows.
Last night in China.
Having fun, Bas.”
Syd Stelvio's Report:
China is a sizeable piece of real estate and, if history tells us anything, it is that crossing such a country in an old car takes time and effort.
The hard miles must be put in somewhere along the line and today, we awoke resigned to the long hot pull to Erenhot and the Mongolian border.
Jim Smith, the route designer for the Chinese section of the rally though did give us a great send off from Hohhot. Following an excellent breakfast in the revolving restaurant on the 26th floor of the hotel, the 3 km Open Pasture Test was a rallycross style loop, thick with choking dust, laced with tight turns and sprinkled with short drops and compressions. This was purely a drivers’ section and once the clock had started, the navigators only role was to hold on tight and ensure that they got the finish to hand over the all important time card.
With rocky sections, short cropped grass and soft sand, this was the Mongolian Steppe in miniature and we even had a family of startled marmots running for their little lives as the cars slid towards them. As a shakedown for what was to come it was a pretty good approximation and whilst it would be unfair to say who put on the best show, suffice to say that the craftsmen of Stuttgart would have been well pleased with the performance of their handiwork today.
Sadly the day wasn’t all fun and games however, and from this section, the rally turned straight onto the highway to start the serious business of munching through the miles, in a northwesterly direction over low lying hills and into endless rolling grasslands.
The famous Erenhot Dinosaur Arch announced the end of the day’s drive and for most of the crews the day had been a long but easy run on good roads with plenty to see along the way but, for Mitch Gross in the White Pullman and Anton Gonnissen on the Contal, some unexpected challenges were thrown at them.
Mitch’s steam powered car needed the sub burner assembly changing and we found the crew by the side of the road, armed with flameproof gloves and a fire extinguisher along with the more usual spanners and screwdrivers hard at in the full sun of midday.
Anton’s three wheeler, some distance further along the road, had bent its front axle, so along with Herman his co-driver and the sweep team of Bob Harrod and Tony Jones, they set about finding a welding shop and effecting the repair. They were soon back on the road only to be thwarted by Chinese bureaucracy which decreed that, as a three wheeler, they were not allowed to use the toll roads.
A long detour ensued and Anton and Herman arrived shortly before the rest of us were making for bed.
The 48 hour cars have also been busy lately and news reached this evening that we’d likely have to make a few detours tomorrow. Incredibly after the sweltering heat we’ve been enjoying in China, there have been some flash floods in Mongolia. We’ll all be at the border good and early where we’ll discover what the scouting teams have discovered.
Unofficial Results at the end of Day 2 - 3 June in Erenhot - 37th Place overall
Day 3, TUESDAY, 4 JUNE - Erenhot, China to Ikhkhet Campsite, Mongolia - 395 kilometres
This morning, Paul and Bas will take a short drive towards the Mongolian border, before traveling around 395 kilometres north to Ikhkhet, in the sum (district) of Dornogovi Province in south-eastern Mongolia, where they will spend their first-night camping. We are not sure how much internet coverage they will have today, but we will keep you as updated as we can.
Syd Stelvio's report:
For many of the crews on the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, Mongolia is the big draw so, this morning there wasn’t anyone who was late down to breakfast. Just as leaving the Great Wall was only three days ago, so crossing the border today was a significant milestone on the road to Paris. The actual border procedures were very straightforward and, from arrival to departure, most crews saw the whole process take less than three hours. The Rally Office and the Chinese fixers had once again done a fantastic job with the background form filling which meant that we sailed from checkpoint to desk to exit gates with the maximum of efficiency.
Cars queuing for customs at the Mongolian border
It was sad to say goodbye to Li Feng and the team once again and we’d like to thank her once more for all that they’ve done to make our passage through China so successful.
On the other side of the fence though, we were welcomed once again by Helge and the superb Nomads Tours organisation. Pre filled paperwork and a lot of local knowledge sure goes a long way to getting more than 120 cars and around 250 people through a border as quickly as possible. Border days can often be to be dull however. There are many things which could slow the rally down: customs issues, immigration problems etc so the temptation is to play safe and get every to the next night halt as quickly as possible. Today however, the organisers had a different plan, which not even a re route and a convoy through a tricky section could upset and, just to add a bit of spice to the mix, John Spiller had even laid on a short but sharp sandstorm timed perfectly for our arrival.
Mongolia is modernising however, there’s no doubt about that, and with this there has come a significant increase in the amount of tarmac roads but thanks to the efforts of Chris Elkins, the route designer we still got to see and feel what Borghese and Pons must have experienced 112 years ago. As we thundered down newly laid asphalt, slid through thick mud, scrambled over sand and then bounced over narrow rocky tracks we caught glimpses of yurts, camels, wild horses and those iconic telegraph poles. We also saw the longest inter’ distance of the rally so far. No turnings, no route notes, no instructions for 193km which at least gave the navigators a chance for a sneaky bit of shut eye.
Chris Pike is here for his second Peking to Paris but this time he’s got someone to share the experience with and no doubt enjoying a bit of company. The last time he drove through Mongolia he was alone as Jeff Urbina, his navigator had to return Stateside to tend a wife with a broken leg. Today though they were pressing on at the sharp end of the rally and much like the rest of the rally looked too be loving every minute of it.
Some cars were not having quite so much fun though and along the last section of the day we saw Ihsan and Yonca Yalaz sorting out two punctures, Hampi Durrer and Tony von Rotz attempting to refix the wishbone, Alain Lejeune and Christian Chavy’s were looking to make a repair to their collapsed suspension had whilst Shivinder Sikand and Dean Drako’s (ex Philip Young’s) Peugeot 504 had a half shaft bearing failure.
Perhaps the most serious issue though concerned Pier Fontana and Giulio Bertolli’s Fiat Coupe which had suffered a differential failure.
The sweeps were kept busy as usual as they carried out running repairs by the roadside and in the campsite itself.
After an epic 395km, the engines were turned off, the tents were pitched and the crews began to sort themselves out for a night under canvas.
There were some running repairs which naturally had to be taken care of but the focus of the evening was the dinner. Another excellent three course affair taken in the unique ambiance of the mess tent.
The lights went out pretty quickly after dessert though, which says much about the quality of the day's rallying.
Tomorrow we’ll strike camp and head for Ulaanbaataar to enjoy the first rest day.
No results as yet.
Day 4, WEDNESDAY, 5 JUNE - Ikhkhet Campsite to Ulaanbataar, Mongolia - 366 kilometres
Lovely camp site
Photo Gerard Brown
Today was a full day, with the competition starting on the first stage. There are virtually no roads, only a selection of tracks requiring navigation via the GPS to the next point, which means seeing the pink line and following the track that best matches it – very challenging, especially as you encounter more hills. One instruction was “Find the best way across 1.5 kilometres of dried lake bed”, which turned out to be flat like a crater on the moon.
There were a dozen or so cars with mechanical or tyre problems - one with two punctures caused by sharp rocks. The driver looked understandably panicked as he only had two spares.
One of the Porsches is likely a write off after a bad roll. Apparently the engine separated from the body of the car and the driver has a broken arm.
Syd Stelvio's report:
As the sun rose over the first morning of camp life, so the slumbering crews stirred themselves from their tents and began setting up for the day ahead.
Breakfast was the first priority and as they had last night, the chef’s and kitchen staff had laid on a fine spread for us with eggs, cereal, yoghurt, tea, coffee, fruit ………. In fact, just about anything you wanted was on offer.
To add to the generally civilised atmosphere, the organisers had decided on a reasonable start time as well so, most of the rally had until at least of 9.00am to enjoy the food but, such was the excitement for the day ahead that most instead decided to get back to their cars to do some more spanner checks and to brush up on the navigational side of things.
Today was all about the wilderness and no-one wanted to leave anything to chance.
Boris Gruzman was still out in that very same wilderness though. He hadn’t made camp last night as he’d got bogged down in sand somewhere off rally route, so he and son Elliot had spent the night awaiting rescue along with the big silver Jag’. Salvation arrived soon after breakfast in the form of the HQ team comprising Gavin Bull and Alan McNaughton who hooked up their Hilux and pulled the big cat and its occupants free from the mire.
Once they’d left the vicinity of the camp, the rally was pitched straight into the Time Control sections which would define the day. Chris Elkins and John Spiller had between them devised a fast but realistically paced cross country route which also required no small amount of input from the navigator to keep the car on the right schedule and the right road. We saw almost no tarmac for 250km of the day’s route rather spending the day pounding over gravel, dodging rocks or scrabbling through the sand.
Photo Gerard Brown
It was a tough day though and consequently, along the route, there were several breakdowns, some serious and some not so.
Rene Backx and Jef Augustyn’s lost the throttle linkage from their Bentley Speed 8 but found a pair of willing helpers in the form of fellow Bentley drivers Jean Vincent and Marcel Peumans who lost two hours of time for their troubles.
Pete Zimmerman and Jonathan Newhall’s Buick Coupe ended the day on a truck headed for a workshop in Ulaanbaatar for some remedial welding work after the rear suspension mounts failed. And, a mere 5km down the road the pretty little Fiat 124 Spider of Enrico Paggi and Federica Mascetti sat waiting patiently for some assistance to fit new dampers.
Photo Gerard Brown
Nick Wade and Steve Borthwick feared the worst when they heard a “new rattle’ from their Ford Deluxe Fordor but thankfully this turned out to be nothing more than a broken bonnet hinge.
Without any mechanical woes to deal with and, as if to prove that no matter how hard the rallying is there’s always time for a bit of horse play, we saw Renee Brinkerhoff deep in conversation with a local man and was soon off riding his sturdy little pony over the steppe whilst her navigator, Calvin Cooledge sensibly sat in the car keeping an eye on the time.
Photo Gerard Brown
The experienced crew of Mark Buchanan and Ralf Weiss suffered one puncture today, but this caused them little trouble and within minutes they were back on the road.
Nick Grewal and Dirk Burrowes were not so lucky and their 1940 Packard 110 Deluxe lost a rear wheel which in turn caused a ruptured brake pipe. This meant two lengthy stops to first repair the wheel and replace the studs and then, once they’d realised that the brakes were affected, to repair the hydraulic line. Jo Worth, whose Volvo had run out of fuel shortly before a filling station stepped up and offered some brake fluid so that all the crew had to do was get the line sealed temporarily before making a proper repair tomorrow.
There was heavy traffic on the run into Ulaanbaatar this evening which certainly didn’t suit the White MM Pullman steam car but it was seen chuffing steadily along the highway into the setting sun just as the rest of us were racing towards the buffet.
Our night halt is at the Blue Sky, a superb hotel in Central Ulaanbaatar and as tomorrow is a rest day, the crews are likely to make full use of its facilities as well as making sure that their cars are ready for the next few days which will likely prove to be challenging ones.
Results just in for Day 4, 5 June - Ulaanbaatar - 9th in Class - 20th Overall out of 104 teams - Well done Paul and Bas!
"Here are our results. The rally is much harder this time. Silvia holding together!!"
"We got lost in a dry mogul lake bed. Managed to jack up the car and put our spare brake shoes under the wheels and got out. Found a local farmer on a motorcycle to guide us out. Very lucky."
What's happening in this photo please?
Latest video from Paul and Bas:
This is the nicer of the tracks. Some sections are very rough. Average speed on test sections up to 85 kph.
Day 5, THURSDAY, 6 JUNE - Rest Day in Ulaanbaatar
Report from Bas:
"Dust everywhere - Going to oil both air filters - this is not good for the engine"
The hotel car park repair yard in Ulaanbaatar:
local supply shop:
Syd Stelvio reports:
The first rest day of every Peking to Paris rally is a watershed moment. There’s still a lot of nervous energy around which is lucky, because after four days on the road there’s a lot to be done. There’s the more leisurely breakfast, the laundry, the all important car maintenance and, if there’s time, a bit of sightseeing and some cultural highlights. These last two activities are what most people look forward to although Margo O’Brien and George Cohelo returned slightly disappointed after visiting the ‘famous’ Beatles monument.
Down in the car park and in various garages dotted around town therefore was where the real action was happening. As usual the Mercedes garage was busy and they gave over valuable space in their well equipped workshop to the rally for the day.
Doug and Mike McWilliams were making a new exhaust mounting bracket for their 1958 Bentley. They’d been having way too much fun over the last few days and whilst ‘gently in the Bentley’ is a good rule to live by, these guys seem to know what they’re doing so can press on a bit when required and they are delighted with the way that the “colonial spec” suspension soaks it all up.
Ludovic Bois was somewhat downcast. His Peugeot has mysterious and intermittent alternator and electrical issues, “with mechanical issues you can see them and repair them, with electrics – it could be anything and it’s so frustrating”. After finishing on the podium in 2016, Ludovic wants to get this problem sorted as soon as possible so that he can climb another step.
Keith Ashworth was looking at his plugs along with the sweep, Jack Amies. There’s too much soot on them for his liking and thinks it’s down to low quality fuel. In this part of the world that’s a real issue and a distinct possibility.
Jim Gately admitted that he was “paying the price of the fun he was having yesterday” and was trying to repair his steering knuckle. Annoyingly he has half a dozen of them lying around the workshop shop at home.
Scott and Chance Pereklis were simply checking and cleaning their Ford. There’s nothing wrong with it and they’re having a great time. They decided to enter the rally after seeing us pull into Place Vendome in 2016 and, as if by magic, three years later they’re in the thick of it in Ulaanbataar.
Shivinder Sikand got up early and made his way into the auto market and bought two bearings. After the half shaft failure his ex Philip Young Peugeot suffered just before the first camp, he thinks that this might be the best $8.00 he’s spent.
Tim Eades went off to a welding shop to have his sump repaired. A small crack was leaving an oil slick down the road which meant that yesterday the big Chevy limped home at the back of the pack, followed by the sweeps, Alan Page and Dave Alcock.
By the time the evening came around, most of the crews were sorted out and their cars were clean and fit for battle once again. There was a sense of quiet satisfaction around the rally, helped no doubt by the cocktail reception which was laid on for us on the 23rd floor of the hotel. From the panoramic windows, we could see the way that this modern city in an ancient land was taking shape and it was breathtaking.
Finally, we’re very glad to report that Johan Gitsels and Walter Op’ t Roodt are back with us after their trip to hospital last night following their little mishap yesterday. Whilst they’re both in great spirits, the car is not so good and is being shipped straight home. There’s a broken arm and a torn ear between them but this morning they were laughing and joking and hoping to see us in Paris. They’ll be more than welcome.
Tomorrow the traditional restart is from Sukhbataar Square when the fun really begins.
The third and final video instalment from China from the Endurance Rally Association - you can now catch up with the journey so far:
Day 6, FRIDAY, 7 JUNE - Ulaanbaatar to Unitiin Brigada Campsite - 457 kilometres
Bas and Silvia are looking pretty good this morning at the start of today's stage from Sukhbataar Square in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Then it is off to Camp 2 in Unitiin Brigada.
View Jo from Team Xenia's video of the cars in Sukhbataar Square - if you zoom to the end you might just see Silvia and Bas.
Syd Stelvio's report:
When we pull into Paris and look back on the preceding six weeks, it’ll become clear that from the Great Wall to Ulaanbataar we were only shadow boxing. It was a phoney war of sorts. But as from today, as we journey west through Mongolia, we’ll perhaps see that this is the real battleground where the three way conflict of attrition between the human spirit, physical geography and mechanical competence is played out.
From here on in therefore it gets real. We strike out into the wilderness and the endurance part of the ERA comes into play. The rough roads of the previous two days will cease to be just a novelty. They’ll be a constant companion and as with any partner they must be treated with respect to achieving the best outcome. There’s no victor until Paris however, and till then, an uneasy stalemate exists in which each protagonist must maintain their guard and keep their powder dry for a long as possible.
You can lose the rally in Mongolia but it’s difficult to win it here. Giorgio Schon proved this in 2016 when his Alfa couldn’t take the pace he’d set. He’s back this year for another crack at it in a Ferrari but, unfortunately, he had to sit out a few days as his navigator, Enrico Guggiari, found himself under doctor's orders. Now they’re back with us though and both are keen to make an impression despite this setback.
Today’s restart was from the imposing Sukhbataar Square, the home of the Mongolian government, is a Peking to Paris tradition and, with the brass band, the string ensemble, the speeches, and the crowds, the rally was in no doubt that they were in the middle of something big. It’s a big adventure and it’s a big country.
Upon leaving the ceremonials, there was first a long tarmac pull along the very modern Millenium Road which got the day off to a pretty stress-free (if heavily congested) start. As well as a smooth surface this route also boasted numerous fuel stations and an exceedingly western coffee shop and those crews with thermos flasks on board took this opportunity to top up. The next such roadside treats may well lie beyond Novosibirsk.
After almost 200km of tarmac though, the rally was turned onto the gravel that we’ve all come here for and another day of time controls which led the cars over dozens of rocky ridges and miles of tracks through seemingly endless grasslands upon which countless wild horses roamed alongside sheep and cattle and many bright white yurts, (gers if you prefer) dotted the hillsides around us.
It was an epic day for sure with the scenery straight out of the Big Country film department although even in this perfect setting there were some crews who found themselves under a bit of pressure.
Wim Van Gierdegom and Arne Van Collie’s 1927 Chrysler Roadster, lost a lot of oil from the transmission and ground to a halt. A return to Ulaanbataar was needed for repairs and the crew will play catch up when they’ve done them.
Philip and Trish Monks lost their exhaust again and ruptured a fuel line to boot. Thankfully the sweeps were soon with them and they rolled into camp only a little behind schedule.
Keith Weed and Richard Holmes managed to topple their Pontiac Coupe onto its side whilst negotiating a rocky gully and now have a big dent in one side of the car for their trouble. Thankfully the only thing that was hurt was their pride and this evening the crew were laughing and joking with the rest of the rally.
Philip and Laurette McWhirter’s Alfa suffered several punctures today and by the time they reached the campsite, they were calling and sending out texts to anyone in the area who might just have some tyres to suit.
Photo Gerard Brown
Tonight in camp the mood was good, with such scenery and variety of terrain there’d been something for everyone today and the setting for the campsite itself was picture perfect. What’s not to like about camping at 1500m under a cloudless blue sky but, add to this the first class amenities laid on by the Nomads crews and the word ‘glamping’ comes easily to mind. Indeed Giles Cooper was happy to let it be known that following his visit to the bathroom, he’d had “not the hottest shower I’ve ever had. Not the coldest shower I’ve ever had but it was surely the best shower I’ve ever had”.
Alan and Steve Maden of the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, were similarly effusive and whilst pitching their tents were heard to say that today was “the best day. We did the whole route, didn’t get lost, even saw some time keepers and we loved the scenery”.
The organisers have assured us that there’s more of the same tomorrow.
Results just in for Day 6, Friday, 7 June - Untiin Brigarde, Mongolia - 7th in Class - 18th Overall out of 104 teams - Well done Paul and Bas!
Day 7, SATURDAY, 8 JUNE - Unitiin Brigada Campsite to Tsagaan-Uul Campsite, Mongolia - 381 kilometres
Paul and Bas are up nice and early today, ready to start the journey to their third campsite in Tsagaan-Uul. Here is is a photo of Silvia at dawn today:
You can now view all of the live tracker information from the crews taking part in the 2019 Peking to Paris on one map thanks to MAProgress. Follow the link below and take a look for yourself –
Syd Stelvio's report:
If the Great Wall of China is where the rally fire is lit, then Mongolia is the crucible where it is melted down and reformed. Legends are written in its never ending and awesome landscape and today was a day which will long be remembered by all of those crews who took part.
We were pleased to see Serge and Jacqueline Berthier at breakfast. They’ve been playing catch up for a few days and they almost made it back to the rally in the Jensen only to have it break down again within a few kilometres of the pancakes and coffee. For this intrepid crew they’ve once again been shuffled to the back of the pack. There was better news from Wim Van Gierdegom and Arne Van Collie whose Chrysler lost its oil on the way out of Ulaanbataar yesterday. They effected a repair and made it into camp at 5.00am which at least saved them from having to put up their tent.
Photo Gerard Brown
Strangely however, for a day which was to prove such an epic, it began in an almost mundane fashion with the first 200km of the route running over good quality traffic free tarmac through a wooded and rolling landscape which was home to a scattering of settlements and yurts and the associated livestock. This road took us to Murun, an old Peking to Paris staging post which was replete with fuel stations and tyre shops – the last we’d see for a while. After filling the tanks and perhaps fitting some new rubber, we turned off the main highway and onto gravel for the Special Time Control sections which would ultimately lead to the campsite.
As was the case over the last few days in Mongolia, this section was no walk in the park and required a press on attitude, accurate navigation and a vehicle which was still capable of taking the pace.
There’s only so much that man and machine can take though, and by the end of today there were some who were perhaps close to the tipping point of fatigue and mechanical breakdown.
Photo Gerard Brown
Along the way we saw David Gainer whose Datsun had broken a steering arm and had “lost heaps of time” as a result. The roadside repair was nevertheless a very efficient one and got them all the way into camp.
Shivinder Sikand and Dean Drako’s woes continued, their Peugeot 504 lost a wheel bearing and a wheel in quite spectacular fashion whilst Rene Bacx and Jef Augustyns were left struggling with Google translate to ask a Mongolian motorcyclist if he could help them find water for their Bentley.
Photo Gerard Brown
Alan and Tina Beardshaw were stranded for a few hours when their Volvo’s suspension collapsed once again, and Nick Brayshaw and Paul Woolmer also had a long wait for sweep assistance because of a failed wheel bearing in their big orange Chevrolet Coupe. “All we need is a vice” they cried “and then we could get it sorted”.
The campsite welder was also kept very busy this evening, Anton Gonnissen and Herman Gelan were rebuilding and strengthening their front axle which has failed once again and next in the queue were David and Jo Roberts who needed the magic rod applying to their Sunbeam’s suspension as well.
For those who’d made it through without any big issues though this was a most pleasant evening. The high altitude campsite (1850m), was bathed in warm sunshine and the usual five star amenities were once again laid on for us.
There’s still another two days of Mongolia to get through and there may be some who are a little nervous about what’s to come but, tomorrow’s another day. Anything could happen – and it probably will.
Results in for Day 7, Saturday 8 June - 17th Position Overall - 5th in Class!
Day 8, SUNDAY, 9 JUNE - Tsagaan-Uul Campsite to Undurkhangai Campsite, Mongolia - 341 kilometres
Sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail. That’s the way it goes on the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge and today, our two class leaders also bore witness to the fact that you don’t win this rally in Mongolia.
Both Martti Kiikka in a Volvo PV544 and Brian Scowcroft in a Chevy Fangio, suffered a multitude of mechanical issues on a day which was one of the toughest we’ve seen in this event.
Martti lost his driveshaft and spent most of the day sat beside the road alongside the Time Control manned by Jim Smith and Pete Stone. Brian meanwhile first lost his clutch but soldiered on in second gear, then his steering began playing up before a puncture out paid to his chances of making the MTC in camp on time.
Photo Gerard Brown
It was a beautiful day but it was also a cruel one, despite the fact that, acting on intelligence from the 48 hour car, the organisers had adjusted the timing to better suit the road conditions but even with this taken into account there were some crews who also opted to take a penalty and to check out early so they were able to take the rough at their own pace.
In 341km we saw not one metre of tarmac and spent the entire day blasting over an endless 1800m plateau ringed variously by snowcapped peaks and wooded hills. As for sharing the road with other traffic, it would be fair to say that we saw more horsemen than cars and we passed no more than a handful of local vehicles. This was a wilderness driving adventure at its very best.
With an 8.00am start in the book, the rally was up bright and early and everyone who could, was keen to press on. Alan and Tina Beardshaw however have had to call in a flat bed for their Volvo. The suspension couldn’t be repaired last night so the plan is to truck it into a well equipped Russian workshop, whilst the crew follow on with the rally in the Nomads sag wagon and by Novosibirsk, they should be back with the pack.
Those who did make it out of camp, found themselves straight into the thick of the action with a river crossing, a selection of rickety old bridges (which Borghese must surely have recognised), rocky climbs and sandy piste.
There were times to push on and there were times to slow down and think about the best line. On such a day, car preservation had to be front and centre of the gameplan.
Unfortunately for a few of the rally, this strategy didn’t quite work out as they intended. Manuel Dubs and Robi Huber for example were seen lying under their Rockne trying to sort out the broken rear suspension.
Rainer Wolf and Hans Geist lost a wheel from their Mercedes but they managed to get it back together and made the campsite in plenty of time.
Tim Guleri and Raj Judge were struggling again, this time with the fuel system beneath their 1948 Bentley whilst an entire family of nomads sat alongside watching and giggling at the crew who were frantically working underneath the big beast.
Mark Gudaitis and Nico Samaras lost the clutch in their Porsche 912 and also spent a few hours whiling away the time by the side of the track.
Erik van Droogenbroek’s Volvo and John Beresford’s VW were victims of the sand and both suffered the ignominy of being towed to freedom by the Organisation vehicles.
The low slung Jaguar Mk2 with Philip and Trish Monks aboard seemed to handle the sand very well but it had a slow and frustrating time dodging the rocks and boulders strewn along the route.
It’s been a busy day for all of us but most especially for the sweeps who, as usual have performed heroically doing all they can to leave no car behind.
We’ve all earned our beds tonight.
Today the terrain was very rough, making it almost impossible to make the allocated time, probably one of the toughest days yet, with the entire day spent on the dirt. It was a long day with six short transport stages, two at the beginning, one in the middle and three at the end. In between there were two special stages, each of around 100 kilometres. Several of the front running cars in both categories had problems: The leading Vintage Category Chev Fangio of the Scowcrofts and the second placed Classic Category Volvo PV544 of the Kiikkas all had mechanical issues. The Volvo was very late getting into camp. The run through this area is mainly flat with a few rolling hills despite being 1800 metres above sea level and after the rains, very green.
Many cars had problems. Apart from the Chev and Volvo PV544, others included fellow Aussies John Henderson and Lui MacLennan in the 74 Volvo 144 with a ripped out ball joint in the upper arm but they managed to get to camp. Another Aussie crew, the Blunden's in their 64 EH Holden bent a front crossmember but are ok (also got bogged), Lars Rolner had suspension problems in the Porsche but made it in, the Engelen/Gillis 240Z had clutch problems and there were many others. The Gainers in their 240Z have decided to back off a bit but despite that have moved up to 6th place. The P76 with Gerry and Matt have had no such problems, proving again how tough the Leyland P76 is, how resilient 87-year-old Gerry is and how good a car preparer and navigator Matt is.
Gerry and Matt now have an outright lead of just over a minute to the Burys in their 240Z.
The Danglards in their Porsche are almost a minute and a half further back, followed by the Rolners Porsche, the Englen/Gillis 240Z and the Gainers’ 240Z which is now over 6 minutes behind the leading P76. In the Vintage Category it is now the Goodwin Bentley Super Sport which holds a minute and a half lead over the Lukasiewicz and Cleyndert Chrysler and the Long/Marti 48 Ford Coupe.
Results in for Day 8, Sunday 9 - 12th Position Overall - 3rd in Class - they are climbing up that leader board - well done Paul and Bas!
Day 9, Monday, 10 June Undurkhangai Campsite to Achit Lake Campsite - 449 kilometres
Photo Gerard Brown
Today, Paul and Bas will tackle another challenging route and spend another night under the canvas (their 5th campsite) in the desert outback of Mongolia, this time traversing the 449 kilometres to Achit Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Uvs Aimag, in the west of the country. At an elevation of 1,435 metres above sea level, it covers an area of 290 square kilometres and is surrounded by mountains. The coast is covered with steppes, mostly hilly but swampy on the northwest and northeast.
Several special sections were cancelled today because of bad weather. It snowed on and off. Rally participants drove over a magnificent pass over a mountain which was very steep, rocky and muddy, with a top altitude of 2,549 metres, and then descended to Lake Achit.
Photo Gerard Brown - fellow Aussies in the Leyland P76
Syd Stelvio's report:
As if the roads hadn’t dished out enough punishment for the rally over the last week. Today, the weather had its turn to pile on the agony and, over the course of the afternoon we saw a dusting of snow, driving rain, high winds and a temperature well below 10 degrees. Not quite what we’ve become used to over the last week but, as more than one crew commented, at least there wasn’t so much dust.
The morning at least was fairly run of the mill though, a 200-kilometre jaunt down billiard table smooth tarmac road alongside the massive Khyargas Lake and then through the industrial town of Uulangom where it seemed that all police leave had been cancelled – just for us traffic. Every single junction was closed with a baton twirling officer in attendance and red lights meant nothing to the 2019 P2P.
Shortly afterwards we pulled off the blacktop and headed for the hills, swimming against a tide of slow moving sheep and their mounted shepherds as they made for new pastures where the grass was undoubtedly greener.
The further we journeyed into the mountains though, the more the weather became an issue. As well as the wind there were now rain clouds swirling around us, with thunder and flashes of lightning accompanying them. The early crews were feeling the chill the most with some of them even reporting the odd bit of snow settling on the windshield.
There was no turning back though, there were no alternative routes so John Spiller, the Clerk of the Course, decided that the best option was to push on – with all due care.
To complicate matters though we were also due to tackle one of the steepest climbs ever to be included in the Mongolian section of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, which meant that many of the Organisation’s 4×4’s were required at times, to pull those who were struggling – up the wet, rocky, muddy slope.
Photo Gerard Brown
Everyone made it to the top eventually but at times the air was thick with cursing and the heady scent of fried clutch. The locals, on their Chinese motorcycles, naturally made light work of it which merely added insult to injury.
Power to weight and grip were the essential ingredients here and one or two navigators were jettisoned to redress any imbalance. Julian Riley for example, was thrown out of his seat and made to walk the steeper sections as Jamie Turner tried and tried again to get the Morris Minor off the hill. Eventually, he had to admit defeat and grudgingly shackled the little red Moggy to a Hilux for the final furlong to the top at a heady 2400m.
Photo Gerard Brown
Whatever the difficulties though, the landscape through which we were travelling, was superb. Bright sun lit the grasslands and picked out the snow on the mountains which themselves were set against impressively dark clouds with the occasional patch of light blue.
Tim Guleri and Raj Judge found themselves in trouble again though and as well as having to be towed up the hill, the Big Bentley got stuck at the top with a broken radiator fan.
Mark Gudaitis and Nico Samaras on the other hand fairly skipped up the hill in their 1968 Porsche 912 and even found time to help a local fix his lumbering old coal lorry before tackling the desert racing style final section into the camp on the shore of Lake Achit.
Tjerk Bury’s Datsun hit a big rock along the road which deformed the floorpan but he and Chris were not too downhearted about this as at least it gives them another footrest.
This is our last night in Mongolia and the crews were closing this chapter of the rally with typical gusto, swapping their stories of the day, which became more epic as the evening went on.
Tomorrow’s job is to get over the Altai mountains and into Russia so there’s an early start on the cards.
Thanks to the fellow Australian Leyland team for this report on Day 9 as they headed to Achit Lake in Mongolia:
And the Postman thinks that he has it tough delivering the mail. Well our intrepid rallyists had to cope with all this and temperatures in the single digits. Particularly difficult as they have been dealing with temperatures in the high 30s to low 40sC. A fairly long day that began with an easy 200-kilometre drive down the tarmac. The rally headed through the town of Uulangom where the local police were controlling every major intersection, allowing a clean uninterrupted run through no matter what colour the traffic lights were. Not long after exiting Uulangom the rally hit the dirt again. Once on the dirt the track headed towards the mountains where the route would include a seriously steep climb. This was of course not a bother for the Leyland P76 [and the Bristol of course] but others had to be towed up to the peak by the organiser's 4WDs, running a strange shuttle service. The weather also played a part in this exercise as the dirt track became very slippery with rain and snow. The track was far from smooth though, making it almost impossible to maintain momentum for the steep climbs. Many of the cars copped some damage on the rough roads, like the Bury Datsun 240Z which ended up with a big dent in the floor, suitable as an extra footrest. Three Timed Control Sections were on today's agenda. Everyone lost time on this day and some paid a higher penalty than others. Gerry and Matt however lost only 30 seconds whereas the second placed Bury Datsun 240Z lost 40. The third placed Dandlard's Porsche however only lost 10. The 4th placed Rolner Porsche lost 20 and the Engelen/Gillis 240Z lost over a minute. So the top five positions haven't changed, although the top four are getting closer together and there is another day to go in Mongolia, although it does include the second border crossing, this time into Russia. Gerry, Matt and the big Leyland lead the event by 1 minute 14 seconds.
Results for Day 9, Monday, 10 June - 10th Position Overall - 2nd in Class - Ales Ales Silvia - in the Top 10!
Day 10, Tuesday, 11 June - Achit Lake Campsite, Mongolia to Kochevnik Campsite, Russia - 343.14 kilometres
Today Paul and Bas will say farewell to Mongolia as they travel a shade over 340 kilometres and spend their last morning in Mongolia, before crossing the Mongolian-Russian state border at the Tashanta checkpoint in the Kosh-Agach district of the Altai Republic. There are two short timed control sections to tackle today, the first will be through the Khovd Valley whilst competitors travel southwest towards Ulgii. The second will take place over the border, off the main road, much closer to camp at Kochevnik, and their 6th campsite.
Syd Stelvio's report
This morning we began our long goodbye to Mongolia and, upon the shore of Lake Achit, billions upon billions of sand flies arrived to bid us farewell.
We awoke to find that tents and cars alike were clothed in what Kerry Finn thought were lacewings. Whatever they were though they were annoying but, at least they didn’t bite. That bloodsucking variety is waiting for us in Siberia.
Maybe it was a sense of premature nostalgia, but it seemed that some of the best landscapes we’ve seen so far filled the windshields on the way to the border and over the impressive Altai mountains.
The border crossing itself was typically tedious but, thanks to the diligence of the Rally Office and our fixers on the ground, most crews were through, and into Russia within four hours.
As ever though some of the rally didn’t make the border crossing without a little assistance but after being towed and trucked across the line, they were delivered safely into the hands of our old friends Arkadai and Sergei for repairs and some TLC.
Nick Grewal and Dirk Burrowes’ Packard 110 Deluxe and car Bernhard Rieder and Petra Rieder’s Porsche 911 were both headed straight to Novosibirsk for a clutch and ignition problems respectively.
From the border, there was then an easy 166-kilometre run into the camp at Kochevnik where a handpicked team of Nomads chefs had been smuggled in to cook us dinner on the banks of a river.
After their own epic and eventful crossing of Mongolia, Mitch Gross and Christopher Rolph almost didn’t make dinner – again – and they were last seen chuffing happily westward. They made camp just before lights out and we look forward to catching up with them soon.
It’s looking likely though that they’ve already broken the record for the longest journey in a steam car however.
Finally, we’ve got to say a big “thank you and goodbye” to Nomads and “hello it’s great to be back” to Kyrgyz Concept. We know we’re in safe hands once again.
Tomorrow’s schedule is a busy one and the long haul through The Motherland begins in earnest.
Results just in for Day 10:
Paul and Bas are now in 9th Position Overall and 2nd in Class!!!
Tuesday night's camp and chalets in Kochevnik, Altai Republic, Russia:
Paul and Bas with friends and fellow rally participants Randy, from the US, and Alex, from Norway, who has been on two other rallies with Paul and Bas. They are in Alex's 1933 Alvis FireFLY - no roof - Car 26 in Vintage Class and they're FLYING:
Bas has found a comfortable seat in an upmarket gerd (yurt) with fellow rally participants
DAY 11, WEDNESDAY 12 JUNE - Kochevnik Campsite to Aya, Russia - kilometres
Today, Paul and Bas depart Kochevnik camp early for the 557-kilometre drive back to "civilization" again in the Russian spa town of Aya.
Photo Gerard Brown
Photo Gerard Brown
Through the eleven days of this gruelling 36-day adventure, despite the wind, rain, sun and even snow on the mountain tops yesterday, Silvia is running well, Team Bristol is still placed in the top 10 in the Classics - 9th Position Overall and 2nd in Class - and Paul and Bas are having a ball! Here is the latest news from Bas from Alta, Russia:
"No phone plan in Mongolia. Russia good. Car is running well. Slight hole in radiator, constantly being vibrated but put in rad sealer today - okay. One slightly fouled plug #5. I think the same happened in last P to P.
Oil consumption slightly higher than I like -1 litre per 500 km, but flat out !! Will change it in Novosibirsk.
Slightly damaged rear bumper. Tried to pull a vintage car out of a ditch!! The bumper started to come off!!
It's a completely different system of time trials which ultimately means you drive for up to six hours flat out a day completely insane.
Cars are dropping off like flies. We have ten at least with serious problems. One written off - rolled badly.
One in a river - water over the bonnet [Photos below - Car 76, the Alfa Romeo Spider 2000]. Bentley with fan through the radiator. The list goes on."
"Overall it's a very tough rally. The amazing Gerry Crown [Aussie in the Leyland P76] who has done several Peking to Paris (and won two) says it's the toughest rally he's done. The days are very long. The roads rugged. There's sleet and snow. Sometimes they drive up tracks sheep wouldn't consider. Sebastian is helping other cars before the rally starts, and after they arrive at base camp, as our dear Bas always does. Luckily Silvia has not been mechanically needy. They are all apparently very dirty - one woman said she had washed her hands five times, but gave up, as the dirt kept coming out ... ."
They are very happy!!!
As reported in the local Altai News: https://www.kp.kz/daily/26985/4049099/
Today, many residents of the Altai Territory were eagerly waiting for the participants in the rally to be on their territory.
Tonight the cars and their crews will arrive at the Hotel in Aya in the Altai District.
Photo Barnaul Oleg Ukladov
Cars arriving in Aya
On the eve of 11 June, rally participants crossed the border of Russia and entered the territory of the Republic of Altai, where they were met by KP photojournalist Barnaul Oleg Ukladov.
Also among the first in their country, the brave owners of vintage cars were met by residents of the Kosh-Agach district of the Altai Republic.
Photo Barnaul Oleg Ukladov
In turn, rally participants greeted the people gathered on the side of the road with sound signals and the waving of hands.
Photo Barnaul Oleg Ukladov
Among the rally crews of enthusiasts from around the world, among them is one crew from Kemerovo, and the technical support team includes specialists from the Altai Territory.
Photo Barnaul Oleg Ukladov
Thanks to the rally, residents of different countries have a chance to see these museum exhibits on wheels, including rarities from 1907.
Photo Barnaul Oleg Ukladov
Photo Gerard Brown
Photo Gerard Brown
Syd Stelvio's report:
Our first full day in Russia was a truly stunning one. The Altai Republic is a genuine hidden gem. Because of its remoteness, there’s a real frontier feel to the region and the lack of development – read; housing, roads and infrastructure – only adds to the special feeling you get as you drive through the mountains, down into the rolling valleys and along crystal clear rivers.
Photo Barnaul Oleg Ukladov
The villages seem not to have changed for a century or more and it would be easy to imagine that you were driving through the set of a Tolstoy novel; weathered log cabins, animal pens and gilded onion domed churches gave way to small stands of silver birch trees – the first of many that we’ll be seeing over the next week.
Photo Barnaul Oleg Ukladov
Although the roads seemed to roll between ridges, summits and valleys it was literally downhill all day though as we dropped from the campsite at 2200m to the Aya hotel which sits at a hot and humid 220m and over the course of the day we enjoyed superb tarmac, well-graded gravel and what the Himalayan Challenge crews would be able to describe as an intermittent metalled surface, which is best described as a series of potholes joined together with either tarmac, gravel or a mixture of both.
Photo Barnaul Oleg Ukladov
Despite the seeming lack of people in the area, there were plenty of enthusiastic rally fans lining the road as we passed by and when they weren’t watching the clock, the crews were kept busy handing out stickers, postcards and, in some cases packs of coloured pencils to the children. There was even the odd invitation to step inside one of the cottages, to enjoy a cup of tea and a sweet biscuit or two.
The timing was a little more relaxed today so no-one was under too much pressure which meant that when Andreas Pohl and Robert Peil’s Mercedes punctured, they were able to get it sorted by themselves and do a bit of glad handing as well.
Photo Gerard Brown
There was even time allowed for a bit of sightseeing and 30 minutes had been built into the schedule for a quick visit to the Denisova Cave complex.
Sadly, Scott and Chance Perekslis have a bit more of a task on their hands tonight though. Their Chrysler’s rear axle and diff broke within 30 km of the hotel and all that Jack Amies and Russ Smith could do was to call a flat bed truck for them. The Russian support crew, who are now with us, are masters of the impossible repair though so we don’t think that this will be the last we’ll see of them.
Tomorrow we push on through Mother Russia but tonight we get to enjoy clean sheets, flushing toilets and showers. We did take a moment to remember the plight of Andy Inskip and Nikolai Ishkov however, the selfless sweeps who stayed behind in Olgii yesterday afternoon with several cars which failed to make the border before closing time. As today’s a holiday when the border is actually closed we don’t expect to see them until Novosibirsk.
Today was run at a bit slower pace despite the long distance to cover with a mixture of good paved tarmac, mostly well graded dirt roads and what can only be described as a series of potholes joined together with what used to be a road. There were no special stages and all the top cars made it in with time to spare. Some even had a little time for sight seeing. News has come through though from yesterday the Matteo and Roberto Crippa Alfa Spider took swimming lessons. They had stopped earlier to repair their cracked sump and decided to do a cut and run across country to try and catch up with the rally. No amount of rubber duckies will help out here. Meanwhile the rally rolls on to Aya and proper showers, real beds and some of the comforts of home. Just to recap Gerry and Matt lead in the P76 by 54 seconds to the Bury 240Z. Tomorrow the rally runs to Novokuznetsk.
Results Day 11, 12 June - Aya - 9th Overall and 3rd in Class
DAY 12, THURSDAY, 13 JUNE - Aya to Novokuznetsk, Russia - 557 kilometres
Sending people to Siberia used to be a form of punishment, started under the Tzars and pursued on an industrial scale by Stalin. Siberia in the winter must be ‘interesting’ but Siberia in the summer is jaw breakingly beautiful. It’s rather like the best of Switzerland except there is just so much of it.
We’ve been driving through this for most of three days now and it hasn’t stopped.
Eastern Russia is seriously sophisticated. Older people still live in the old ways but the young look just like people in the West, though a bit poorer. Most kids have at least a smattering of English.
Syd Stelvio's report:
Well rested and clean, today the crews realised that they had turned a page and were by now well into a new chapter of their own Peking to Paris story. Having rinsed off the dust they realised that they’d finally got to the end of the Mongolian melodrama. Perhaps now they were looking forward to a slow burning Russian thriller before a fairytale ending in Europe.
Whatever though, this morning there was the traditional re-start arch set up on the driveway of the Aya hotel, through which the cars passed. And, one by one they were cheered on their way by the hotel’s more usual clientele of genteel Russian holiday makers.
Once out of the starting gate we quickly found themselves thumping through a landscape much like the Ardennes, and the Belgian crews amongst us must have felt right at home with the punchy climbs and the wooded corners. And, after last nights rain, there was also a little mist hanging in the trees – which soon burned off as the heat of the day built up.
From here we were straight into the backroads and forests where the famous insect life of the region began to show its hand and assert itself. Sadly, although the route offered up some beautiful driving, the day turned into a bad day for the blizzard of butterflies (collective noun kaleidoscope) which blew over the whole route. For our fluttering friends it was a sort of Armageddon but one we could do little to avoid. And by the days end, every windshield was smeared with their residue whilst every radiator grill was clogged with their wings. It got so bad for some cars that Corgi La Grouw reckoned they almost caused his Morris Oxford to overheat. It was going to be a messy night in the carpark cleaning them off and Alan and Steve Maden’s Rolls Royce Silver Shadow even needed an air compressor to get them all out of the cooling fins.
Some had it worse than others though and, sat up front in his so-called suicide seat, Herman Gelan looked like he’d been hit with a confetti bomb.
There were some more serious issues though such as that encountered by Andreas Pohl and Robert Peil who lost the transmission on their Mercedes and are heading straight to Novosibirsk for assessment and repairs. They’ll be in good company there with the likes of Lars Rolner, Alan Beardshaw and Rene Brinkerhoff who all suffered one way or the other in Mongolia.
After a long day on the road, our welcome in Novokuznetsk was extraordinary. One of the towns squares, opposite the Retropark auto museum had been cordoned off for us and there were crowds, music and an enthusiastic MC who introduced every car to the audience as it rolled under the arch. The local boys, Alexander Govor and Maxim Otmakhov with their Russian built Vaz 2103 naturally got the biggest cheer.
It’s a hot night in Novokuznetsk and there’s a party atmosphere developing as we approach the rest day but there’s still another day to go before we bed down in Novosibirsk.
See Silvia at 2.35 mins
Results Day 12, 13 June - Novokuznetsk - 9th Overall and 2nd in Class
DAY 13, FRIDAY, 14 JUNE - Novokuznetsk to Novosibirsk, Russia - 530 kilometres
After thirteen hard days travelling across difficult terrain in the Gobi desert negotiating some of the world’s most isolated roads in Mongolia, and through wind, rain, sun and snow, and seven long days on the road since the only rest day in Ulanbaatar, Paul and Bas continue their 530-km journey today across the vast Western Siberian countryside from Novokuznetsk to Novosibirsk, Russia’s third most populous city which they visited on the last Peking to Paris. It is here that they will have a much needed rest day (or as the rally organisers describe it “repair day”) tomorrow, Day 14, Saturday, 15 June.
Various modes of transport were used to ferry the cars to Novosibirsk for repairs:
Today’s route takes them on a mixture of gravel and tarmac roads, with a 50-km competitive time control section.
Here is the latest report received today from Bas:
“It’s was a quiet day yesterday. The countryside has turned to lush farmland. We are travelling a more southern route than last time, ie not the Trans Siberian highway. Kazakhstan is an unknown quantity - we suspect rough roads again.
The border crossing was a nightmare, with cars being left behind, then a public holiday!! The rumour is 30 cars are out! Many are in Novosibirsk, already being worked on. Parts are being flown in with passengers, as shipping is impossible.
Silvia is still okay. Going well compared to many cars. Will change oil and grease tomorrow. Our fellow competitors will all be busy on their day off!!
We are now 9th overall in the Classics and 2nd in Class. We are being pursued by two professional rally drivers so may lose our lead at some point.
We were welcomed into the city of Novokuznetsk yesterday with great enthusiasm.."
Paul says they are being hotly pursued by a beastly Morris Minor in 3rd place. This amazing 1959 tiny trinket box has a small 1275cc engine, and a somewhat talented driver of whom the boys are rather in awe.
We can report that Rudolph the Red Nosed Alfa who had a minor off course excursion into a river in Mongolia, and ended up looking more like a boat than a car, is now on its way to Novosibirsk. Its crew waited 9 hours in the desert for the rescue team and were towed from 10pm for 80km at night, reaching Camp 6 at 2.30am. From there Rudolph was loaded onto a truck by the fabulous Nomadsexpedition team and taken to a local village mechanic in Ôlgij, Mongolia. They worked together on the car from 2pm to 1.30am to bring Rudolph back to life after her bath of over three hours!!! Sadly the car still had problems with one carburetor and is now traveling on a truck to Novosibirsk and tomorrow they will attempt to bring the car back to life again so that they can rejoin the rally.
Thanks to Team Xenia for sharing their video of the cars taken in the car park in Novokuznetsk :
Peking to Paris, or should we call it the "Peking to Dust" Update
The trip to Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia and, after St Petersburg and Moscow, Russia’s third city, reduced the population of butterflies.
Workshops all over the city of Novosibirsk were kept busy throughout Friday night, and Saturday during the rally's rest day, as garages across the Siberian capital were repairing and rejuvenating many of the rally cars, including the red-nosed Alfa, in order to get them back on the road for the next stage of the rally towards St Petersburg.
Crews were greeted like conquering heroes when they arrived, all reporting that they were minor celebrities in the car park of the Novosibirsk Marriot.
Russians are touchingly car mad. Everyone waves and when the cars stop, people ask for autographs. The rally is clearly something a bit special for them.
Throngs of people milled around the cars, asking questions and posing for pictures. One newlywed couple asked permission to have their photographer take pictures of them in the Ford. The couple definitely have a story to tell for years to come, and with Chris’ and Jeff's names displayed prominently on each side of the car, they are immortalized in this Russian couple’s celebration.
There was a group selling a book with photos of all the rally cars, and kids were moving through the parking area, talking to the drivers, and trying to collect autographs.
Here's a recap of the rest day in Novosibirsk by Syd Stelvio:
Like an oasis to a thirsty desert traveller, the second rest day in Novosibirsk couldn’t have come soon enough for the weary crews of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. There was some drinking to be done (obviously – it’s an oasis) but once thirsts had been slaked, there was a fair bit of fettling as well and, whilst the hotel car park was busy from early in the morning till late into the evening, the main action occurred hidden from view, in a myriad of workshops and garages spread across the city.
Parts had been delivered, technicians had flown in and for some there was a lot riding on this rest day.
Whilst the rest of the rally is running to a strict timetable, Mitch Gross and Christopher Rolph however, aboard their Siberian Samovar, have their own schedule so after a quick lubrication service, they pulled out early this morning and set a course for Kazakhstan. The cockpit of the 1910 White MM Pullman looks to be a hard place to spend one day, never mind 36 days across half the world. This is a heroic drive no doubt about that.
Away from the frantic rebuilds and panic repairs there were some crews who had very little to worry about. David Main and Brian Head’s Buick Coupe is what they themselves describe as an “original oily rag car”; they’re not interested in where they finish in the results, rather “they’ve come for the adventure” and, thanks to their slow but steady approach they can just about “smell the coffee and croissants of Paris”. Today was all about spanner checks and making sure that the next leg is as trouble free as the last one. Barry Nash and Malcolm Lister tell us that their white and black, 1969 Rover P5b hasn’t missed a beat in around 22,000km of rallying. Today they were doing the basics and were changing the shock absorbers simply “because we can”. And they quipped that “if the suspension collapses tomorrow then that will indeed be a shock”. Stephen Partridge and Corgi La Grouw are similarly delighted with the way that their Morris Oxford has performed, it’s “strong, simple and easily maintained and everywhere it goes people seem to love it”. The only thing they’re getting through more quickly than usual are the rubber spring hangers but, if that’s the price for staying on the road then it’s one worth paying. It’s tiring though and Stephen adds that he doesn’t mind getting down to do the maintenance but it’s the getting back up he can’t be bothered with.
John Young was lying under his Peugeot 504 along with Andy Inskip and, whilst taking a break from the spanners he declared that everything underneath was “ticketyboo, which is exactly why we’ve got Skippy here – and both front wheels off”.
Dieter and Hilla Baumhaeckel were looking to fit some suspension bump stops to their 1961 Volvo PV544 but other than that this Swedish icon has been doing very well thank you.
The galleon that is Doug and Mike McWilliams Bentley S1 has been listing to starboard lately. They know that the suspension is down on one side and this morning they set off to find out what the problem is. As of lunchtime though they were still none the wiser.
Julian Riley, a long time ERA competitor is enjoying his first Peking to Paris and is finding the experience a fantastic one. He’s sat beside the very experience Jamie Turner, a gamekeeper turned poacher, who’s also giving his little Morris Minor the ride of its life.
Alan and Tina Beardshaw along with Serge and Jacqueline Berthier left us in Mongolia with suspension and electrical issues respectively. After a few days playing catch up and chasing spares, they’re confident that by tonight both cars will be rally ready and rolling out with the rest of us from 7.00am tomorrow.
Otto Gerhardt and Derek Boycks’ Porsche 912 was getting a full car park service and a mini valet right down to Otto sweeping out the engine bay with a rustic besom he’d brought specially or the job. All four wheels were off the ground and a small pile of oil stained Mongolia sat beneath the sump guard. A testament to what this tough little car has been through.
Gary Boyce, an ebullient Kiwi, had enjoyed a fantastic morning and like so many of us was impressed with the helpful and friendly nature of the locals. The garage he visited ordered him a bottle of 30/50 oil which arrived within two hours and in the meantime he used their hoist to do some underbody checks and had the car washed and waxed as well, leaving the afternoon free for a bit of “me time”.
By the end of the day it was clear that Sergei, Arkadai, Nikolai and the entire Russian support team had worked miracles to get the cars into the right place and to get them out again. The hotel carpark slowly began to fill with cleaner, smoother running cars than when they left only 24 hours ago.
Tomorrow we’ll chase the steam car into Kazakhstan.
and from Aussie boys in the P76:
The Crippas and their Alfa Spider has been seen around town with reports all it needed was to drain all fluids and refill - very lucky crew. Matt in the Leyland P76 arranged to take both the P76 and the Mitsubishi Lancer to Reaktor Garage, a place familiar to Matt as the P76 spent some time in there last time rectifying a few problems. The guys here a super keen fans of the P2P and willing to help with anything. A look under the P76 shows she has taken quite a battering but it's mostly superficial so there wasn't much to do other than service everything. The Lancer has stood up to the punishment pretty well too. We tore the sump guard bolts out of the crossmember when we hit a ditch on the stupid stage so some welding was done – nothing major. Plus a wash – feels like we removed 50kg of dust!! One of the other Aussie crews got a healthy boost today as well. The Henderson, Lui MacLennan Volvo 144 which was sitting in 8th place found, thanks to a very experienced navigator/rally organiser Lui, an inaccuracy in the timing which had added 10 minutes to their time. This has now been corrected and they bounce into 4th place.
You might spot Silvia in this one:
DAY 15, SUNDAY, 16 JUNE - Novosibirsk to Pavlodar - 630 kilometres
Getting out of Novosibirsk was a challenge. There were issues with the supplied tulips and several cars took the wrong route. About 300 kilometres of the route was on mainly poor tar with lots of broken up surface. At about lunchtime - where the whole village turned out to greet us - we hit rain. It was too heavy to even get out of the car. Many participants were hoping that the next 16-kilometre test had been cancelled but there was no such luck. There was mud as far as the eye could see. The starting marshall stated: “No heroics, it’s slippery out there.” He didn’t lie. Several cars did 180 turns within the first kilometre.
Report by Syd Stelvio:
Today was the longest day of the rally so far and there was a border crossing to negotiate as well but, perhaps because it was a Sunday morning, the drive got off to a good start on excellent and empty highways.
Siberia however has something of a fearsome reputation so, even after the warm (and sunny) welcome we’d received in both the Altai Republic and Novosibirsk, we should not have been surprised, to see this so far benign region, bare its teeth and remind us of its more savage side.
The day had dawned dull, damp and drizzly but there was no sign, as we left the sanctuary of the Marriot hotel, of what exactly was to hit us by midday.
All of yesterday’s washing, cleaning and polishing was to be undone in but a few short hours and, by the time we rolled into the night halt most of the cars – and some of the crews – looked worse than when they’d left Mongolia.
Given the way that the rain was falling by lunchtime, the cultural highlight of the day, a visit to a German Village, where they were celebrating the start of summer, turned into the ironic highlight of the rally so far. When we arrived in this neat little town, we found hundreds of revellers sheltering beneath tarpaulin sheets, under gazebos and inside open fronted marquees. It was dark, it was wet, and it was gloomy. There was no sign of any summer to celebrate.
Hovering around the Time Control waiting for the clock to tick over, we could see that Alex Vassbotten’s sheepskin flying jacket was soaked through and probably weighed as much as he did. Bill Cleyndert however couldn’t believe his luck as this was the first time he’s been in a car with a proper roof for many a rally.
From the German Village, the route book then told us that the road turned to gravel. But that was before the weather made the entire section much more entertaining by turning it to mud. And, any rally fans brave enough to face such a deluge were richly rewarded by the sight of almost every car slipping and sliding its way along a 5km track. Such was the viscosity and abundance of the mud, that both drivers and navigators were at times required to reach out and clean the windshield in addition to carrying out their more usual roles.
Thanks to the conditions then, it was a filthy set of rally crews who presented themselves at the Kazakhstan border by mid afternoon but, as usual the Kyrgz Concept crew of helpers, had done the hard work for us and we all breezed through with the absolute minimum of fuss.
As well as the fun and games though in the dirt though, there was naturally some hard work to be done and, early on in the day we saw a soaking wet Brian Scowcroft struggling inside the Chevy’s engine bay, to repair a broken throttle linkage.
Serge and Jacqueline Berthier were supposed to be ‘enjoying’ their first day back on the rally after their Jensen failed in Mongolia. Sadly though they spent some of the day being towed by the ever helpful Arkadai of the Russian Motor Federation, after their alternator failed before arriving at the night halt with a battery borrowed from one of the Organisers Hilux vehicles.
Shortly after the Kazakh border, a soaking wet Graham Goodwin was seen sat by the side of the road desperately looking for a reason as to why he’d lost the oil pressure in his Bentley. As the leader of the rally, Graham‘s blood pressure must surely have been rising as quickly as the gauge was falling away but, thanks to his knowledge of the car and the attention of the sweeps, a blocked oil filter was diagnosed and the problem was quickly sorted.
After such an epic day most of the crews would have been happy with a bowl of soup and an early night, but the buffet spread which the Hotel Irtysh had laid on for us was superb and coupled with the ample bar, gave most of the rally a pretty good excuse for staying up a bit later than usual.
Results Day 15, Sunday, 16 June - Pavlodar, Kazakhstan - 9th Overall and 2nd in Class in the Classics - Staying up there in the Top 10 - Well done Paul and Bas!
Day 16, Monday 17 June - Pavlodar to Nur Sultan
"Just heard (9pm Kazakhstan; 1am Sydney) from Paul, Silvia’s story of woe.
About four hours ago, en route to Nur-Sultan, Silvia blew a head gasket and a valve burnt out. They put this problem down to poor quality fuel. They limped to Nur-Sultan on 5 cylinders.
The boys took the whole engine apart. They had a spare head gasket, and a spare everything else except a valve. So, they’ve ordered a valve, and it’s being delivered soon ... somewhere, sometime. Not too disastrous.
Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan is amazing, wonderful, weird, off the radar, over the top. It has buildings that look like the Arc de Triomphe, Empire State, a building that looks like a 400-ft high diameter ball.
Wishing Silvia a painless surgical transplant. She expects to lose a few places on the score board .... however, it’s nice when bad things happen but it really doesn’t matter" - meant to convey that breaking down is a bad thing, but no-one is injured apart from a bit of pride, and first or last place is simply irrelevant.
Syd Stelvio's report:
Today, our first full day in Kazakhstan, we enjoyed another mile munching marathon as we made the long cross country drive to the capital city, Nur Sultan.
After the deluge of yesterday, we were all pleased to see that as far as the weather was concerned normal service had been resumed with full sun and a blue sky for pretty much all of the day but even over breakfast, the problems which the muddy conditions had caused were still in evidence.
Alan and Steve Maden’s Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, for example, had seen its exhaust ripped off at the manifold and the big old beast had limped in on only three of its eight cylinders. Consequently, the bleary-eyed crew had managed only three hours sleep after a lengthy session in a workshop and were looking forward to taking things a bit easier today.
Over the course of the 565km route, we got to enjoy the best of new roads alongside the worst of old potholes and there were also three excellent off-road sections through typically low, flat and grassy hills. And, at every section, there were excited rally fans, policemen and local media in attendance.
Some had even brought their classic vehicles along to add a bit of extra interest to proceedings.
Although a long day, it wasn’t too taxing for the cars and most crews made it in without incident but in the carpark, Keith Weed and Richard Holmes were burning the midnight oil and cramming in mouthfuls of food whenever they could this evening. They were busy repairing the half shaft from their Pontiac Coupe which had shed a wheel on one of the freeway sections.
Similarly, Paul Hickman and Bas Gross were also busy fitting a head gasket to their Bristol which had blown only an hour outside of the night halt and as Paul remarked: “it’s not a big job but it’s an hour less in the bar”.
John Crighton was toying with the idea of looking at the starter motor in his MG which has an intermittent fault but, as he’s parked on a slope this evening, he could well leave it another day.
Kazakhstan is a beautiful country and they’ve made us very welcome. We’re looking forward to seeing more of it tomorrow.
A lot of yesterday was spent on great Kazakhstan highways. The country is pretty rich in oil and minerals and is spending it on infrastructure and futuristic buildings in the capital where rally participants are staying. Last year, the capital was called Astana but the bloke in charge thought it would be better named after him. So it was.
Svetlana Kazina, a Russian photographer from the Altai Region, Siberia, has kindly shared the spectacular photographs she took of cars as they drove through the Altai Mountains. To view all 270 of them go to: https://www.facebook.com/kazina.sveta/photos
Here are some Svetlana took of Silvia:
Svetlana had this to say about the photographs: "I hope the guys will remember Alai Mountain for a long time because where else will you find such mountains. Because where else can you capture yourself and your car on such a fantastic and beautiful background? Against the background of colored mountains, a huge blue sky, summer greenery and mountain rivers? Or, as one of my subscribers wrote, 'where else will you find such 'backs for pictures'"?
On behalf of Team Bristol, THANK YOU SVETLANA!
The rally organisers HERO have released another video, part 2 of day four's journey as the crews battle their way through the Gobi desert and may way towards the capital city of Mongolia, UlaanBaatar in which you will see Silvia flying by:
DAY 17, TUESDAY, 18 JUNE - Astana to Baldashino Campsite - 460 kilometres
Today, Day 17, Paul and Bas left Astana (Nur-Sultan) and headed back out into the vast Kazakh Steppe, where the wild horses roam.
Photo Gerard Brown
They continued their steady progress across this, the world’s largest land-locked country. Today’s schedule shows that they had 460 kilometres to cover before arriving in the cross-country ski resort of Balkashino. Along the way, the route was to take them on a short gravel time control section in the morning, but this was cancelled, while the afternoon included a visit to the picturesque Borovoe (the Kazakh word is ‘Burabay’) National Nature Park, known as the Switzerland of Kazakhstan, a lake area 250 kilometres north of Astana, near to Russia.
Finally arriving in Balkashino, they had to dig out their tents for the last night of camping ‘under the stars’.
Part of the colorful welcoming committee in Balkashino - photo Gerard Brown
Reports are in that they are currently at the idyllic campsite; however, it is not so quiet as half the town has come out to see all the cars. Bas and Paul sound very jolly.
Photo of Paul with a group of lovely kids in traditional gear – does anyone recognise the vest?
Paul's wife Dorothy writes: “Well, for those of you, like me, with little understanding of car mechanics, you’ll be relieved to know you can drive a car even if there’s a hole in the valve, ie (apparently) they are using 5 cylinders instead of 6. The new valve is due to turn up tomorrow at the next hotel in Kostanay [we think from InRacing in the UK], but as Bas says, ‘it’s in the hands of the Gods as to what will actually happen’, so those of you with influence, please do your beseeching.”
Syd Stelvio's report:
Sometimes the most unprepossessing of days turns out to be the most memorable and today proved to be one such day.
The Marriott breakfast was great, the roads out of town were unbelievable and the traffic on them was light. But, a storm overnight – on top of all the rain we’ve already had – meant that the first Time Control section on a stretch of scenic unmade rural roads, had to be cancelled. It was a mud bath and even two of the Organisation's Hilux trucks found it tough going, so what hope for the Ferrari?
As a result, we were forced to spend another 100km on the sensationally smooth and fast flowing freeway, over which the miles fairly flew by. To add to the hardships we were enduring, there was also a decent selection of cafes and fuel stops along the way.
This excellent road delivered us to another of the day’s highlights, a loop through the National Park and along the lake at Burabay.
Tonight was our last night of camping on the event and, after enjoying the drive along the lakeshore we set a course towards the small town of Balkashino where the dining shelters, showers and a well-stocked bar had been set up for us with only short water crossing required to get there.
The large greenfield site quickly filled with rally crews and hundreds of enthusiastic locals on horseback, on motorcycles or all manner of Lada’s, UAZ’s, a Moskvitch and even the odd Toyota. The party atmosphere was fuelled by folk dancing, singing and a fair amount of vodka which had somehow made its way up the hill.
Even another torrential downpour didn’t dampen the mood and in the steamy dining shelters the rally filled itself with beef, lamb and chicken. The Krgyz chefs were certainly giving the Mongolians a run for their money in the outside catering league.
Obviously, there were some minor problems along the road today, but thankfully, Hans Ulrich Wartenweiler’s problems finished just before breakfast when he emerged victorious after two days in the workshop having finally solved his Volvo’s cooling issues.
Today is Rainer Wolf’s birthday and what a better way to spend it than competing in his second Peking to Paris. Many happy returns from Kazakhstan.
Finally, we’d like to welcome Rob Kitchen who’s just flown in to join the sweep team as a replacement for Dave Alcock who will be re-joining us in Belgium.
The Russians and Kazakhs are car mad so here are some links to a few videos and photographs of 'za machina'.
Spot Silvia in this one on Monday afternoon in Astana:
Some good footage of the cars at a cross road in Kazakhstan:
Some good photos of the cars:
Cars and spectators in Novokuznetsk
Car park Astana:
Cars and spectators in Novokuznetsk
Results for Day 17, Tuesday, 18 June
Paul and Bas are still running well, 2nd in class, 9th overall with over 90 cars still classified and 20 days still to go.
Local ladies carding the wool fleece by hand:
Some of the locals in Balkashino brought their vehicles along for the welcoming display:
DAY 18, WEDNESDAY, 19 JUNE - Balkashino (Camp 7) to Kostanay, north Kazhakstan - 591 kilometres
We are waiting on an update from Paul and Bas, but hopefully the replacement valve arrived in Kostanay yesterday as we know they were busy working on the car last night. According to their fellow Aussie competitor, Matt in the Leyland P76, they were in the wars late yesterday, but as Matt says, “I am sure Bas will have them up and running in the morning”!
Despite driving with only 5 cylinders yesterday, the results at the end of Day 18 have them still running well, 2nd in class and 9th overall with over 90 cars still classified and 18 days to go.
Here are some photographs of our own engine guru Bas fettling the Bristol yesterday afternoon.
Here's a little winner admiring the cars:
Also a link to a video filmed yesterday – watch Silvia dodging puddles –
See also a video of the welcome in Kostanay yesterday afternoon -
Judging by Spottrace and MAProgress, that is what has happened as Paul and Bas appear to be on the move again today for the 469-kilometre trek back into mother Russia and Bannoe Lake, a favourite vacation spot near a ski resort.
Track Silvia here:
It took a while to arrive because the lines of communication haven’t been great from Kazakhstan, but here’s Syd Stelvio’s report from yesterday's 588-kilometre journey from their camp in Balkashino to Kostanay:
It was a chilly, damp but sunny start to the day and, as we packed up the tents with frozen fingers and tucked into a superb Krgyz breakfast, some of us reflected on the fact that we’re at the halfway point now. And, by lights out tonight, slightly more than half of the distance of the rally will have been covered, as well as half of the amount of days ticked off from the route book.
It’s an odd feeling. There’s relief at getting this far and overcoming some of the “impossible” but there’s also a certain sadness with the realisation that all good things do indeed come to an end.
The day itself was another epic cross-country blast with three Time Control Sections thrown into the mix just to keep the crews on their toes. First up in the route book though was one tight, tarmac lap of a biathlon training center which rose and fell through dense woodland. For the vintage cars in particular, this section required some deft footwork and some serious hauling of the wheel to get around the circuit in the best time.
Then it was back onto the open road and into the care of the Kazakh traffic police, whose diligence and understanding of the Peking to Paris Rally must be commended.
There was once again some serious mileage to cover as Kazakhstan itself is a vast country and one with massive differences in infrastructure, from the modern and cosmopolitan Nur Sultan right through to the traditional wooden villages we saw this morning. One thing’s for sure though. Wherever you are, you’re never far from a fuel station and, for the price of a beer in the Shangri La Hotel in Beijing you can fill your tank here.
In fact, compared to the petrol, buying lunch seems quite expensive but, the cafe at the Chelgashi Time Control did a brisk trade in chicken noodle soup and meat pastries which Alain Lejeune and Christian Chavy declared to be delicious and worth every penny.
Some of us suffered though with mechanical gremlins along the way. Anton Gonnissen and Herman Gelan’s Contal suffered a broken chain early in the afternoon but this was easily repaired.
Alex Vassbotten’s Alvis though finished the day on a trailer after its gearbox started making a strange noise shortly before the lunchtime Time Control. We’re all hoping that he and Randy Marcus can get the silver bullet repaired quickly and will rejoin us somewhere down the road.
Andreas Pohl’s Mercedes had a brake pipe failure but Alan Smith and Rob Kitchen rode to their rescue and refined the hydraulics.
David and Jo Roberts suffered more of a setback today, however. Their Sunbeam slid into a ditch just after lunch and also ended up on a truck. Thanks to Nikolai Ishkov, our Russian speaking sweep, the car was safely collected and tucked up in a workshop by sundown.
David and Jo will probably not start tomorrow, they’ll be busy looking for suspension and steering components.
For the rest of us we’re heading back to Russia.
Watch the latest video released by HERO as competitors had a chance to complete vital maintenance and repairs. It might have been marked down as a rest day, but it was far from that for the participants:
Results for Day 18, Wednesday, 19 June
Paul and Bas are still running well, 2nd in class and 9th overall with over 90 cars still classified and 18 days still to go.
DAY 19, THURSDAY, 20 JUNE - Kostanay, north Kazhakstan to Lake Bannoe - 469 kilometres
It’s another ‘Border Day’ and the route makes a bee line for the Russian border with just a café passage control along the way – here they can enjoy their final sugar-laden Kazakh coffee or perhaps a glass of kumis – fermented mare’s milk. Hopefully, the exit from Kazakhstan will be as smooth as the entry last Sunday. Once back into Russia the rest of the day’s 460-kilometre route follows a now somewhat familiar pattern with tarmac highways interspersed with detours onto rugged gravel tracks for the time control sections. The final checkpoint is located in the ‘Steeltown’ of Magnitogorsk, where they can enjoy the ‘Return to Russia’ celebrations, before making their way to the scenic Bannoe Lake Resort.
Silvia at Bannoe Lake Resort
DAY 20, FRIDAY, 21 JUNE - Lake Bannoe to Ufa, Russia - 356 kilometres
Day 24, Tuesday, 25 JUNE - Nizhny Novgorod to Zavidovo, Russia - 600 kilometres
Yesterday, Mr Lenin pointed the way to Paris as Paul and Bas set off on a beautiful summer morning, ticking off just under 600 kilometres before arriving in Zavidovo, located approximately 120 kilometres north-west of Moscow.
A hunting ground was established in Zavidovo in the 1960s for use by VIPs, including heads of state. Since 1996, it has the status of one of the official residences of the President of Russia.
Bas reports that the worst of the fuel is now behind them. They had an octane booster which they used which probably helped a bit. The #5 still has compression and yesterday it ran well in the cooler weather. They used 2.5 litres of oil per 400 kilometres. The Moggy has a diff problem so Paul and Bas have moved back to 9th position overall - it's tight - seconds are important. Bas says: “Thanks everyone for your emails and support.” They are alive and well, although stressing every day about oil consumption and any new rattling noises. They remain competitive and have their Gold status. Only 14 cars have completed all tests and days. This year’s event has been much harder on both the people and the cars.
The vastness of Russia was apparent yesterday with another big drive on predominantly major tarmac roads, but a lot on back roads, and through villages, with a special test to ensure everyone was awake, and to entertain those competitively minded.
In the morning they had some fun on the long straights and sweeping corners of the tight and technical Nizhny Ring Race Circuit, located approximately 40 kilometres outside of Nizhny Novgorod, which is described as a pretty slick setup with lots of turns.
The scheduled second and third tests at the Nami Vehicle Test Facility were cancelled at the last minute due to "government activity". Rumour has it that they needed the facility at short notice for a secret test.
Silvia getting ready to race on the Nizhny Ring Race Circuit:
The Nizhny Ring race circuit is a world class facility and those who were willing and strong enough were prepared to give it a red hot go. As usual, there were wildly differing levels of driving ability on display.
Fastest around the track were the Gainers in their very quick 240Z. They were markedly quicker than anyone else, finishing 9 seconds in front of the second placed car, the Crown/Bryson Leyland P76, who were one second ahead of the Danglard Porsche. Fourth back was the Bury’s 240Z, who came in 4 seconds behind the Porsche. Rounding off the top 5 was the Schon/Guggiari Ferrari, down by another 3 seconds.
The overall leader board shows the P76 in the lead by 2 minutes 28 seconds from the Bury 240Z, who are 37 seconds in front of the Danglard Porsche. Followed by 2 minutes 41 seconds further back, the Engelen/Gillis 240Z, followed by the Henderson/MacLennan Volvo 41 seconds behind. The Gainers are still 6th in their 240Z and are closing in on the leaders. The gap to 5th is now just under 4 minutes. In 7th position we have the Halter/Engelhardt Mitsubishi Lancer, 8th, the Blunden's Holden EH and then Paul and Bas in the Bristol in 9th position!
Sometimes the paparazzi is hard to take but we’re not complaining!
Today, Wednesday, 26 June, they have the longest drive of the event with 664 kilometres to St Petersburg, mostly on well surfaced motorways and major roads. As I write, they are about two and a half hours into today's journey. There will be a short detour for lunch in Beliky Novgorod, one of Russia's oldest and most important cities, followed by a circuit test at the end to test their mettle at the St Petersburg Autodrom. Then it is on to the Baltic Star Resort for the next two nights, a luxurious hotel located in the Peterhof parkland on the Gulf of Finland coastline, close to the magnificent Konstantin Palace - home of the National Congress Palace, and another well-earned rest day for Paul and Bas.
Read Syd Stelvio's report from yesterday:
The 8.00am start time we saw on the noticeboard sounded civilised enough, but on closer reading we saw that it was actually at a track some 39km from the hotel which meant that we were up and in the thick of things by 7.00am.
Breakfast was very pleasant though, on the sunny terrace overlooking the square in which the cars had been parked overnight watched over by the huge statue of Lenin which stood guard pointing in the very direction we had to take towards the Nizhny Ring.
We used this tarmac circuit in 2016 so there were some amongst us who perhaps had a bit of an advantage over the newcomers who were driving it on sight for the first time.
Rod Wade had a good day today though. In 2016 he lost a rear wheel here and although he finished the test, he did lose his Gold Medal. Today he finished with a full complement of wheels and still has the Gold medal he so covets.
Following the fun and games on the track it was then back onto the highway for the drive up to Zavidovo, north of Moscow. Russia’s a massive country so the day was a long one but as with the last two days, there were plenty of Passage Controls for rest, refreshment and repair.
Wim Van Gierdegom and Arne Van Collie were glad of one of these stops when their Chrysler 70 Roadster broke a piston so along with the sweeps Jack Amies and Russ Smith, the crew set to work to replace the damaged parts. Even after such a long and tricky operation though they still managed to check into the MTC within their minute and the delight on their faces was clear to see.
Unfortunately, because of some Government activity, the two Tests which had been planned at the Nami vehicle test facility had to be cancelled at short notice, so we pressed on to the night halt for a few cool drinks.
Our hotel tonight is the Radisson, a favourite of Russian Presidents past and present and one we also used in 2016. This evening, as before, the bar was busy before dinner and the bar was busy after dinner too, everyone seemed to have a tale to tell.
Silvia racing around the N Ring:
See Silvia in these videos:
Arrival in Nizhny Norogod:
The HERO (ERA) have released a further video - The Road to Undurkhangai.
More updates will be posted shortly.