The Peking to Paris Rally is a recreation of the 1907 challenge issued by Le Matin, "Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?"
The 2016 version will follow a route of 13,695 Km (8,510 miles) and take 35 days. We are travelling in Rhubarb and Custard, a 1936 Buick. We know nothing about cars or rallying.
Monday, 13 June 2016
Day 2 : Of Mice and Men
Tonight we are in Erenhot on the Mongolian border. The Gobi desert beckons.
The American author John Steinbeck wrote a vivid account of the Ford salesman delivering a new car to a Californian farm in the 1930s. All of the family and hands gathered around in amazement to watch a demonstration of the car being started.
It's much the same with our 1930's car here in China. Wherever we stop small crowds materialise around the car and take selfies or ask for a picture with us. Whilst we are distracted elsewhere they climb right in and get a feel for the driving position.
On the road cars pull alongside for several minutes to take pictures, happily staying in the wrong lane and oblivious to any oncoming traffic or the fact that the Buick's brakes, steering and acceleration are not like modern cars.
Today was a long drive out of the mountains north of Beijing and into Inner Mongolia - that's still in China by the way. We had our first sighting of a yurt, our first flock of sheep across the motorway (f***ing hell!) our first camels and our first torrential electrical storm. As a result we've discovered that the car's canvass roof is completely watertight but the boot is not. Fortunately the camping gear and our clothes are in the cabin.
The best laid plans oft go astray and crews are beginning to find out what does and doesn't work in their vehicle preparation. Car 28 arrived at the hotel on a flatbed. The MK II Jag is overheating, one of the Alfas has a hole in the exhaust. Car 31 snapped it's throttle cable and Car 22 has a puncture and steering and fuel problems. Here's a short video of car 22 arriving at a control point. You may recognise the navigator as my business partner Paul Rivlin.