The Mission

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.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Race Day -1

A huge section of the Shangri-La car park has been taken over by the rally. Almost from first light it was a hive of activity with bonnets and boots open, toolkits and jacks in use, engines being revved and the mechanic crew being chased and pestered and demanded and loving every minute of it.

Various rally officials scrutinised the cars for illegal modifications. The crew parked next to us appeared to have an engine management system that might be in breach. They waited around anxiously for a verdict and in the meantime one of the scrutinisers admired Rhubarb and Custard. "A lot of trouble with these Buick engines. It's the twin carburettor system that means two of the cylinders aren't really working at low revs. It's only when you give it some welly on the throttle that all eight cylinders come on and if you don't drive it right then it gives problems." Richard and I are horrified at this casually lobbed verbal grenade but say nothing.

Instead we stripped down our engine and gearbox and rebuilt them just to show that we could. Oh no that was in another life. Rather we do a test pack of the car and I throw out the second tent that Richard has tried to sneak in.

We take the spark plugs out, clean them and put them back and then pinch up the brakes - yeah baby we can do this!

Finally we fire up the engine, "Sounds like two of the cylinders aren't firing" says a passing mechanic. I press the accelerator and the engine purrs dreamily, "It's the way the carburettor is configured," I reply, "it's only really happy with a bit of load on it." The mechanic nods in agreement and wanders on to find someone who actually needs his help.

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