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.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Rally Day 8

Day 8 was 10 hours of off road driving that was exhausting. Right at the start our carburettor problem returned and we had a gaggle of mechanics and Baz xxx from car xx (the Bristol) racing to get Rhubarb and Custard going for our 8:16 start time - as there's a penalty for lateness.

Conditions on the road were extremely rough and we were diverted off the planned route because even the organiser's Toyota 4x4s were getting stuck. The revised route was still difficult but the car was going well until we lost the bolt holding the clutch pedal to the clutch control, alarming but easily fixed with a quick bush repair.

With only a few Km to go the route got rough and steep and Rhubarb and Custard decided it didn't like this and that the carburettor was going to give up. We got it going but it failed again, and again and again and again. Ten or 12 times on the way into camp and every time in a bog or river or mud bath or at the bottom of a steep incline.

It failed again right at the entrance to the camp - blocking it for everyone else, I went for a tow but somehow Richard got it going and we pitched the tent. Baz from the Bristol asked Richard how it was going and got an earful, poor chap. But he still
wandered over to tune our carburettor, pronouncing the throttle mechanism, "not a good design", (I paraphrase).

However the real problem was dirt in the fuel filters. And now I must turn to our RPS readers (the people who built the car) and say, "Who the hell thought that was a good system for setting up the fuel filters?" What should really be a five minute job was impossible for us with the tools available. But, RPS People, we have our revenge on you because we got help from Gary who works for RPS and is on the rally.

It was Gary who had to lie on the cold wet grass with the cold wet wind blowing through a dark dark midnight cursing over inaccessible bolts. "This set up doesn't seem entirely satisfactory," I ventured, holding the torch for Gary as we both got another face full of the filth that's collected under the car. "No, he said we had better have a look at this when we get back." Coming from Gary that's a very big stick promise. I'd be very afraid RPS people, very afraid indeed.

I guess I should say something about how the rally works - how the winner actually wins.

Each day is a course of between
300 and 600 km taking in dirt tracks, tarmac roads and sometimes race tracks. So far we have only seen the first two.

The day as a whole is timed, with a penalty for being late. So far we we have been late every day except day 7 but the penalties have been waived. I confess I've taken to walking over to the Italians each evening and pointing out the unfairness of something or other and letting them complain to the rally organisers. Eventually the organisers give in and the penalties are lifted.

During each day there are special sections. Later in the rally these will be on the racetracks or closed roads but in Mongolia they are dirt tracks chosen for special evil qualities and marked by a start and stop point. There's a maximum time for these stages and a penalty for exceeding this time. There can also be special rules like going the right way round an obstacle with a penalty for failure and similar nonsense. Basically you don't need to race hard or do anything clever to complete these stages but you do need to drive hard to win them - we don't win obviously. For Day 8 our time was 6:30 for the only special stage (two others were cancelled) and the fastest time was 3:02. It's on these stages that the red mist descends on drivers and they go too fast and break the car.

Essentially, if you don't break down or get lost or misread the instructions you will pass the special stages but you won't win the rally - but for this you get a medal.

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