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 9

I would have loved to have shared some video of the really tough sections of today's route but it's just too involving to remember to press the video button and navigate and shout 'Whoooaahh' at the same time However here's something to give you a flavour of the journey.

Driving along the dirt is incredibly hard work, requiring huge reserves of concentration from driver and navigator - and we are going relatively slowly. The surface changes the whole time and the skill is to look ahead for tell tale signs of trouble - a change of texture means lumps, a side track leaving and rejoining the main track probably means a hazard ahead, the crest of a hill means a big dip on the other side, the presence of an official photographer means 'holy sh*t' there's a monumental rut/dip/bog/pile of sand or impossible bend ahead. And when I talk about track that's misleading because there are dozens of tracks and its up to the crew to CBT - Choose Best Track - which is an art in itself. Cars are flicking from track to track throwing up stones and dust that completely obscure the road for anyone behind them. You step out of the car exhausted and you, the car and everything in it is caked in dust.

Finally we saved a fellow competitor today. One of the Datsun 240z's got stuck in the sand and Rhubarb and Custard towed it free. I confess however that a Toyota Hi Lux 4x4 was available to do the job but I saw the camera crew and knew we would get on the video. Complete tarts.

We didn't know what time it was this morning. We are running on Rally Time which is a fantasy clock used by the organisers to time the rally. We are pretty sure we've passed through a time zone but Rally Time hasn't so as we stood by Rhubarb and Custard with the tent still erect we either had 10 minutes or 70 minutes before our start time. Turned out it was only 10 so we started late.

Another off road day but not as tough as yesterday and with one section of great fun, fast driving. Now that Rhubard and Custard's fuel problem is over the car is running beautifully.

By this stage most people have forgotten all about winning and medals and are just trying to reach Paris, broken cars are the norm. A Rolls Royce caught fire yesterday and is headed home, a Bentley and an Alfa disappeared on a flat bed truck and another Bentley is doubtful. The corrugations - regular ridges in the road surface - have ripped through suspensions and calamity corner is full of hammering and welding. By comparison we are in good shape, only an oil leak from the filter is a worry.

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