Thursday, 21 July 2016

2016 Peking to Paris

What's it all about?

The 2016 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge starts from the Great Wall outside Beijing on Sunday, June 12th, and finishes with a drive into Paris on Sunday, 17 July. The route will cross 10 countries, including China, Mongolia and Russia, and cover nearly 14,000km.

(Click for a look at a bigger map).

The organisers have billed it as "The Greatest Motoring Adventure in Historic Rallying" with 120 cars now taking part, including Mark Pickering and his co-driver/navigator Dave Boddy, from Newcastle (Australia).

When Dave gets a chance (which mightn't be too often), he will bring news of how they, their car (1973 Datsun 240z)  and the event are going....

Monday, 29 February 2016

Getting Ready

It’s the end of February.  So, 3 months before we fly out.  Not sure when the car leaves but well before then I hope.

Our car, a 1973 Datsun 240Z,  has an interesting background - it was built for the 1995 London to Mexico rally and in the hands of Ross Dunkerton (5 times Australian Rally Champion) came 2nd.  The car also competed in rallies from Panama to Alaska in 1997, and a Sydney to London in 2000 before being bought by Mark in 2013.
The Z in the 2014 Sydney to London Rally

We went down (to Sydney) last week to pick it up from Stewart Wilkins who has had it since the Alpine rally.    While you might expect the car to already be “rally ready”, there are a few things that had to be done for Peking to Paris (or P2P as I call it now).  

It has been built to strictly comply with CAMS and FIA rules but the P2P regulations specifically ban shock absorbers with external canisters and fibre glass panels. So, they had to go.  The diff cooler is also gone.  It took up a bit of space and given we are desperately short of space – it’s gone.

We have a new GPS as specified by the organisers and a tracker.  I’ll let everyone know the details of that when its setup but basically the car will be trackable on the internet with updates every couple of minutes. I have a new tripmeter, a Monit.  The faithful old Terratrip is no more. Best feature of the Monit is that it is also a fuel gauge.  It’s also GPS enabled, so promises to be accurate.

The biggest change (to Mark's dismay) is probably the reduction in horsepower.  The engine has been changed to run on low octane fuel which is the only fuel available in places like Mongolia and this has sapped more horsepower than was ever expected.

We had a practice pack on Wednesday as we prepared the shipping list and it’s hard not to get a bit excited.  The cause of our space problem (besides it being a small car) is that we have to camp out each night on the way across Mongolia and sleeping bags, tents etc take space!

So this week we will do some on road testing then it’s back to Stewart for a final spanner check then --- the car is ready.Monday, 7 March 2016

Road test

Last Thursday/Friday was to be our big test prior to shipping.  We picked up the car from the workshop and went for a drive with the aim of testing that everything worked as expected and to try camping.  There will be eight days of camping in Mongolia where there just aren't any hotels.

The weather was pretty hot.  We went west from Sydney and after a bit of gravel around Lithgow we found ourselves very dusty, and the engine running hot and having vaporisation problems.

We then headed for Parkes where we found a caravan park!

Mark (ever cautious) took a cabin as well as a camp site.  He hasn’t camped since he was a boy scout and that’s a long while ago. I suspect our patch of green grass in Parkes is a bit more  friendly than the Gobi desert but the organisers tell us that camp spots there will have showers and food.

We ate at the local Services club and as we walked home it started to rain!!  We did stay in the tent all night and the only thing we used from the cabin was the pillows.  We will need to make some provision for that.  We managed to get the tent back in its bag and it wasn’t that much bigger than when we got it out.
We had been here before in Classic Outback trial and in Sydney to London but this time we had time to look at the wild life.

Highlight of the trip back to Stewie’s workshop was the size of the kangaroos in the forest south of Parkes.  

The pictures are of one who hopped along a fence line beside the car and it wasn’t the biggest we saw.  It could have headed off into open spaces but didn’t bother.  It was doing about 40 KPH and easily cleared 3 fences that were in its path while we were watching.

And there were dozens if not hundreds of these very large 'roos.


Car back to Stewart for:
  1. Dust sealing,
  2. Check why its running hot.
  3. Work on a list of trivia mainly about packing and securing stuff.

I reckon we are ready but we still haven’t been given a shipping date.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Visa hassles

Mark and I picked up the car from Stewie’s last Thursday and while we didn’t drive it very far, Mark made the comment “I think we've run out of things we could do to the car!”.  The car, apart from a final pack, is ready to go.  We will go for one more drive before we call it ready.
The major work is now applying for visas for some of the countries we are going to visit.  We haven’t been able to do this until now as we had to wait for ‘invitations’ which the ERA have organised for us.  Now we have invites for China, Mongolia and Russia so the paperwork fun has started. 
The Mongolian one looks the simplest so we’ve left that to last and started with the Chinese one. First visit to the consulate, in Sydney, didn’t go well last week. We went to the wrong office – it didn’t deal with visas.  We were re-directed to one in the city, and our 2nd try involved taking a number and waiting. After about 45 minutes I was called up and a lady took all the paper work. Hopefully Mary will be able to pick them up next Tuesday while Mark and I go for a final test drive.  
If the Chinese visas happen as scheduled, Mary will then high-tail it across to the Russian consulate  at Woollhara and apply for Russian visas. Applying for a Russian visa is done by filling in a form online, submitting it to them, then printing it to send in with your passport.  The online quiz asks a lot of questions not normally asked. Names and contacts for last 2 employers, full itinerary with hotels but best of all, every country you have been to in the last 10 years and for us, that’s a lot.  Besides all the countries we did on London and Cape Town and Sydney to London, both Mark and I have been going lots of places in between times.
This is page 3 of the Russian visa application. There were 45 additional entries on a separate sheet to cover 10 years of travel.

So this week should see the car ready once and for all, visas starting to come in and the carnet submitted.  The Carnet is like a passport for the car.  It’s done via the NRMA in conjunction with the RAA who have reciprocal deals with motoring organisations in the other countries.  At least we don’t have to go to multiple organisations for that one.

Wednesday 20 April

On Monday, Mark delivered the car to the shippers in Botany. 
The staff were a bit indifferent until he fired up the Z, then people came from all

They were already busy loading a large yacht into a container, which blocked access to the compulsory car wash, so the burly Maori fork lift driver said "follow me". 

Mark and the car were then led through a warehouse, in between stacks of pallets barely wide enough to fit through, all the while the exhaust note bouncing off the warehouse walls.

Now the staff were all smiles and cheering .

Thursday 21 April

We have now received confirmation that the car is in the container, sealed by Customs and due to sail on Saturday.

In the meantime, we've had a bit of fun/worry with paperwork.

Thanks to fellow competitors, Rob Garnsworthy and Max Stephenson, who alerted us that we don't need a Carnet (the passport for a car).  Both 2014 Sydney to London and 2012 London to Cape Town events did, and I assumed wrongly that all overseas travel needed one.  Wrong.

Onto visas - The Chinese one was done in the promised time (one week), and Mary picked it up as scheduled in Sydney. 
She then scooted over to the Russian Consulate to lodge our application to enter Russia.  They said they would be dispatched in two weeks, and so, two weeks later, we were waiting for delivery in Queensland, where we were visiting.  
We waited for four more days past the due date, worrying all the time because the tracking number didn't appear on the Aust Post website.  Much worrying.  And then, last Saturday morning, we had to leave Mary's father's place Toowoomba, but without the passports, I was a bit stressed, since we didn't know where
they were.
By Monday, we were wandering around the northern rivers district in NSW heading for home and Newcastle, when a phone call came to say the passports had arrived in Toowoomba - but I had to provide ID and take delivery in person!
So, we turned around and drove a few hundred extra kilometres that day, but it was good to actually have the passports back in my hands.

Next morning, we sent them off again, this time with the application for Mongolian visas.  Fingers crossed that all that goes to plan.  

After that, the only visa we actually need ahead of time is Belarus.  After Belarus, crossing into Poland should be OK, as it appears to be a "visa on arrival" place, and then once we're in Europe, it should be all plain sailing crossing the various borders.

The other important bit of paperwork, the Vehicle Importation Approval has also arrived so we will be allowed to bring the car back home after the rally.  

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The car is on its way!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

We're hoping it's not right up the top of this pile!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Just about all ready to go!

The car has gone, we have all the required visas and vaccinations.  We have a document saying we are allowed to bring the car home.  Now there’s nothing to do really.  There must be something to worry about.  I’m worried there is nothing to worry about.  

Well - A couple of little worries I suppose.

At the Alpine last year, we bought two 195 size tyres as that was all we could get down there. We normally use 205s. Cleaning up after the car has gone, Mark can only fine one 195 tyre.  We think there is a good chance we have sent it off with an odd tyre.  Never mind, we can take a matching tyre with us as luggage on our flight!!

All the countries we travel through on this event drive on the right hand side.  So Mark has installed an arrow (left) at the top of the windscreen in front of the driver to try and enforce which side to go for in an emergency. 

On London to Cape Town we had a very minor head-on with some Belgian boys (now good friends) when on a very narrow road we both should not have been on, they went to the right to get off the road and we went to the left.  The cars just touched gently and no real harm done but we’ll never forget it.

We are still to organise sending some tyres to somewhere in Russia and I can spend endless hours looking at maps of where we are going.

The car isn’t there yet.  It went via Japan and is now on the way to Shanghai. 

Next update, hopefully from Beijing.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

...from the Newcastle Herald and NBN TV

Some weeks ago, our local TV station NBN ran
this item on Mark and Dave's preparation for the rally
(If the video doesn't load, click here for the YouTube version):

and now, the Newcastle Herald has this story:

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Team GT ?

The journey has begun. I’m writing this on the flight to Singapore. We caught a train to Sydney and sadly, got the chat from another traveller for making too much noise in the quiet carriage.  Well – I suppose we are excited. 
Check-in was a bit unusual.  Apparently not everyone travels with a Dunlop tyre.  All OK once they established it was not inflated.

We had allowed an extra hour for safety to get to the airport, which allowed an extra hour in the Singapore Airlines lounge. 
I sampled the champagne, the chardy and the shiraz at the lounge.  Now I’m retesting on the plane and as I’ve always said:  There is nothing quite as good as chocolate, red wine and black coffee at 30,000 feet. Perhaps I should try the port.

On the subject of alcohol, we are looking at forming a team with cars 103 (Rene Declercq/Eric Claeys)a 240z, and 107 (Joost Van Cauwenberghe/Jacques Castelein) a Mercedes 450SLC. We know these guys from the London to Cape Town (2012) and the Sydney to London (2014) rallies.  They are Belgians, liked minded travellers, and very partial to Gin and tonic.  We though we could form Team GT.

Our next report will be from Beijing.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Beijing in the smog

Beijing is big.  But taxis are cheap.
Today we are tourists and have been to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.  We will spend the later part of the day sourcing some octane booster to mix with the low grade fuel in Mongolia.

To get into the Forbidden City you have to show your passpost and buy a ticket.  The good bit was that from our passports, the lady determined we were "seniors" and we got in for half price. 30 Yuan instead of 60 Yuan, That’s a little over $12 in Aussie money.  You then have to queue up for a security scan on the way in.  At the Tiananmen area you don’t need a ticket, but you still have to show a passport and go through the normal airport type scan.

We went relatively early in the morning but we still had to queue for a while.

Yesterday was a relatively clear day, it had rained early in the morning, but today is quite smoggy.  Enough to show in pictures and make tired eyes sting a little.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Hot (S)Pot

Lee's recommendation, via phone text message!
Today we met a local by the name of Lee Cui.  

Lee spent about 5 years in Australia at Macquarie University in Sydney before moving back to China.  He brought us the octane booster that we are keen to have (for the not-so-good fuel we’re expecting in Mongolia).  

Lee also gave us a restaurant recommendation, which we went to for dinner tonight (see at right).

It was something of a circus.  Everything in Chinese, except for a few things we didn’t really want -   intestines, duck tongues etc.

After struggling with the menu for a while and getting nowhere, we rang Lee then passed the phone to the waiter for Lee to tell him what to feed us.  We still needed a lot of help from the waiter.  

You had to cook for yourself by throwing the components in the… let’s call it broth, for a couple of minutes.  There were two lots of broth, one white-ish and the other black-ish but both seemed to be made up of hot stuff.  

Lots of chillies.

But, after that dubious start it all went down pretty well.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Our Chinese Driving Licenses

Yesterday, it was the day for a lecture by the local police – telling us (through an interpreter) how to drive in Beijing, the risks and what to do (and what not).

Today, we were given our Chinese licenses (valid for just another four days) and taken by bus to collect our cars.  

The cars are now all lined up in the Shangri La hotel car park and they make an impressive sight:

Car No. 1, the 1915 - American La France of Steve Trafton(USA) / Katherine Trafton(USA)

Our car, when we arrived at the warehouse, was clean, and everything we had put in it was still there! 

The good news - all the tyres are the same (205X15X60). The fear that we had sent it with an odd tyre was unfounded.  

The bad news - we have to work out what to do with the extra tyre we bought with us.  

Another problem - the traffic.  If you get stopped for just a short period of time, the engine temperature of the Datsun rises rapidly.  As does Mark's stress level.

Tomorrow is scrutineering and documentation, as well as working out what we can fit in and what gets left in Beijing.  Z cars are small!!

Tonight is a cocktail party!!, 12 June 2016

Departure eve

Attempting to compress my backpack for the car
Today was scrutineering, documentation, briefing and a dinner.
Dinner was the best bit.
We have fitted what we can in the car and the rest will get left in the car park tomorrow morning.
I'm suggesting we leave  at 6ish as it’s 60 km out to the start at the Great Wall. We have to be there at 7:30.
Our unwanted tyre may not be left behind.  One of the organiser sweep/minders said to leave it near his 4WD and if he can fit it in he will take it on the journey.
We have formed a team (Team GT) with a Mercedes 450 SLC Car 107 and another 240z Car 103 .  These guys are Belgian, love their Gin and Tonic (thus team GT) and let’s say they share our aspirations for a good time.  This should be a good rally.
Oh - and today was a clear day - we saw blue sky! There is no competition tomorrow, but we will at least be on the way to some action. .  

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Day 1 Sun 12 Jun 2016 Peking to Datong China 388kms

Early getup, 65km drive to the start at a spot on the Great Wall of China, then an easy day to an early finish at Datong.
No competitive section today so we were tourists.
The start location was a park at the base of the Great Wall where they had a band, acrobats and a Dragon dance for entertainment.
The first car was flagged away at 8:00 am. The early start made for less traffic than usual and the freeways and toll roads we used for the first half of the day were really good.

Once off the freeway, things changed.   
There are 1000s of big trucks, mostly moving slowly but occasionally they try to pass each other.  Through one village we were stopped at an intersection for about 15 minutes by a traffic jam of trucks.

Lunch was early and since they were allowing cars to book in and leave early, we kept going and finished early, including a stop to look at a local feature at Hanyuan, a hanging monastery. 
The monastery seemingly hanging precipitously off the side of a cliff
Our highlight for the day was a police escort to our hotel.  We were two blocks away from the hotel when we turned a block to late.  Normally you could take the next turn right and the next turn left and be back on the right road. But we drove by a police station and were descended upon by about 10 police.  Lots of gesturing and waving until we worked out that they wanted us to follow them.  

Tomorrow we travel north to a border town called Erenhot.  Still in China, so no competitive sections.  Tomorrow is 593km.

Monday, 13 June 2016

DAY 2 Mon 13 June Datong to Erenhot (China/Mongolian border) 573kms

Passing other competitors (in a slightly different class to us!) today. - Remember, we are driving on the "wrong side of the road" here - all the way to Paris!
 Another day in China.  We were supposed to do 600km but due to military activity in an area we were going to travel, we ended up doing a lot of highway travelling.

The highways have many toll plaza -  No big deal in the scheme of things but I reckon we must have stopped at up to 10 toll gates today.  The tollways aren’t that heavily used.  The toll stations cater for three or four lanes but only one is ever open.

The highways are really very good.  Two lanes in either direction with everything you would expect in the way of signage, exits etc, except we can’t read most of it.
The countryside has changed from fairly mountainous near Beijing to grassy plains as we near the border.  The soil looks sandy, and sand blows across the road. 

And dinosaurs.  Erenhot is famous for dinosaur remains found there.  

On the way into town is a dinosaur arch, and scattered around are dozens of larger-than-life dinosaur models. 

There has been no shortage of food, but Mark still thinks he is losing weight! See pic of the food he rejected. The label says "Old Vinegar Chicken".

It stays light here until quite late but at 4 pm today it was so overcast it looked like it was almost nightfall.It rained quite heavily for a while as we neared the end of today.

Tonight we have to get some Mongolian currency.  First thing tomorrow is the China/Mongolia border crossing then .. who knows?

Tomorrow night is a camping night (hotels being few and far between in the Mongolian countryside), so I may write a blog in the tent but probably won't be able to post it.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Day 3 Tue 14 Jun : Erenhot to Undurshireet (Mongolia) 400kms

We left China today and crossed the border to Mongolia. The border would probably be quiet without 300 odd P2P competitors and officials all crossing at once.

At the China departure point, drivers are separated from navigators.  Navigators get to walk through and wait, while the drivers get the cars and drive through.  Well – it takes about 3 hours and the rally organizers waive all time penalties at a restart before the first test. 

First time for me navigating to GPS ‘way points' and it is different to special stage rallying.  

The good bit is that in the Gobi desert you can drive anywhere you want. If you can’t see a track just drive in the direction of the waypoint.  You can usually go safely go cross country. There are no stumps, no big boulders  (for this bit of Mongolia anyway).  Usually there are multiple tracks but they are mostly going to the same endpoint.  It’s great for passing other cars.

We reached the camp site and thought what a great camping site. Flat smooth – start putting up the tent.  We wondered how dust got into the boot, then “Holy hell”, the left rear strut is about to pop through the top.

Mark and I despaired.  Seemed like a huge problem, but regular P2P competitors told us the ERA mechanics would help and they did.  We emptied everything out of the boot, moved away from the tent as welding sparks might damage the tent, removed the strut etc . 

The ERA mechanics were great (above). They worked out how best to repair it and hammered, welded and added bits to affect a fix.  All good but was 2am by the time we got in the sleeping bag.

I didn’t mention the howling freezing cold wind that seems to come and go out in the desert.  A couple of hours after going to bed, the tent felt like it was going to blow away and I was cold. Note for next camping night. Wear the thermals and rally jacket to bed.

Problems next morning:  Can’t find stuff and there is no petrol at the camp as many expected.
All Mark’s shirts, socks etc have disappeared, as has a fire extinguisher and the hold-down clamp for the spare wheels. Our current thinking is that the clean up guys (a Mongolian tour company chooses the camp site and provides the facilities including clean up people) may have thought it was rubbish and binned it sometime in the late evening or early morning.  We are trying to contact them.  The clothes could also have just blown away but not the extinguisher or the hold-down clamp.

The organizers arranged fuel for those desperate to get fuel at a village 13km down the road but they only had limited quantities of 80 octane fuel.  More about that later.

Our times on the “tests” (stages) were OK.
Results after Day 3:

More photos from Erenhot to Undurshireet:
Erenhot hotel carpark

Starting Day 3

One the road - sort of

On the road in Mongolia:

Undurshireet campground:
Setting up camp

Undurshireet campground amenities

Rally communications outpost
Spares carried by our Belgian teammates

Undurshireet campground

(above and below) Locals checking us out

Our accommodation for the night (and for several more after the rest day in Ulaan Baatar)

For anyone interested in seeing the rally cars positions via the tracking device on each car, click here

or, to check on the complete field, go to:

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Day 4 Wed 15 Jun 2016 Undurshireet to Ulaan Baatar (Mongolia) 360km

Short cold sleep last night in the tent.  Howling cold wind in an otherwise very pretty camp site.  We didn’t get to enjoy it much as we worked on  the car until 2am. (see day 3 blog).

We stopped at the village of Endershill to get a splash of fuel. It was 80 octane and we were urged not to take any more than we need so as not to exhaust village supplies.  Anyway, I calculated another 25 litres to bring us up to a bit over 50 would be enough for 193 Km.  Not quite. 

There were three 'tests' (competitive stages) today.  All much the same.  Multiple tracks running every mostly all going the same way. 

Occasionally you find yourself getting too far away from a waypoint and have to cross country or find a track going in the direction you want. 

Once we back tracked a couple of Ks to a track we saw but didn’t take, as the cross country option looked a bit hazardous.

By the time we started the third test, it was clear to me we weren’t going to have enough fuel to get to the refuel point. We did have enough for the test part, but sure enough 15km out of town we rolled to a stop, where two other cars were parked.  All Americans and Kiwis. No one had any fuel but the Americans who were changing a tyre offered “Oh don’t worry – the Chevy will tow you”.  We got the rope ready. The next car that came along had no petrol but the one after offered us 5 litres.  We were away again. 

But – driving very steadily, Mark clobbered a large rock and from there, steering took a massive amount of muscle effort. Fortunately, it was a straight fast road to Ulaan Baatar. When we checked into control at the Shangri-La (!), I enquired where we could get work done and was pointed to a Merceedes dealership which I thought may not want to know us.

But all good.  For 100,000 of local currency (A$50,) they put it on a hoist, removed sump guard and loosened the rack mounts. After a quick call to Stewart Wilkins back in Sydney, who advised that if the crossmember moves just a little bit, then the steering shaft can bind up. We loosened the clamp joining the rack to the steering column and all was good.
We went into a car wash just after a quick wash to get the mud and dust off , but after about half an hour when they started to detail the car we said no no !!  "It is going to get dirty again!"  
They couldn’t speak English but we communicated by typing a message into mobile phone which they could read. 
Anyway, for about $A10 the car looks brand new.
We are in currently in 2nd place after others had problems.  Mark has decided that he needs to slow down a little if we are to make it to Paris as the danger of very fast tracks that suddenly have huge holes in them is a real danger to the car.

Today's jobs.  Check the car – tie down spare wheels - and for Mark, buy some clothes

Today's results

More pics from Day 4 to Ulaan Baatar:
Sunrise at Undurshireet

Friday, 17 June 2016

Day 6 Fri 17 Jun 2016 Ulaan Baatar to Bulgan Mongolia 343kms

Day 6 results:

(Dave's notes from yesterday and today (sent via a 'GlobalMe' gadget from 350+Km outside the capital)

Yesterday was a rest day in Ulaan Baatar.  We needed it.  Mark went shopping for socks and undies. I rested.  In the evening there were drinks for the Lotus Children's Foundation.  They are the rally charity and the children (orphans/homeless kids from Ulaan Baatar) put on a concert for us.

Today's rally stages started in Genghis Khan Square at 9 am and we had to be there by 8. The field has been re-seeded in reverse order of merit so we started 2nd last at 10:51, having stood around for 3hrs. 

The run out of town was horrific. Traffic jam with gridlock everywhere.  It has seemed a nice city until then. We did just 7 Km in the first hour.

After traffic cleared a bit ,we were able to make up some time but we were 3 minutes late at the end control. We are hoping they may give an allowance but who knows.
The 2nd part of the day was more of Gobi desert tracks.  There were 2 test stages which we took steadily.  I don’t know any results.

There is a little bit of exhaust noise coming from the engine and Mark is checking the exhaust manifold bolts as I write this.

Camping tonight is in another 5-star camp spot.  Tents up, having a beer. Our Belgian friends are buying the bottle of red tonight.

More of the same tomorrow I expect.

The official report on today's doings should be up on the Rally website at some stage:
Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2016

A selection of other pix from yesterday and today:

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Day 7 Sat 18 Jun 2016 Bulgan to Murun (Mongolia) 350kms

It’s called Murun Camp because Murun is the closest town to us.  We have done some 66km of driving since Murun.

There was rain today, but fortunately it's not raining now at the camp site.  Again, another beautiful spot for camping. It's by a river with speccy hills all around. There's no internet or phone reception here, so I'm writing this, but have no idea when it will be posted.

The biggest part of the day was again highway travel.
The last bit was fairly rough with an 18km section being timed to the second as a test.  I think we went OK.  Despite driving more slowly than normal, we were still caught out by a dip with a rock in it that put another dent in the sump guard, and hit the exhaust as well.  Can’t do anything about that now, but we have bled the clutch which Mark thought was feeling a bit funny.

Did I mention the Capri that rolled and has no windscreen?  Thought of him as the rain came down. All the old open cars have the appropriate gear for such an event but the Capri probably hadn’t prepared for that. 

We are in two teams and probably aren’t doing to well in either. Gerry and Matt in the P76 had oil pressure problem and dropped major time.  Peter Lovett is doing OK.  In the other team, Joost and Jaques in the Merceedes have major engine problems and are trying to drive it on the best roads they can find to Novosibirsk. Eric and Renee are doing well.  

Renee bought the bottle of red last night so I’ve got tonight’s. Tonight we are having Grand vin de Boedeaux Reserve. Louise Eschenauer.  Label looks good if nothing else.

It’s starting to rain. Damm it.  At least we have the tent up.

Day 7 results - there appears to be a glitch, with a "ghost car" leading the event! So adjust all outright places, and some class placings, upwards by 1.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Day 8 Sun 19 Jun 2016 Murun to Uliastai (Yaruu) Mongolia app. 400kms 

Our drama for this morning was when we couldn’t get the back hatch to open.  

We struggled for half an hour, tried volumes of WD40, turning the key in all direction, bashing the lock button with varying degrees of aggression.  We then went to the event mechanics who have helped us previously and asked if they could drill out the lock.  For five minutes, they did the same things we did, and it worked for them.  From now on, we don’t lock the hatch.

Today’s route was changed, due to water damage to the roads.  In fact, the camp site  at Yaruu is some 30 or 40km away from the original planned site at Uliastai.  All the planned stages for the day were cancelled and the first 3.75km were designated a test (a competitive).  It was the best bit of road we have done today. I think we were fastest.

At the start we were give two pages of amendments, one of which was to use a different route in the GPS at a particular point.  Along the route we were stopped and an official loaded another route into everyone’s GPS. And – damn it – our GPS died immediately after they had done it.  

So we tried loading it into the backup GPS.  This partially worked.  I think all the waypoints were in but the route wasn’t complete.  When we got to the end of the route in the GPS, there was a 15km gap to the next closest waypoint. We went slowly, waiting for someone to follow.
My other concern, other than not knowing where we were actually trying to get to, was would we run out of fuel?  We didn’t. We had 20 litres left.

Refuel was at the camp from a tanker and it took roughly 10 minutes per car.  Mark waited 1:15 Hrs.  I took the tent and set it up while all this was happening.

Another picture perfect idyllic spot for camping.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Day 9 Mon 20 Jun 2016 Uliastai (Yaruu) to Chjargas Lake, Mongolia 350kms

It was raining when we woke up this morning, so we had to take the tent down in the rain. It’s soaking wet. And it was cold.

The rally today continued on the amended route from the alternate camp site, and after about 30km re-joined the road book.
There were three stages which are the good bits of road.
The rest of Mongolia’s roads really are pretty poor. Either corrugated or pot-holed sandy tracks.

Mark drove conservatively on the timed tests.  Should be fast enough to hold the position, but not to damage to the car.

We have reached tonight’s camp site on the edge of Lake Chjargas, and are at the moment queueing for the petrol tanker which hasn’t arrived yet.  There are 25 cars in front of us in the queue so this means we have passed on the road about 75 cars.

It’s blowing a gale and threatening to rain again.

Update:  The wind has died completely.  I think I'lll go and put up the tent now.

The weather in Mongolia is very changeable.  There is often a strong wind which can come from any direction and is generally very cold.  It rains regularly but clears to fine blue sky just minutes later. It’s now a beautiful day -  just 30mins later and our sodden tent is almost dry.

The fuel truck hasn’t arrived yet and the queue of car is getting longer.  It takes about 10 mins a car to refuel from the tanker, so even at 25 in the queue Mark will not be happy.

As you might expect, mobile communication are few and far between. When we went through a village we got a msg from Stewart (Wilkins) saying that the people shipping tyres wanted a copy of Mark’s passport!  I tried sending a msg to Mary to see if she could send a copy to Stewart. It seemed not to go through but Mark was able to telephone Stewart from there.  The msg from my phone must have eventually got thru as later I saw a response from Mary.  There are no comms at tonight’s campground.

We are looking forward to a hotel in three nights time.

12 noon AEST (21 Jun): a text message comes through:: 
The leading Alpha is on a truck to Novosibirsk.  The 2nd-placed Porsche has had suspension problems.  Not sure when we'll have next phone service...

Plus, theres an official rally report of the day's action at

The official summary does note that the onetime outright leaders, Georgio Schon and Pierre Rosette, were once again forced to wait for mechanical assistance as their bright red Alfa Romeo Giulia Super stopped dead in the middle of Test Three.

Results to Day 9:
For full progress results, go to:
Note that Gerry Crown and Australia's Matt Bryson, in their P76, are making their way up the leader board, after early problems.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Day 10 Tue 21 Jun 2016 Chjargas Lake to Olgiy Mongolia 350 Kms

[[Text from Dave (No internet connection): Day 10 complete.  All OK (8hr15min to do 350 km).
One of 3 sections cancelled. Camp has been moved. We were towed through some deep water. The countryside is a bit like Australia.  Weather very changeable. Rains regularly. Changes from very cold to quite hot.]]

(later, via internet)   The navigator from car 70, a NZ Volvo Mother /Daughter crew who rolled on day 3, had more bad luck yesterday when they got bogged in sand.  

While attempting to get out, the mother, Heather (left), snapped an Achilles tendon.  The medics strapped it up in a moon boot and she was to be flown out tonight to get it operated on. 

I think Jo will probably try and continue on her own

There were three stages scheduled for today, but only two were run, due to all officials being needed at a river crossing where lots of cars had to be towed.

We covered the radiator and attached a tow rope and were about to go when an official 4WD offered a tow. Being the wimps we are, we accepted. If we had stopped in the middle, we would have got very wet.  

It rained heavily on the first section but the best bit is there is no dust.  Passing cars is mostly done by taking a parallel track, but there were a few we had to do it the hard way.  Flashing, beeping and squeezing past if they move over.

Scenery is spectacular again today.  Chjargas Lake where we camped last night is big. Maybe 60km long and 25km wide. There were mountains that reminded me of the Flinders Ranges in SA, except some of them had snow on the peaks. Clouds come and go rapidly, leaving shadows if there is sunshine above, or sometimes just dumping rain.  Five minutes later, it will be different again.  Really, it’s worse than Melbourne.

Tonight’s camp was moved to a different location to the planned one, and is 25km out of town. So no internet again.

Just heard that the 1st stage scheduled for tomorrow in cancelled. Two reasons. One it’s rough and two, the new camp site is a long way from it and they wanted to get first cars to the Russian border as soon as it opens.
This is the 2nd last night of camping.  Camp again tomorrow in Russia, then  I expect never to camp in a tent again.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Day 11 Olgiy (Mongolia) to Altai Republic, Russia (Siberia)

Note: Dave has finally linked up to an internet connection, and has updated his blog covering the last few days...Scroll down for the complete thing

We crossed border into Russia today.  A very lengthy process where the passports get checked probably a dozen or so times. It took about three hours.  

After the Mongolian exit,  it was about 8km to a Russian Millitary check. Then another 17km to the Russian in-point. There, you have to queue for passport control, customs, some other queue where it was taking 15 minutes a car to transpose data from passports and car details to a steam-driven Dell computer.

It was at the Mongolia immigration exit counter that I saw Joost van Cauwenberge's co-driver Jacques Castelein on the other side in deep discussion with an official.  
I’d last seen Joost and Jaques in the evening at Chjargas Lake when they left with their Mercedes on the back of a truck.  Their plan was to get to Novosibirsk Russia as soon as possible to get their car fixed.  They should have been long gone from here.  
Well, it seems Mongolia were happy enough to let them out but Russia wouldn’t let them in as their visa entry date was for the following day.  Then, Mongolia wouldn’t let them back in as they had only single entry visas, which they’d already used up.
 They were stuck in the “no mans land” between Mongolia Out and Russia In.  
They had camped by the road to wait for their entry date.  They were of course first in the line when Russia opened the checkpoint on the approved day but…  they were not allowed in without an exit stamp for Mongolia with the same date as they were entering Russia.  So Jacques was back at the Mongolia out checkpoint asking for their passports to be restamped with the current date. 
 It must have been very frustrating for them.
We're camping just out of a town (don’t have a name for it yet) but the organisers are calling it Altai Republic.
I bought a SIM card on the way through town which was an achievement in itself.  No one speaks English.  The SIM card seems to work well.  Sent off heaps of photos and all the delayed day notes.

I think the rally will change in nature from here on. Previously there was a  GPS waypoint given with every instruction. Looking ahead, there are less waypoints and more instructions. The organisers loaded the route we were to follow in our GPSs prior to today.  From now on, it’s more about following the roadbook instructions.

We actually found a restaurant in Kosh-Agach (that’s the town name on the map) and had some lunch with team mates Eric and Renee.

And tonight is our last camp night.  We probably won’t even bother to take it down in the morning.

I’m over camping.

The two stones are supposed to bring good luck.  Given to us by a local at the border

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Day 12 Altai Republic to Aya, Russia (Siberia) 650 KM

 Helmut Rothenberger & Michael Schmidt’s 5-litre 1928 Bentley Super Sports in the Vintage car class

Farewelled the tent this morning. Good riddance.  We left it sitting in the middle of the camp area complete with a couple of pillows.  Others put theirs in a pile at the top of the hill.  It’s a little easier to pack the car now.

There was one short stage today where we probably lost a few seconds to Rob Grainer who is in 2nd place.
After the stage there was several hundred kilometres of driving along a river valley through some spectacular mountains while the road followed the course of a river.

The country side is very green. Reminded me of Canada, except the tar was pretty bumpy.
We had rain again for short periods.  

Amazingly the locals seem to love us.  When you go through a village there is always dozens of people waving and taking pictures. They were even standing out in the rain.

The rally day ended with four sections on what I call ‘shire roads’. The times were achievable for the quicker cars, so no real effect on the results.  Mark enjoyed himself. 

We are at a hotel tonight.  It’s not that flash, but it's heaps better than a tent.

Did I mention that it got down to freezing the other night?  
There was only one night of camping in Russia and I have to say they didn’t do things as well as the Mongolians.  They provided just one shower for 300 people.  Most people didn’t bother, with the prospect of a hotel the next night.  Food was in short supply and choice of wine non-existent.

Results to the end of Day 12:

Friday, 24 June 2016

Day 13 Fri 24 Jun 2016 Aya to Novosibirsk, Russia (Siberia) 560kms

After our first hotel for a week we were feeling pretty good and up for a big days rallying.
Our hotel in Aya
There were four stages scheduled, and another three trial sections where high average speeds make for fun driving.
This was not to be.  

The start was delayed an hour as Aya is a different time zone to Novosibirsk and the police who were to close roads/direct traffic were expecting to start an hour later.  

The first stage was also cancelled due to being too wet.  Some 30 km out of town we were all stopped and advised that the 2nd and 3rd stages were also cancelled and we should proceed to the next time control but must book in on time.  

At the next time control in the town of Biysk, chaos reigned. 100 plus cars arriving en masse at the town centre and planning to stay there for a couple of hours.  After a short while they decided to move everyone on.  
So out to the only stage for the day.  It was dusty. Really dusty. I was worried we would catch a slow car after a couple of minutes and be stuck behind it for the 14km.

The Mustang of Rob Garnsworthy & John Teasdale, now running second

We offered Rob Garnsworthy the opportunity to go in front of us but guess what – he was happy to stay behind.  After a bit of gap engineering we started behind the Jackson's Mercedes with a 3 minute gap, and the section was a great blast. Mark enjoyed it and we actually got a bit of time back from other competitors.

After that was a long haul in massively heavy traffic to get to the Marriott at Novosibirsk.  Russian roads in this area are a bit like the Princes Highway of the 1980s.  Too many trucks travelling slowly and too many cars intent on passing everything in their way at every opportunity.

Other observations for the day:
·       Lots of police at intersections ready to stop other traffic to let rally cars through. 
"  “Never thought I’d see the day when cops stop traffic for me. Normally they just stop me", said Mark.

·       Pine trees are the natural tree and they are as common as gum trees in Australia.

We passed a concrete plant which Mark described as a 1950’s standard. Also a power station which we thought was abandoned, until we saw smoke coming from the chimney
A local motoring fan, Mexal Lesh,sent us this photo of the 240Z's arrival in Novosibirsk

(left) view from my hotel room; (right) complicated checking in for competitors.

Anyway we are here, and enjoying the luxury  of the Marriott.


Every hotel is obliged to take a copy of your passport.  All pages.  The organisers have taken copies of everyones' passports and save us this delay when we check in to hotels.

·       We were given "Welcome to Novosibirsk packs" as we arrived and they contained T shirts.  Sounded great but seems they have only one size and it's XXL.  Sadly not my size.

Tomorrow is a rest day which mean washing clothes and checking everything on the car.
Teammates Eric/Renee and Joost/Jacques have offered the workshop they have arranged for us to check our car.  We will take up that offer.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Day 14 Sat 25 Jun 2016 Rest Day Novosibirsk (Siberia)

I’m told Novosibirsk is the capital of Siberia. and that the name means ‘New Siberia’. 

The temperature here is 30 degrees summer and winter.  In winter you put a minus in front of the 30.

We found somewhere to wash the car before we had a look at it.  I was hopeful that would be the end of our day but not so.

 On the way into Novosibirsk, Mark thought he could hear bearing noise, and sure enough, the left rear wheel had a problem.  We were worried about play at the top of the front struts where the shaft slides in and out as well, but when we called Stewart Wilkins back in Sydney, he advised that on full droop, the bearing are close together and this is not a problem.
Stewie also gave us the part numbers for bearings.  We had a few problems.  

One, our phones won’t work and two nobody can understand us anyway.  Got the local SIM card to work by putting more credit on it. Topped-up twice through the day.
Mark’s Telstra phone seems to work intermittently.  Never when you want it.  My Optus phone doesn’t work at all. The Russian SIM seems to work OK but gobbles up the roubles.

The workshop was built a bit like a big refrigerator.  I guess it’s insulation for the -30 winter days.

Problem two -  the language barrier.  Another competitor who speaks French and English was able to talk to a local lady who spoke French and Russian. When we wanted to say something, our friend translated to French, then our lady friend translated to Russian. And it also worked in reverse, but it was tedious.

We hired a mechanic, a young guy who only spoke Russian, but was keen to help. He went to a bearing shop but they only had one of the two races we wanted.  The bearing shop wanted us to knock the old races out of the hub and bring them in to see what they had that might do the job.  We were reluctant to knock the old races out as we thought there may be no way to keep going if they couldn’t find equivalents.  Anyway, eventually we did and eventually they found bearings to fit.

We also found our bent rim (which had become a spare) was flat.  This turned out to be punctured by a piece of sharp rock.

Next issue was torn rack boots.  After looking at this for a while and having tightness in the steering, we decided to remove and straighten the rack. 
After undoing engine mounts and raising the engine and dropping the somewhat bent cross member, we found the rack wasn’t bent at all.  The problem seemed to be that the cross member moved back a little, so the steering shaft was too long and was binding up.  After grinding a mm or so off the end and extending the flat spot a couple of mm, it finally all seemed nice again.  
Our local guy sourced some new rack boots quite quickly.
On starting the engine, the fan was now touching the radiator shroud.  The engine must be sitting higher!  So Mark and the mechanic repositioned the shroud.
The repair of the left rear tower is also holding up well.

Sorry for all the technical jargon today.  Cross fingers it all holds together.

Car 103 Eric and Renee from Belgium, serviced their 240Z in the same place as us and were a great help.  Many people have helped us to this point.  
Our other Belgian friends Joost and Jaques rejoin in the Mercedes today and will go fast.  

On a side note - The hotel mixed up everyone’s clothes.  They were trying to sort it themselves as every item had a unique number. But they ran out of time.  We all had to go to the basement where clothes were spread everywhere and find our own.  I'm missing a pair of socks.  
At least, they waived all laundry charges.

We go to Omsk tonight.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Day 15 Sun 26 Jun 2016 Novosibirsk to Omsk, Russia (Siberia) 668kms

The scene at the start today from Novosibirsk:

Car No. 5 (on the left) is the 1923 Vauxhall of Australians Max and Julie Stephenson
There were no tests (sections timed to the second) scheduled today, but there were to be three time trial sections. These were cancelled because of a massive storm *. 
This was probably a good thing for us as we took on a tankful of bad fuel just prior to this point.  The engine did not like the fuel and pinged very badly.  

We had about 400km of transport to do after the sections were cancelled so we thought that should use a good portion of the bad fuel.  

As we got close to Omsk we stopped and dumped all but 10 litres of the fuel so we had enough to get to a service station that had hopefully good fuel to mix with and dilute the bad fuel.
I’m not sure this is the end of the problem. The fuel gauge has stopped working at the same time and the fuel pressure seems very weak at the engine end but is much stronger at the fuel pump.
*To quote the event's official reporter, Syd Stelio:
Russian mud has stopped entire armies in years gone by, so it had no trouble bringing us to a grinding halt.

, 27 June 2016

Day 16 Mon 27 Jun 2016 Omsk to Tyumen, Russia (Siberia) 627kms

Another long drive with one scheduled test.  It was cancelled.  I think that was a good decision as it went through a village with masses of people and other traffic.  Not sure what they were thinking when they thought it would make a good ‘timed to the second’ section. 

We had rain again.  It seems to rain for part of every day.  It was colder today than it has been.
Russia’s roads (and I haven’t seen all that many yet) are mostly rough tar.  Some times with huge potholes and broken tar, other times with a gutter running along the road where the weight of trucks has left furrows.  These furrows fill with water when it rains and the car seems to want to jump out of the furrows all the time. 
Vehicle density is way too high for a single lane each way.  Trucks, probably 40% of the traffic, travel at 80 to 90 KPH.  Cars try to travel at 100+.  The speed limit is 90 most times.  
Cars constantly try to pass the trucks. 
On the notice board, someone changed the "110kph max" to "190kph"
We frequently find cars coming towards us on our side of the road.  The done thing is to move over and make room for a “third” lane. The locals pass trucks and other cars without clear vision.  While we are waiting for the road to straighten or to see over a crest, locals sail past when we are way too cautious to take that risk. The locals rely on others making room if necessary.  It’s not for the faint hearted.
ERA Mechanic Owen changes a ball joint on the Datsun
The other complication is that the driver being on the wrong side in a right hand drive car, it becomes the passenger’s job (i.e. me) to advise if it's safe to pass. Passing can be further complicated when the truck decides to move to the middle or the other side of the road to avoid a pothole or broken tar.

We ended the day by changing the bottom ball joint on the front left. Would be nice to have another set of struts.  The event’s not half over yet….

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Day 17 Tue 28 Jun 2016 Tyumen to Yekaterinburg Russia 384 Kms

A short day by the standards of the last two days.  Even shorter when the only stage for today was cancelled due to water damage.
Mark being interviewed by the local media

They substituted a couple of runs of a local autocross so we had something for the day.

 It wasn’t a bad circuit. Perhaps a little rough and you had to stop beside the timing marker to get your time taken.  We did it twice. Two seconds quicker the second time.
However, our Belgian friend Joost, with the Mercedes now firing on all eight cylinders, went five seconds quicker,  but we increased our overall lead over Rob Garnsworthy's Mustang by nine seconds, to 6min 13. 

It rained again for some of the day. The tar roads were characteristically rough. We saw one accident.
A large traffic jam in the city forced us to resort to Google to find a way around it.

Part 2 - later:

What I didn’t say is that Google has 'traffic view' which showed where all the traffic was stopped.  We found a new route that was mostly green with only a few red bits.

After booking in we asked the local fixer where we could get a wheel alignment.  He made a phone call and offered a scrap of paper with – I think it's an address (see below).  After travelling a few of Google's red roads, we arrived in the area and tried to ask a few people where this place was.  

Eventually we found it.  It was the Nissan Club which I think was a normal Nissan dealer. Boris, who we were told was the contact, seemed rather unhelpful, but while we were deciding whether we really needed a wheel alignment or not, another person, Dimitry, walked up and with reasonable English asked what we wanted.  

I’m not sure if Boris rang him but Dimitry had us follow him (he ran in front) for about 300 meters to another building (which looked suspect) and wait while he opened the door.

Well inside was a modern workshop with wheel aligners, drills, lathes , milling machines, polished floors and a passion for drift cars.

To shorten the story a little, they made us coffee, did a wheel alignment (we limited it to “just do the toe-in please”) and they examined the rally car while we admired their drift car.

The boys add their sponsor sign to the car, and Mark tries out the driver's seat in their drift car
In the end they put their company name on the car and we exchanged email and web addresses.  No cost. They were great guys.

I guess building construction is dictated by the extreme winter weather.  I wonder how many other buildings are really good on the inside with a very drab exterior of thick insulated walls.

Inside the workshop was lovely and warm.

Rooms at our very flash hotel..The view from my 5th floor room below (Mark is on the 19th floor)
Across the River is the Church of All Saints, built this century on the site of the merchant's house where the Romanov Royal Family was assassinated in 1918 during the Russian Revolution.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Day 18 Wed 29 Jun 2016 Yekaterinburg to Perm (Russia) 420 Kms

Today, it rained again. Not all day, but the sky was overcast all day.  There was no competition  - we drove from Yekaterinburg to Perm using a northern route which is not the shortest but kept us on probably slightly quieter roads.  There was actually 100 Km of divided highway leaving Yekaterinburg.  The standard of the tar roads has improved slightly from yesterday.  Maybe it will keep getting better as we move westward.

The thing that never ceases to amaze me is the people who turn out to watch and wave.  They are everywhere. 
Today there was an amendment which the organisers said was at the request of a town, Chusovoy, to change the route to come through the town.  We were going to bypass it. The amended route took us to the Chusovoy stadium, where there must have been thousands watching as we drove very slowly around the running track and over a very high podium. 

Another media interview for Mark
Arriving here at Perm was a similar reception.  We had planned to swap the rear tyres with the 2 spares to give us the best rubber we have left for tomorrow stages to Kazan.

But the crowd was so great on arrival we decided it best to come back later.  

The Monument marking one of the points where Europe and Asia meet.

Our not-quite-so-luxurious room in Perm

Tomorrow there are 4 stages scheduled on the way to Kazan where we have a rest day and hopefully we have a new set of tyres waiting for us.

Friday, 1Friday, 1 July 2016

Day 19 Thu 30 Jun 2016 Perm to Kazan (Russia) 590 Kms

The crowd outside the hotel, to see the cars
Today has been the biggest day of rallying so far.  There were three Tests (sections timed to the second) this morning and one this afternoon.  In addition, the overall time allowed was also tight and many crews would have been late.  They will probably waive these penalties.
The three sections this morning were open forest, but muddy and slippery.  Mark enjoyed these.  There was then a long run to the outskirts of Kazan where cars were started at 30 second intervals on a Race circuit.  This was fun too.

The Escort that was in third place had a rear axle problem and has travelled on a truck to Kazan.  Rob Garnsworthy is still in second.  In fact, four of the first five places in the Classic category (and thus the de facto overall Outright) are Aussies.
The long drive through the day was on the roughest tar road I’ve ever been on.  There were huge potholes and washaways which had to be negotiated at snail’s pace to avoid damage. Trucks and cars wander all over the road trying to find the best path through.  

Tomorrow is a rest day, and as I write this Mark is down getting the car washed.  We have six new tyres here to get fitted tomorrow as well.

Hopefully, tomorrow’s rest day won’t be as busy as the rest day in Novosibirsk after Mongolia.

The hotel we are at is the Korston Tower. It’s a bit like a Las Vegas hotel.  Lots of lights and glitz.July 2016

Day 20 Rest Day, Kazan (Russia)

Quote Wikipedia:
“Kazan is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia. With a population of 1,143,535, it is the eighth most populous city in Russia. Kazan lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia.”
Yes, it does seem pretty big but we will only see a small part of it.  

The first thing I did on arrival yesterday was ask to see the tyres that we put so much effort into sending here.  Seeing them was the only way I was going to believe that they had actually made it here. It took probably 30 minutes after my inquiry at the desk before someone arrived who knew anything about them. Another 30 minutes before they were able to locate them in a store room.  

The hotel we are at, the Kronston Tower, is big and very like hotels in Las Vegas.  In the basement is a car wash which Mark used yesterday.  (When I say used, he watched while the car was washed.) 

This morning when we asked about somewhere to change tyres, we were told “in the basement” and sure enough, without leaving the hotel, we had 6 tyres removed and 6 replacements fitted. So we haven’t left the hotel yet.
I believe one of the other competitore is considering using our discarded tyres.  He hasn't been happy with his light truck tyres.

Having a look at yesterday results, we are gaining time on the gravel sections from our nearest rivals without too much trouble. We were generally second fastest behind Joost/Jaques who are out of contention for an outright place because of earlier engine problems.  They will now chase the European Cup (the prize for the best performance across Europe).  
Second place Rob Garnsworthy/John Teasdale beat us by a second on the Kazan tar circuit. The Mustang has horsepower and tarmac tyres.  Looking at this morning’s standings we have a 9 min 15sec gap to Rob.

Team mates Gerry and Matt in the P76 are now in 4th spot.  A pretty good effort considering the results at Day 3 had them close to last. I expect they will make it to be one of the top three. 
Our other Belgian friends and teammates, Eric and Renee in the fairly standard 240z are performing very well.  I don’t believe they have put a foot wrong anywhere and they are in 6th spot.

From out hotel room on the 18th floor, it’s amazing the crowds of people who show interest in the cars. They frequently try to ask questions but interestingly, when we appear not to understand, they seem to feel that if they say it louder we might. Luckily we don’t take offence at being yelled at.

Some tourist photos from today:
above and below: The Kremlin at Kazan - Kremlin is a term meaning "fort" - this one was built on the orders of Ivan the Terrible/

above and below:
The biggest mosque in Europe, the Qolşärif Mosque opened in 2005

Sunset over the Volga River from our hotel

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Day 21 Sat 2 Jul 2016 Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod (Russia) 436 Kms.

 Along the Volga

No competition today and a fine warm day.  The roads were generally a little better, but there were still occasional sections of badly broken tar where cars wandered everywhere trying the miss the worst of it.
The countryside looks good.  Out of town, you could be in southern NSW in a good season.  However, the villages are very run down.  There are masses of people still watching and waving us along. 

The Mini (above left) which locals with no English, can be heard saying  "Mr Bean, Mr Bean"
At one roundabout, it looked like we were in a huge traffic jam of trucks, but one of the trucks left us a gap and pointed to go up the inside.  We were out of the chaos in one minute flat. We saw trucks queued up for two kilometres as we left the roundabout.

The time control in Nizhny Novgorod was in Victory Park, full of old Soviet Military equipment.  

We were again given a glossy book about the town (Nizhny Novgorod is the 5th largest city in Russia. Population is 1.25 million).  The library in the back of the Datsun is starting to get heavy.

For more details  on the day's travel, see the official Rally report at:
Our fairly basic accommodation for the night in Nizhny Novgorod

Monday, 4 July 2016

Day 22 Sun 3 Jul 2016 Nizhny Novgorod to Zavidovo (Russia)

The air conditioner in our room didn’t work when we arrived last night.  Mark complained, and as a result they said they would move us, but we would not be able to share a room.  We had to have individual rooms!  So the picture of our room in yesterday’s blog is the old one.  I didn’t take pics of the new one but I did take pics of the views from the new room.
The other thing I didn’t mention yesterday was police radar., but I believe we have no worries about having fallen foul of any.  The traffic was always slow when near a radar and the flashing of lights by other motorists really is a universal signal for “watch for police”.

Me and Lenin

The 470km to Zavidovo didn’t include the 40km out to the race circuit which was the first section of the day or the distance done at the circuit, the dirt track or the hill climb we did at the end of the day.

Our run on the circuit felt very slow from the inside.  The new winter tread tyres we fitted at Kazan seemed to be sliding at very slow speed ,and I expected cars on road tyres to be fast.  But I was surprised to be told we were 2nd fastest.  Since cars started in number order (it was the beginning of the day) there weren’t cars  that could be easily caught and passed as has been the case previously.  (Matt Bryson, Gerry Crown's navigator in the P76, jokingly put a water bottle under Mark's accelerator pedal before the start of the circuit lap! see centre photo below)

There was a long drive after the circuit, and road standards are improving as we get closer to Moscow. In fact, we spent some time on four-lane freeway type roads. It was a Sunday, and it was interesting to see locals swimming and playing in the sand on the edge of river and lakes.  The other activity seemed to be picnics/walking in the forests which line many of the roads.

At 5:00 pm we had the 2nd and 3rd “tests” of the day.  The first was a tar circuit and the 2nd a hill climb.  Not a big hill but up and down.  There was a downpour just as we started the dirt circuit but we could still break through thru surface and get dust.  The rain had stopped by the time we started the hill climb but it was still slippery, and steam was rising as the water quickly evaporated.
I’ll have to wait and see the results of today but I’m confident we did OK.  (later: yes, see below)


right:  Car 104 decided our discarded tyres were better than his light truck tyres and has recycled them
There does seem to be a lot of minor cars accidents.
At least twice a day, we see cards generally still on the road after rear ending each other.  Occasionally, cars are spread all over the place which I think may be the result of overtaking gone wrong.

There are some crazy drivers out there.

We are at a new Radison Hotel tonight. Quite nice, better than last night.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Day 23 Mon 4 Jul 2016 Zavidovo to Smolensk (Russia) 461 Kms

Two tests today.  Both on circuits.  The first was tight and we couldn’t do much with it.  The second was more to our liking, but new rally tyres are not great on the tarmac.  Still I don’t believe we would have lost too much time. 
Tomorrow we have to cross into Belarus before the main start control of the day then there is the promise of four gravel sections.  Woo-hoo!  Hope they don’t have to cancel because of rain.

It rained for parts of the day again and the planned route on back roads became impassable and we had to use a good motorway type road for much of the afternoon.
The motorway, with cars doing 110KPH plus, also has at regular intervals, pedestrian crossings!

One small car problem today.  The throttle was not closing as quickly as it should.  Mark found that the bolt holding the bracket that the throttle return spring attached to had stripped its thread allowing it to slip.  He scrounged a new bolt from the ERA mechanics and put a nut on it as well.  Problem fixed.

The other issue causing me grief has been the fuel gauge.  It stopped working at about the time we had the tankful of bad fuel and started to work again the next day.  But – it really only looked like it was working.  The car would seem to not use much fuel and have plenty in the tank then would suddenly start gobbling fuel at an alarming rate.  Today we carefully measured what we put in and stopped a few times to look at the site glass in the boot.  And yes the gauge has been misleading us.  We need to ignore it.

There was an instruction today which read:"Ruined Building at Junction", so I called it, and Mark's sarcastic response was "that will be a change:

Tonight’s hotel is the worst so far.  It has no bar and the restaurant doesn’t look great.  I suspect we will eat out.

Results to Smolensk:

Later: Just to finish off,  the hotel didn’t have a bar so almost everyone ended up at a local restaurant which didn’t cope.  It was incredibly slow and incredibly noisy.

Day 24 Tue 5 Jul 2016 Smolensk (Russia) to Minsk (Belorussia) 554 Kms

This morning, the start control was 80m down the road in another country, Belarus.

(We were issued with E-Tags for Belarus toll roads.  As we got close to Minsk this evening the e-Tag beeped probably 5 or 6 times.  Not sure what it costs but the ERA is covering it.)

We allowed plenty of time as we really didn’t know what traffic would be like or what process we might have to endure.  Everyone else did the same so we all ended up waiting for our start times at a garage just over the border in Belarus.

To fill in time, Mark and I drove back down the road to find a money changer who swapped our 10-
thousand Russian rubles for three million Belarus rubles. (In 200,000 notes)
The message which came up on my phone when we crossed the border

First impressions of Belarus are good.  It had better roads, better drivers and tidy well-kept towns. We haven’t seen derelict falling down infrastructure as we did constantly in Russia.

After the start there was 232km of transport to the town square in Polatsk. Polatsk's claim to fame was a monument declaring the town to be the centre of Europe. 
Mark at the centre of things (well, Europe, anyhow)
(later: it appears there are at least seven claimants to this title, dependent on what is considered the actual boundaries of Europe).
Kids who had come for a look at the cars at the Polatsk town square
After lunch, there were 4 gravel stages which were very much to our liking. I need to see actual results but I believe we did well without taking too much out of the car.

On the first stage, we had only gone 1.5km when Matt Bryson appeared as if he was a spectator giving us a thumbs up and urging us on. I then noticed the back of the P76 absolutely parallel to the edge of the road.  Gerry had fired off into the bushes and Matt told me later it was beached with both the front and back wheels off the ground. Matt tells me it cost them 17 minutes which will put them back a few places but ever positive, Gerry and Matt believe they can get that back.

The 2nd stage was run twice and while I expected to be quicker the 2nd time, that didn’t happen as a rain storm made driving at high speed impossible.  They say Melbourne has four seasons in a day, well, this place has four seasons in an afternoon.  It went from hot and sunny to bitterly cold and pouring rain, then back to sunny in less than 3 hours.  

The day’s end control was 106km out of Minsk so it was a late arrival at the end of day hotel (a Marriott).  Minsk looks very much like many other modern European cities.

The only car issue for the day was the engine not wanting to start.  The symptoms are as if there were dirty terminals on the battery (which is not the case).  Mark suspects that the small wire on the solenoid may be loose and he is down there now tightening it.

Buying fuel at garages is different here.  You have to pay for your fuel before you get to put it in.  Mark goes to the window with a piece of paper saying how many litres of 95 octane he wants. The garage operator then shows you what it will cost on a calculator, takes your money and enables the petrol pump to deliver that amount.  I’m told that if it won’t all fit in the tank, you lose and the garage wins.  They don’t give refunds.  We haven’t had that problem yet.
98 octane is rare here.  95 is generally the best you can get.

Today's results:

For those (particularly Hal Moloney) interested in the pre-World War 2 cars running in the vintage and veteran category, here's a selection of them:

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Day 25 Wed 6 Jul 2016 Minsk to Brest (Belorussia) 494 Kms

The official photographer for the event, Gerard Brown, captured this shot of the 240Z in action on Day 25

Five tests scheduled for today.  The middle one cancelled because it was deemed too rough.  The four
remaining consisted of two sections, each run twice (which has its own problems).  The sections were on closed roads (closed by the police) so were run at prescribed times.  This meant there was no opportunity to make up time, move up the field or engineer a dust gap. 
The first section was relatively smooth forest which suits us and the car.  We were fastest and got some time out of the others bur the second was rough and narrow.  Not to our liking, and we would have given away anything we gained in the morning.
The problem with running sections twice is that the early cars which are the slower cars are back in the queue just in front of you and then have to be passed on the stage.  We managed to follow someone from our peer group each time but still had to pass cars. Some people were a little upset by it all.
It rained again, it does most days, but today we were travelling on a motorway when it rained and then hailed so heavy that all cars on the motorway stopped because you just couldn’t see where you were going.  The rain is generally heavy but short lived
Mir Castle, about 80km from Minsk

The lunch break was at a place called Mir which featured a large castle.  (I need to Google its history.).
Belarus seems a nice country.  Roads are good, drivers are good.  The infrastructure is new and tidy. All the kids seem to have some English.  We were mobbed by crowds of people again when we arrived in Brest.

There is no competition scheduled for tomorrow.  The whole day will be dedicated to getting across

the border into Poland so we relaxed, and rather than another buffet, went to a very good restaurant with Renee, Eric and two other Belgians  from car 109, brothers Alain  and Yves Faymonville . It was another recommendation from Joost.

Can’t get internet to work, maybe we’ll be into Poland before this gets posted.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Day 26 Thu 7 Jul 2016 Brest (Belarus) to Rzeszow (Poland) 315kms

Today was dedicated to crossing the border from Belarus into Poland, and driving the 300-odd km to the town we are now in,  Rzeszow.  

The rally organisers separated us into two groups,  EU or Non EU.  The EU guys were told to go to the border at 8am. We were told to leave at 9:00 am

It took 3hrs25min of queueing, waiting, moving up until we finally crossed into Poland at  

Passports must have been checked at least 20 times.  
There are separate checkpoints for customs, immigration and vehicle checks for the country you are leaving and the one you are entering.  
The Belarus officials were friendly.  The Polish not quite as much.  A bit more officious.

Poland looks green and has lots more land being cultivated than Belarus.  Saw lots of storks nesting on poles but haven’t got a good picture yet (below are photos from the next day's run to Kosice ).
The roads are rough tar.  Not broken up or pot holed. Just bumpy rough.
All the sections scheduled for the next two days (eight of them) are to be tarmac, so I expect they won’t be smooth.

Hotel seems good.  Last night's hotel was pretty close to the worst we have had so far
Rzeszow, Poland

Sunday, 10 July 2016turday, 9 July 2016

Day 27 Fri 8 Jul 2016 Rzeszow (Poland) to Kosice (Slovakia) 320kms

The start at Rzeszow, and car 59, Bjorn Schagel &Trond Brathen's 1960 Morgan plus 4
Today had four tarmac stages that I had expected to be rough and bumpy.  I was wrong for three of the four.  
The first and second, which were in Poland, were smooth hot mix.  Not really suited for our tyres but good for cars with power and brakes.  The stage consisted of short straights with slow corners.  Both uphill and downhill it was very taxing on brakes.  The Garnsworthy Mustang  and the Jackson Mercedes both had bad brake fade.  
I had been prepared to see a bit of time lost but it didn’t happen.  Haven’t seen any results yet, but info from controlees was we were generally second fastest to Joost Van Cauwenberge ‘s Mercedes, which is now firing on all eight and on tarmac tyres.

The second section was much the same as the first and we saw the Escort car 73 on its side in the stage.  When they tried to start it after pushing it back on the wheels, I believe it caught fire.

My office each day
The third section wasn’t as smooth as the first two, so we took it a bit easier but should still do OK.

On the fourth section we started after the Garnsworthy Mustang, but didn’t see him at the end.  We thought he must have passed cars, but at the finish of the day we are being told he may be off in the section somewhere. 
We certainly haven’t seen him.

The day started and ended with crowds waving and welcoming.  It’s surprising the interest that this event is generating here.

The afternoon sections were in Slovakia and the finish of the day in Kosice was amazing.
The town centre has a long strip of outdoor restaurants and bars on a wide cobblestone boulevard, and I think everyone stopped for a drink.  Team GT in action (that’s us and the Belgians, whose favourite drink is a gin and tonic).
left: Car 103's Renee (Declercq) wraps Mark up in one of the blankets that come with the tables.  It apparently gets cold here sometimes.

(later): Today's top-10 standings:

Day 28 Sat 9 Jul 2016 Kosice (Slovakia) to Budapest (Hungary) 380kms

The bad news this morning was that Rob Garnsworthy has back injuries from his crash yesterday and was kept in hospital for observation.  He will most likely be flown home in a few days
I looked at the tracker for Rob's Mustang this morning (above) and it clearly shows where he was off  and when the car got removed (the last link from the tracker).  By going into Google Earth street view, you can see the exact corner that he went off.

The Rob Garnsworthy/John Teasdale Mustang in action (photo by event photographer, Gerard Brown 

Rob, coming second in his Mustang, was the closest competitor to us, so we now have better than 30 minutes gap.  We need to steady our pace, cruise along and ensure we finish. Actually our gap is 36:23 to Car 75 Ludovic Bois (France)/ Julia Coleman(GB).

It’s actually more interesting behind Ludovic, with fellow Australians Murray and Adam Jackson and David Gainer with Peter St George separated by 17 seconds for 3rd and 4th, and Eric and Renee (our Belgian 240Z teammates) working to hold out Gerry and the ever competitive Matt in the P76.

Four competitive sections today and we have started to slow the pace a bit.  This was made easier by the sections being rough broken tarmac and not enjoyable to drive.
left: crossing the border into Hungary (no immigration controls here) and (right), no, we didn't taken the road to Hell.
(left): two of the event mechanics, who were doing time controls today. Jamie on the left, welded our strut for us in Mongolia.  (right): kids welcoming us in Hungary

Tomorrow is a much needed rest day in Budapest.  Besides getting the laundry done, we need to look closely at the car for anything that we can improve.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Day 29 Sun 10 Jul 2016 Rest Day Budapest (Hungary)

a back street in Budapest
We had the car washed last night and can’t see any obvious problems.  A local guide has found us a home workshop in the suburbs, where Mark is at now looking at the car while I look at what is yet to come before we reach Paris. We’re hoping spark plugs will fix the enginee, which is starting to run a little rough.  Rest day is a good time to repack and see what else we can throw out.

Here’s a summary of what stages lie ahead:
Day 30  (424 Km)  4 gravel  (5.3km, 11.3km 7.8km 7km)                   
Day 31  (370 Km)   1 gravel 3 tar                  (12.3km, 9.5km, 10.4k, 9.9km)                   
Day 32  (384 Km)   6 tar  ( 8.9km, 7.8km, 8.3km, 9km, 11.4km,10km)
Day 33 (441 Km)   5 tar  (8.7km, 9.9km, 10.5km, 15.7lm, 9.2km)                 
Day 34  (450 Km)   1 tar  ( 6.9km)                                                                                          
Day 35  (513 Km)   -                                                                                                     
Day 36  (178 Km)    -          

So, 20 sections to go - mainly tar – 190 competitive Km – 2700 Km in total. 

We’ve been given three bottles of wine  (a gift). They won’t be taken to Paris (no room in the car), but Mary had a good idea. Get the hotel here to store them and we can pick them up in a couple of weeks.  (Mary and I will be visiting Budapest after the rally so we can try the local wine then.)

One thing we have noticed (and like) along the way are traffic lights which display timers showing when the light will change.  So when you’re stopped at a red light, you know how long it will be before you get a green.  When it’s green you know when you have to speed up to….. (no we wouldn’t do that).  These were common all across Russia and some of the more recent countries travelled.

(Dave's blog may be little disrupted from here on, as I'm the web editor who actually posts his stuff on line…..and I've just started my trip away from Oz, heading to Paris via Kuala Lumpur, one of the my favourite stopovers.  I should have no trouble getting wifi access, but I could be busy holidaying & flying along the way., but I will do my best…..Mary)

uesday, 12 July 2016

Day 30 Mon 11 Jul 2016 Budapest (Hungary) to Maribor (Slovenia) 410kms

Today was to be the start of a stress-free, go easy touring day for us.  While the 2nd to 5th places are really fighting it out, we should be able to take it easy and not worry if our lead get eroded a little.
Well – didn’t quite go to plan.  I was late getting the day’s route amendments which put me on the back foot, then there was the wait for a taxi or bus to get us to the start area.  Plus there is the getting out of town bit - always hard in a city you don’t know, especially one with heavy traffic.  Then, in heavy traffic, the engine starts to smell and smoke a little, and we need to stop and look under the bonnet. Nothing wrong, probably a little spilt oil or coolant on the exhaust.  

Finally we get near the motorway and stop to add 20 litres of fuel.  It takes 20 minutes to pay for it.  Mark came out with steam coming out of his ears.  Apparently only one register, and 20 people queued with the guy at the front buying a SIM card or something that needed lots of paperwork.

Back on the motor way, we come to a grinding halt.  We subsequently saw a crash that had the traffic stopped on the other side.  Our lanes were stopping because people were stopping to look.
Past that, we came to a long stretch of road works where we were stopped for another 20 mins.

It was also a hot day. Being last car and being 30 mins or so behind the car in front, we don’t know if we are the only ones affected.  Fortunately we aren’t, and later in the day we’re told there would be 90 minutes of lateness allowed with no penalty.  
Breath a sigh of relief.
There were four trial sections, all gravel, which would normally suit us. but we went very slowly through the first and at a reasonable safe pace on the other three.  None were particularly great stages. I’ll have to wait and see the results.

The second stage was altered because of activity of the US Army!!  At the control, I talked to a very polite American soldier ( he addressed me as ‘Sir’) and told me they were doing exercises with the Hungarian army.  They have been on tour for almost a year and done similar things with Poland and Germany.

Maribor, the town we are at tonight, welcomed us in the city square with glossy books on the area and a rose.
We drove past a café as we left the finish area and I gifted the rose it to the first lady I saw close to the edge.  


Looking at the results, we haven’t been worse than second fastest. Always to Car 107,  Joost Van Cauwenberge in his V8 Merc, who probably has to pass cars while achieving his times.  I’m surprised, but maybe all cars are carrying injuries.  It was gravel today, and that suits us better than tarmac.  Our winter treads are three parts gone so should be getting better for the tarmac that we will encounter from here on.  

The Jacksons and David Grainer/Peter St George were on exactly the same time at the end of the second time trial today (and only five seconds apart at the end of the day).  Somewhat amazing..Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Day 31 Tue 12 Jul 2016 Maribor to Ljubljana (Slovenia) 300kms

Today was a very good day’s rallying …..

One early other section was on a racetrack, but to lower the average speed to meet requirements we were supposed to weave around cones placed all over the track.  Something like a giant motorkhana. Well, neither Mark or I are good at motorkhanas. In fact 90% of people seemed to think the whole thing was a joke. Our time will be good, we took a few shortcuts, but I don’t know what other penalties they might apply.  I’m told there may be a 6 minute maximum.  I will be annoyed but ……
An official ERA photo, by the event photographer, Gerard Brown
The first section was good gravel and the rest tarmac.  The tarmac was excellent quality and ran through villages very close to houses at times.

Stage security seemed high. Every intersection was bunted off.  They had fire trucks and ambulances at beginning and end of sections.  All the closures and setup was done by locals, while the controls are always ERA (Endurance Rally Association) officials. 
On one stage today Marks phone ended up on the floor under the pedals, which reminded me that something similar had happened the other day, except then it was my camera, a bit bigger than the iPhone, had landed in the floor well.  Mark complained it was under the accelerator.  I suggested it would have been better if it had stayed under the brake.
Matt Bryson (right) working on the P76

The battle is still raging for third place.  I think the Jackson Mercedes has an overheating problem.
Gerry and Matt in the P76 had some problems today.  I think it was a water pump, and they feared they would have to stop many times on the way to fill the radiator.   Driving behind our GT teammates Eric and Renee, we noticed their 240Z exhaust was starting to drop down.  We messaged them that they had a problem!

Our other team mate, Joost is charging on with his usual enthusiasm in his V8 Merc, on a quest to win the European Cup.
All in all, an enjoyable day’s rallying.and tonight, we're in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Day 32 Wed 13 Jul 2016 Ljubljana (Slovenia) to San Martino di Castrozza (Italy) 454kms

(The official report says there was heavy rain (sometime hail) all morning and that instead of seeing the spectacular Italian Dolomites, the crews were lucky to see 20 metres in front of them.  See:Rally report, Day 32 )

How it looked from inside the 240Z
Dave writes:

Big day and no time for a blog ATM.
  • Amendments issued at start said the 5th and 6 sections of the day were cancelled as police had advised the road couldn’t be closed.
  • Rained heavily during and after the 2nd section.  Down to 10 KPH, 4 way flashers on – unable to see – some hail. Water leaks everywhere.
  • Section averages dropped to 50 KPH.  Should be easy but we were 26 seconds late on the 3rd.  No visibility – wet slippery tar.
  • Then times on the following transport become very tight.  All competitors start sprinting on the run to the finish.
  • Organisers waiver late penalties at end of day.
  • San Martino di Castrozza is a ski resort on a very high mountain.  Could not afford the time for a refuel on the way into town so went to finish, then retraced route.  We were able to coast downhill with engine stopped for 12.5 Km to get fuel from the last servo passed.

how the road showed on my lap top screen's GPS app

Friday, 15 July 2016

Day 33 Thu 14 Jul 2016 San Martino di Castrozza (italy) to St Moritz (Switzerland) 390kms

St Moritz is another ski resort but in Switzerland.  It over 1800 meters in altitude and I’m sure I saw a sign somewhere that said 2300 meters on the way here.  It's summer, but there is certainly snow at the edges of the road and in the hills around.

It was another great day of rallying in great conditions but three of the five scheduled time trials were cancelled due to snow apparently. The two that were run were good tarmac, but the average of 50kph was easily achievable. 

To ensure there was no repeat of yesterday sprint to the finish control, organisers allowed 2 hour of late time penalty free. This is sensible, as even an average of 50kph on the open roads is very hard with so much slow traffic to contend with.

Our engine problem seemed to be getting worse and at lunch time the ERA mechanics did a compression test, cleaned the plugs, the rotor button and distributor cap before finding that the nut on the spindle of one of the carburettors was loose. This had the effect that one carburettor was out of sequence with the others.  Easily fixed. We are so grateful to these guys.  We would not be here except for their assistance in Mongolia.

Navigation in Europe is different to Australia.  Lots of intersections aren’t in the instructions but those in the instructions often have something very similar within 40 or 50 metres of the one you are looking for.  Roundabouts have been a bit problematic at times.  Hard to believe we can get them wrong but we do. The trick is to keep watching (don’t look down for the next instruction) and count the exits. 

On the notice board tonight is a note advising the very strict policing of road rules here in Switzerland.  We will need to be careful.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Day 34 Fri 15 Jul 2016 St Moritz to Lausanne (Switzerland) 420kms

Today started with a reroute to avoid roads taken out by snow.  We travelled on a better road and actually had a few snowflakes fall on us briefly. At the highest point today with snow and cloud all around, the GPS showed 2340 meters.

There were two tests today, the last for the event.
The first was on a small circuit and again it was a motorkhana.  Instructions were given out in the 
morning so more people did this one right than the last one, where 45of 48 competitors got the max lateness of 6 minutes.  We went very slowly, but I think did it correctly.
The 2nd was a conventional, mostly gravel uphill stage, and again we went steady but came in under the minimum time so no penalties.
Today was the end of competition for the rally.  The next two days are touring to get through France to Paris.
The big interest today was who would get second place.  Ludovic Bois and Julia Colman in the Volvo were just six seconds ahead of the Adam & Murray Jackson’s Mercedes.  On the motorkhana, the Jacksons were two seconds quicker so the gap came down to four seconds.  It then came down to the last test where I believe both cars came under the bogie time.  This will mean the Volvo is 2nd and the Jacksons 3rd.

Travelling in the back blocks of Switzerland is painfully slow. Every little town has a speed limit of 50km sometimes dropping to 30 in the centre of towns.  Everyone drives at snail’s pace and getting out of the way is just not the done thing. Most stress for me this event has been worrying that we would lose time on the liaison sections. That hasn’t happened yet.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Day 35 Sat 16 Jul 2016 Lausanne (Switzerland) to Reims (France) 485kms

We travelled the 520 Km from Lausanne, Switzerland to Reims in France without going on any motorways.  Once out of Switzerland traffic thinned and it was a very nice drive. 

At the first passage control in France we met up Jacques, who we missed catching up with on the Sydney to London Rally two years ago.  He drove 150km from his home to the control, and we had time for coffee and a brief chat before pressing on;

The route took us through the Champagne region and at one of the passage controls we were treated to champagne and cake.  Lovely.

We now have just 180km to go to Paris, and its looking good for a good result.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Day 36 Sun 17 Jul 2016 Reims to Paris (France) 180kms

Crossing the finish  line at Place Vendome in Paris


(and a note for F1 fans): Earlier, on the way  to Paris, we travelled on what was the main straight of he old F1 track at Reims, now just part of a back road….


It's finally over and we have survived.  Was there ever any doubt?  It’s actually quiet stressful travelling at the back of the field, worrying if something is going to impact and cost time penalties.  Our 40 minute lead could disappear easily, with road works or a missed exit on a motorway or shudder, shudder, a mechanical fault.
But none of that happened. 

We were the first Classic car to the finish, and for a couple of old cynics, we were both a little moved seeing our wives after the longest period we have been separated for in 40 plus years. Mary and I were married in 74, Mark and Anne in 76.

My eyes were soon after filled with champagne as I enjoyed the moment and spread it everywhere.  Probably a shame to waste that expensive champagne but I enjoyed it.

That evening was a very long presentation in the ballroom of the Paris Intercontinental. 

A very elaborate over-the-top setting where we were all expected to wear dinner suits. We were lucky to have Mary and Anne in Paris who were able to hire suits for us.

Monday morning, Mark and I took the car to a cargo depot out near the airport where we ran it out of petrol and disconnected the battery, ready to be rolled into a container for the trip home.

So, a fabulous experience with the best possible result.

I need to congratulate Mark on a splendid drive. I want to congratulate all competitors who finished, with special mention of the prominence of Australians in high placings. The Jacksons in 3rd, David Gainer/Peter St George in 4th, Gerry Crown / Matt Bryson in 6th. Our Belgian friends Eric and Renee came in 5th.

The ERA Sweeps and Mechanics need special mention, along with fellow competitors who helped along the way and without their help, we would not have made it.

And finally, a big thanks to Anne and Mary who allowed us to be part of the adventure.

The last word should go to Mark:
Due to time restraints, I wasn't able to express the following last night at the presentation dinner…
I wish to thank Anne, my wife of 40 years who allows me the time and money to rush off all over the world on these adventures. Whilst she does worry about me, she has always been supportive of me chasing these dreams.
To my long time friend Dave for his patience, commitment and for keeping me grounded. Also Dave's wife Mary for lending him to me again and many thanks for all the behind the scenes work you do for us.
  • Stewart Wilkins and Bill Brown for building such a fabulous car.
  • Kim Bannister - thank you and all the best to you and Nikki.
  • To the marshalls - thank you for enduring sun stroke and hypothermia - sometimes all in the one day.
  • The mechanics - who, without your help, our charge would have been halted on the first day in Mongolia.
Our fellow competitors, especially :-
  • Car 55 who gave us petrol when, due to a faulty fuel gauge, we ran out 20 Kim's from town.
  • Car 91 - the big Chevy, who offered to tow us into town.
  • The cars - who, although tight for time, waved us through to start in front of them because we were faster.
  • Rob and John, we missed chasing you in the big Mustang. Glad you are on the mend. It was great to see you in Paris!
  • Especially our Belgium team mates and friends. You are the best!
  • The ever super competitive Matt Bryson who gave advice and assistance even though he knew we were competitors. Gerry, you are amazing on your performance, I still have 25+ years of competition left!
In closing, I would like to remember Philip Young. To those of us who knew him, you would probably have had a robust conversation at some time :-) but he gave so many of us the chance of a lifetime.