The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2007
May 27 - June 30 2007
Go to work on an egg.
Go to work on an egg. For the crew of Car 9, the Itala 51b of Theordor Voukidis and Fabio Longo who are holding fifth place in the Pioneer Category with their 1915 tourer, this is perfectly sound advice.
But for the team from Russian State Television, it was, well, all perfectly Greek…. they couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to crack raw eggs and drop them into the top of the large brass radiator. The pump is leaking, water is pissing onto the ground, for the crew it seems just the dodge to get going and knock off another day of Siberian route-notes.
Not without explaining what is going on, why we are here, what this rally is all about, who on earth is Prince Borghese and what was he doing in Omsk exactly 100 years ago, and is the strange ritual of dropping eggs into radiators something to do with paying homage to the Prince nobody has heard of… or, a strange Greek custom?
Having dodged the trickier questions the Itala was soon rumbling out into the early morning traffic, so the TV crew turned to the Rally Director. “Before we start the interview, can we check the sound-levels on the microphone? Can you tell us what you had for breakfast… and what do you think of President Bush?” How long do you want this interview to be?
The early-morning start out of Omsk saw all sorts of starting rituals, the bonnet was up on the Austin 16, several needed a push-start, some struggled with starting handles, if you are a Russian TV crew all very bemusing. The Knox crew looked worried, and the car chuffed out of the hotel car park sounding as if its now down to two cylinders.
The day has been uneventful…pretty good tarmac, in the main, with the odd bump and pot-hole to make us all nostalgic for Mongolia, and then it rained…we have had dust-storms, hail-storms (for some) yesterday, and steady icy rain this afternoon, and temperatures have dropped to 9-degrees. The official photographer reckons it’s chilly enough to change from shorts to Rohan trousers.
Lots of the open crews got a thorough soaking coming into town, the first time its rained since we left Peking. Mike and Josey Thompson in an open Chrysler looked cold and wet, despite being well wrapped up, and the Wilkinson’s in the yellow Rolls have lost half of the enormous hood, broken by the blast of an overtaking truck.
Some are still endeavouring to catch up the event – car 2, Itala, and 98, Francesco Ciriminna’s baby Fiat, are meeting us in Moscow, and car 71, the Derby Bentley of Digby Squires, and 106, the Robert’s Sunbeam Alpine we hear have both now successfully crossed the border from Mongolia to Russia – several days behind but now running. Car 62, Richard Newman’s Chrysler, has broken steering and plans to catch up once repairs have been carried out.
The youngest crew members, Gerald Harrison and Andrew Douglas, (aged 25, and 26), have taken up smoking…the engine is limping at the moment with a broken piston-ring, and is well down the General Classification, we spotted a plastic Tupperware box jamming open the rear boot for added cooling as we left Omsk this morning.
Here’s an idle thought that came to mind as we pounded another dead flat road across Siberia today: Do you need an expensive car to get a good result on the Peking to Paris?
In the Veterens, a La France will set you back anything from ten-thousand-pounds, two are currently third and fourth overall. In the Vintageant Category, the one-litre Single Nine Le Mans was bought for five-thousand-pounds… it’s on the leaderboard a full ten minutes ahead of a pair of six-and-a-half litre Speed Six Bentleys, (among the most expensive cars in the event), the Singer crew having been in the top five at one point. The Multon’s are doing well in an Alvis 12/60, hardly expensive wheels, and up for a Gold Medal at the moment… the Vintageant Category is headed by David Williams who paid ten-grand for his Chevrolet Fangio Coupe, the same sort of money that the King of Malaysia paid for his Chevvy….Chevrolet’s hold 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, a clean sweep at the top of the leaderboard with gold-medals for their crews… when were Chevrolet so successful in an international event... probably not since Fangio was driving these cars as a lad…
Among the Classic Category, the Mercedes “taxi-lookalike” Fintail of Hans Lindner and Frank Wiest is the sort of car you can pick up for under five-grand in museum-condition, the Mark Two Jaguar of Richard Worts is close behind, both cars have set a Gold Medal standard for their crews, not missing a single time-control that would have cost them their Gold… third place in this Category is a game performance by Garry Staples who is driving a VW Beetle Cabrio, also up for a Gold Medal, fifth placed car is the Riley RM saloon of the Wilkinson’s despite rattles and things dropping off it’s earning the crew a Gold Medal… the much-travelled Rover 80 of John and Joan Fallows is also earning a Gold Medal, and sounds perfectly fit, and Simon and Liz Chance in a Citroen 2CV laughed at all the rough stuff in Mongolia and are also up for a Gold Medal.
Also going well is Roberto Chiodi and Maria-Rita in their 1600cc Alfa, on a Silver Medal… Pamela Reid and Nicola Wainwright’s Sunbeam Rapier was bought for a few grand, and was up with the front runners earlier on… currently earning the crew a Silver Medal… non of these cars are exactly expensive motors.