The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2010
September 10th - October 16th, 2010
SEPTEMBER 27TH, 2010
Almaty - Rest Day
Lions, Scorpions, even a Sphinx…
To the Red Scorpion Garage. Visiting this strange sounding place was a must this morning, as we heard there were over-heated arguments about service arrangements yesterday, and the workshop was littered with cars that had been totally stripped down, looking like squashed spiders.
How to get to down-town Almaty from the Intercontinental hotel? All the taxis had been taken. So Daniel Ward, driver of Car 3, the three-litre 1914 Lancia, offered to give snapper Gerard Brown and your columnist a lift. Gerard sat out on the wooden planked rear decking of the boat-tailed tourer to navigate from a map, which quickly became unreadable in the breeze as the driver cut a swathe through the undergrowth of the morning rush-hour. We swung from lane to lane, cut up the locals in fine style just as they do to us, and made sedate progress away from the standing-starts of the traffic-light Grand Prix.
Once at this odd-sounding garage, with a large red Scorpion up on the wall of the front of the building, with two six-foot tall statues of lions on either side of the main door, complete with a pair of Egyptian Sphinxes, perhaps left over from a film-set, we found ourselves stepping over a vast scattering of worn out and broken vintage and classic car parts, strewn across the floor like victims of some sort of explosion. There were broken gearboxes, snapped axle half shafts, bits of suspension… we peered inside the gearbox of a Stutz, with Mickey Gabbett confident someone can do intricate surgery that would involve getting into such tricky places of the gearbox for internal alloy welding even a dentist would blanch.
We found a Bentley of Simon Hope with a million nuts and bolts spread out on the seats; the big black Austin of Car 107 in the line up awaiting repairs, rather than replace the 20-year-old alternator as part of the rally preparations, the crew brought a new one with them as a spare, but it doesn’t fit… the Chevrolet Speedster of Car 60, looking very battered and falorn, and without any under body protection at all… and Alastair Caldwell, whose latest problem involves pulling out the radiator of his Alfa.
The Lancia crew of Car 3 joined the line-up for attention but they are confident that the Russian made front stub-axles, machined from solid steel billets, would now see them all the way to Paris.
This workshop is just one of several that have seen nearly two days of “rest days” transforming broken mechanicals in a scene of frenzied activity in order for everyone being passed as super-fit for the 6.0am Start tomorrow morning.
We look like seeing a Start List of 91 cars… having set out from China with 98 Starters. There are warnings on the notice-board for the walking wounded, to the effect that getting across borders on trucks is going to get increasingly difficult from here on, and impossible once at the Turkmenistan border, and suggests some drivers should face up to a reality-check.
However, the mood of buoyant optimism increases with the strong rumour that the worst is now over, and the roads are going to be vastly better… well, until we see the Time Trials of Iran, and the gravel tracks of northern Turkey, and, then the Acropolis roads of Greece.