Road to Saigon 2018
4 February - 2 March 2018
FEBRUARY 21, 2018
Khao Kho to Nakhon Ratchasima
On a day where we get ever closer to Cambodia the Rally pulled out of the Imperial Phukaew Hill Resort and onto a selection of fast, misty and traffic free roads.
The first Passage Control at was at a PTT fuel station at a nice round 100km from the start which gave the crews a chance to take on a cold drink or two as the mercury was once again heading to the mid 30°’s with a humidity level of 70%. Charles Stuart-Menteth pointed out that whilst the engine of his MG was coping well in the heat, it was a different story for the crew.
At 160km, a Time Control in the Garden Hill Cafe saw the crews gather for the Chicken Run Test a mere 2km further down the lane. Set in the grounds of a boarding school, opposite a poultry unit and with an abandoned hotel in the middle this test had all of the ingredients for one memorable morning behind the wheel. Countless children came to admire the cars and to have their pictures taken with the crews but, when the bell rang for class they all obediently filed away and left the Rally to the next chapter in the route book.
Almost 7km of rough cut tracks led the Rally through a cassava cane slalom course, into deep, dark woodland tunnels, through wet muddy corners, up rocky rutted climbs and then down suspension shaking descents.
It was a great Test and, prior to the first car setting off, the ERA Test co-ordinators, Chris Elkins and Gavin Bull set out miles of warning tape, planted dozens of care boards and carefully positioned the “orange squad”, the local marshals we’ve come to rely on so much during this event. Jim Smith and Pete Stone positioned themselves strategically, with their tow rope attached and the Hilux already in low range 4WD. In the event though, happily their services weren’t required.
Once the clock started, there were some crews who took a softly softly approach to this section and fairly tiptoed around the course and there were others who let rip and perhaps risked paying a price for this further down the road.
Markus Wintsch and Anna Feichtinger’s Mercedes lost its exhaust towards the end of the Test and it had to be temporarily re-attached after the final time control by Jaimie Turner and Bob Harrod under the watchful eye of a toothless old farmer.
The leaders of the Classics category though, Marco Halter, was playing with fire when, he snapped his gear lever mid way through the Test which could have severely compromised his performance. In the event he still held onto his first place.
The lunch Time Control was at the Si Thep Park, a site which contains the ruins of ancient Phetchabun. It is believed to have been built during the Khmer Empire and is no less than 1,000 years old. The old town, surrounded by a moat, swamps and ponds is where we found Bistro 315 back in action serving up wholesome and healthy fayre. Luckily though an ice cream tuk tuk parked up next to us to and provided the other side of a balanced diet.
Whilst the crews refuelled themselves the sweep crews attended to the cars. Andy Inskip was lashing Marco Halter’s gear lever together and Tony Jones was working on a more permanent fix for Markus Wintsch and Anna Feichtinger’s Mercedes' exhaust.
All that was left for the afternoon then was a run to a Passage Control at Dan Khun Thot for more cold drinks and onwards to the Dusit Princess Hotel in Nakhon Ratchasima. Sadly, this is our last night in Thailand for tomorrow we head to Cambodia.
The American Airforce also seem to be in town and we’re told that they have been putting on a bit of a show, whether they’ll manage a flypast for the restart in the morning remains to be seen.
As far as the results go, Graham and Marina Goodwin still hold onto top spot in the Vintageant category, Andrew Webster and Ian Robertson are still second and David and Karen Ayre are third.
The Classics category also remains unchanged, Marco Halter and Claudia Englehardt are still leading with Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson in second with David Gainer and Kerry Finn in third.