The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2007
May 27 - June 30 2007
Glorious Rally Roads
Having crossed from Estonia to Latvia in mere minutes, today we crossed into Lithuania, the third of the Baltic States to offer us some glorious rally roads. The border formalities we snapped together with an average of two-minutes per car.
Another day, another country, and we are now a week away from the champagne at Place Vendome in Paris. Today we have enjoyed more super-smooth gravel roads, long testing Time Trials laid on by the national motor-club, arriving in a very pleasant hotel beside a large lake just outside Villnuis. Competitors are on the verandah taking in a few beers after experiencing a great day’s rallying.
The girls have gone well in the Rapier and Pamela Reid is always giving it 100 per cent, but today came unstuck quite literally, parking it in a hedge after a tight 90-right… but came out of the bushes smiling - the car is unmarked and was soon flying again.
The day opened at the first time-control at Riga Motor Museum, opened specially for us at 7.0am, and then on to the first test of the day at Riga Circuit. A number of crews made navigational errors in the lay out or did too many laps, or, not enough laps failing to understand a “split” to collect extra penalties – these include Xavier de Marmol in the Chevy, who had a fantastic day yesterday, chopping a great chunnk of time off David Williams who leads the Vintageant Category.
So, after the circuit opener, the rally headed off into the woods for a string of testing sessions on tracks closed just for us - wonderfully smooth graded gravel roads offering some long Time Trials capable of sorting things. The Aston Martin DB6 of the Goodwins was just about the best-performer of the day today, “cleaning” some of the test sections by a second or two, but, surprisingly, second best car of the day was the Alvis Speed 20 of Friedrichs Lux, who chucks the car around with great sweeps of the wheel and clearly enjoys sertting up the car with long lurid slides through sweeping bends. The day also witnessed a fight back by Paul Merryweather… having seen Paul Carter and Vincent Fairclough give him a real mauling yesterday, the Chevy driver stepped back into the ring clearly intent on punching back.
On the Iecava Time Trial, it was Goodwins cleaning it in the Aston, then the Alvis, with Paul and Sandra Merryweather third, two seconds better than Xavier’s Chevvy. At Bucas forest, it was again the Goodwin’s Aston, then the Alvis12 seconds further down, Xavier third, just one second later, but with the Merryweather’s hanging on to his heels two seconds adrift. Gerry Crown was enjoying himself, tenth best, and the one litre Singer Le Mans crew were giving it a maximum attack and came in 17th.
On the last Time Trial of the day, Dubrogiai, hilly, with sudden crests and long open bends, with very smooth gravel, the Aston again stormed it to set best time, but Xavier was second, the Jaguar Mark Two third, the Alvis fourth… Merryweather was fifth, over a minute better than Paul Carter who was sixth. Several TV crews were filming us and, there were crowds of spectators out on this one – clearly this run through the forest is a rally favourite.
Summing up, total penalties for the leg today show that the Alvis of the German Spy took best times, chalking up 9.04.49, second was the Chevy of the Merryweathers, 9.05.58, and Paul Carter third best on 9.06.21. What this means is that the David Williams Chevy leads the Vintageants with total penalties of 171 hours, 15 minutes, 38 seconds, with Xavier de Marmol second on 171.36.45, having collected a maximum time for taking the wrong route on the circuit test, and the gap between second and third closes… Paul Carter’s Bentley in third is on 171.37.03, less than a minute from second place and still much to decide things.
On the Medal stakes, we have 28 crews in total up for a Gold Medal, including three in the Pioneer Category, and 33 going for a Silver, with the rest aiming to cross the line in Place Vendome for a Bronze.