33
DAYS

The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 1997

September 6 - October 18, 1997

Bulletin 12 - Neutral but remarkable...

Saturday 20 September    Nyalam to Katmandu  355 kms

From Nyalam in less than one hour the road enters a gorge into a different world with dense vegetation to the border at Zhangmu, from here there are long demanding sections packed with hairpins to reach Friendship Bridge and enter Nepal. 

From the border point at Khodari the road winds around terraced hillsides to the Sun Kosi river with a climb to Dhulikhel before the final descent into the Katmandu valley where the rally will rest for two days.

"A most remarkable day, we'll never forget it." This was how Linda Dodwell, USA driver of one of the team of Hillman Hunters (left) described leaving Tibet, crossing Friendship Bridge into Nepal, passing through a throng of thousands of cheering children and well-wishers as the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge climbed the valley to Katmandu.

The tiny kingdom in the Himalayas has just witnessed its first experience of motor sport in the long history of the Nepalese dynasty.

The surviving cars from the 94-strong field that left Peking two weeks ago, growled and rattled their way across the 70ft concrete span linking Tibet with Nepal, covered in flags and banners welcoming drivers.

After completing Chinese customs formalities in a record 30 seconds per car, drivers entered Nepal where local schools had been given the day off in honour of the remarkable events.

At least four cars have reached Katmandu on the back of trucks. Tony Buckingham, whose Aston Martin DB5 had been in the joint lead for time, made good his promise to "give it death" all the way to Katmandu, and in the process broke his car comprehensively. It may yet be repairable given enough welding and local ingenuity... He was towed for much of the previous day over dirt roads by a Land Rover Discovery.

The roads from the border to the capital of Nepal has been like driving "over the backside of the moon," says Linda Dodwell, "with bomb craters, long muddy sections that suck you down, rocks the size of soccer balls - and we conquered the lot."

There was no timing today as long delays were anticipated at the two borders, where the regional officials have never before witnessed foreigners driving their own cars, let alone seen a rally comprising 200 people. In the event, the neutralisation of the section was not really necessary as delays were minimal, against all expectations.

Drivers are now relaxing in the bath, or in the bar, for the first time in days, in the comforts of the Yak and Yeti Hotel. They have driven from camping in freezing conditions at the foot of Mount Everest into the sunny, hot weather in Katmandu.

Rally chief, Philip Young, megaphone at the ready, awoke drivers this morning from their frost-covered sleeping bags as a red sky forced its way over the summit of Everest in perfectly clear cold air, with the familiar call "Attention Paddock, Attention Paddock!"

And with that the survivors, departing the control at minute intervals, turned once more westwards over the devilishly twisting dirt road that runs for hundreds of kilometres out of Tibet - and this is the main road for Paris.

This section having been neutral in terms of timing, the results as posted for the section to Choksam remain current with the reliable and strong Ford Cortina and Ford Anglia in the lead by a whisker from the remarkable Dutch-crewed 2CV.

 

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