33
DAYS

The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 1997

September 6 - October 18, 1997

Bulletin 14 - No fast track to Delhi...

Wednesday 24 September     Kohalpur to Nainital     364 kms

Today starts with good quality asphalt then, after a major river bridge becomes tough, rocky gravel for a short distance.  Route continues on a mix of broken asphalt and gravel with many river crossings to the frontier.  Easy roads in India to the quaint Himalya foothills town of Nainital.  Nainital was a renowned summer retreat during the days of the Raj.

Thursday 25 September      Nainital to Delhi         350 kms

A descent through great scenery on super roads skirting the Corbett Tiger Reserve down to the Northern Indian Plain.  Then a main run down to a superb welcome in the Indian capital - Delhi.

The section to Nainital was, as expected, neutralised after the officially promised 'fast track' border control disappeared under a mountain of bureaucracy. 

Delays at the border of up to five hours were experienced by the less fortunate competitors. The resulting pressure on the crews and the organisers has been at the root of the lack of recent communication. Most describe themselves as "shattered".

The section down to Delhi brought initial relief but then more frustration for many as they tried to cope with the anarchy of traffic on the approaches to Delhi. Many cars have thus gained a few more minutes penalty through the effects of the traffic rather than through mechanical malady, navigational blunder or poor driving.

The Broderick Ford Anglia (No 52), hitherto in the joint lead, has slipped slightly to third, displaced by the Dutch 2CV of Van der Laan (No 43). Similarly the second of the two Ford Club Coupes (No 24) has dropped back. Much shuffling of a few places elsewhere in the results is evident as competitors trade minutes here and there. The Dichtl Rolls-Royce (No 28) has moved further up the field to 15th overall, maintaining its class lead.

Displacing Ford for best performing make is the Peykan Hunter (erstwhile Hillman) team, entered by Iranian crews whose cars all feature in the top ten as the rally heads inexorably towards their home territory.

Just 20 cars now remain with a penalty of less than one hour. John Catt's achievement in keeping his penalty tally down to just three minutes over 20 full days is extraordinary, as is the achievement of the 2CV crew, just one minute behind, whose lack of power is made up for by mechanical robustness, good ground clearance, economy and skillful work from both driver and co-driver.

The Lux Rover (No 93), previously reported as retired due to illness of the crew, is yet another car that has reappeared - in this case reclassified in the touring category where the rate of retirements has been impressively low.

No fewer than 85 cars are recorded as still running out of the 94 starters. The initial rate of retirements has certainly not been maintained.

Worst casualty of the first section from the border to Nainital was the Nigel Challis Land-Rover (above left)  which was driven off the road by a lorry coming down the narrow pass up from the border, in darkness. The crew was shaken but unscathed, but sadly, the vehicle, which had done so well thus far, running as high as tenth place overall, fared worse. It was badly bent and was fit only to be taken on to Delhi on the back of a truck.

The rally now heads away from Delhi well before sunrise, for a long 600km section across to Lahore. The prospect of another lengthy border crossing, into Pakistan, is regarded with some anxiety by both competitors and organisers.

Penalties at TC14 Delhi (part 1) from first place:

Penalties at TC14 Delhi (part 2) from first place:

 

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