37
DAYS

The Peking to Paris Motor Challenge 2010

September 10th - October 16th, 2010

 

AUGUST 20TH, 2010

The Struggle to the Starting Grid…

We are all now counting down the days to the Start when the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge fires up over 100 engines and heads out to the Great Wall of China for our Start celebrations. 

Ahead lies 14,000 kilometres of some of the most varied roads on earth, with the Gobi Desert offering the first formidable obstacle. Back in 1907, Prince Borghese and his rivals quickly discovered just how difficult it is to “prove that man and machine can now go anywhere, with frontiers proving redundant.”

In fact frontiers, just over 100 years later, are proving just as tricky, as we have been wrestling with visas, some crews are in a nail-biting race to the wire to get all the documentation in order.

Other crews have had a hard time with getting nuts and bolts lined up. A few crews have been forced to pull out because of last minute let-downs by suppliers…and to drive a reliable car half way round the world requires a motor nicely run in, with everything well tested, and in its place. Yet, despite years of planning, with days to go to the shipping of the cars on the boat out of the UK, we had reports that a Rolls Royce engine was trying to repair a main bearing in the crankshaft. Others were equally stricken with grief, and there are at least 12 cars we know of that have missed the deadline for the ship, and are now aiming to fly the car to China.

This is not as easy as it sounds, as the customs service for the China port will only accept vehicles that are flown into the port…so, that rules out anything arriving by truck from the main airport in Beijing. So, any car flown to Beijing now has to get onto another aeroplane and fly out, and back in again, in order to arrive at the Port’s air-strip a matter of a few kilometres away.

We have lost some good people, and, some good cars in all this. One casualty was someone who last time proved to be the best prepared, and who showed a grip on the event early on, in David and Sadie Williams, who set a string of best times on the competitive Time Trial sections in their Chevrolet Fangio Coupe. That car now sits in a collection and looks immaculate, ready to roll again, but David had elected to drive a Model T Ford Raceabout of 1912, as he wanted something that offered more of a challenge. When the engine could not be got ready in time, he was one of the very first to say it was not going to be how he wanted it, therefore, he had to admit defeat and pull his entry – the Chevrolet was not an alternative, having won last time there was nothing left to prove in driving that.

Since David’s departure from the entry list, there has been a regular string of other entrants admitting to setbacks that mean they could no longer proceed. For some, getting to the Start Line has proved a formidable organisational obstacle every bit as tough as the tracks of the Gobi Desert, and it remains to be seen how many actually roll out of the car park of our hotel on the edge of Peking for the steady climb up to the Great Wall and the big send-off.

 

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