The 2010 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge might actually get a little easier from now on, as the competitors cross into Russia for a long, two-day thrash across to the Kazakh border. There’s no doubt that first couple of thousand kilometres are amongst the toughest on the rally, as roads of any kind have been in short supply, and whole days have elapsed without seeing another person or vehicle – unless you count camels.
The rough terrain has left a list of wounded machinery too long to include, but some amazing resourcefulness has allowed all but four of the 105 starters to carry on, even if some of them are currently being towed to the next workshop. The Alvis Speed 20 of Rudi Friedrichs and Lennox McNeeley set the second fastest time on a test on Sunday, despite breaking a kingpin and discovering the replacement they were gallantly offered by fellow Alvisti, the Wilkinsons from Australia, was a size too small. No matter – a shim from a sardine can and off they went to almost the top of the time sheets.
Broken half shafts are more serious, and too large and heavy to carry as spares in most cases, and it’s this that put the 3-litre Lagonda special of Maarten Hoeben and Jan Bruintjes out of the rally. Others have been relying on the welder’s torch, with the ’54 Sunbeam Alpine of David and Joanna Roberts having a cracked chassis seen to in Khovd, while the Volvo PV544 of Nicholas Pryor and Lesley Stockwell has been singed from front to back: damper mountings remade, an engine mounting remade and an eyelet mounting for a Bilstein damper beefed up.
After these and many other breakdowns, it’s safe to say the leaders are not only in the quickest cars, but also the toughest. In the Pioneer category for pre-1921 type machinery, Max Stevenson and Charles Bishop are still close together in their Vauxhalls, with Stephenson’s 23/60 currently winning.
Steve Hyde and Janet Lyne lead the Vintageants (pre-’41 type cars) in their ’37 Chevrolet Coupe from Michael Thompson’s Chrysler 75 and William Medcalf’s 1925 Bentley. Gerald Crown, the 78-year old Aussie rally veteran, piloted his Holden EH into a solid lead in the Classic category, featuring pre-’68 models, even after he had to hand over the wheel to his navigator, Matt Bryson. Crown’s wrist is in a splint on doctor’s orders after ‘too much gearchanging on too many past rallies’, but Bryson showed the skills have rubbed off by setting the fastest time on all three of Tuesday’s tests. The increasingly surprising 1967 Anadol of Turkish crew Ahmet Ongun and Erdal Tokcan is in a sound second place; amusingly they’re narrowly but consistently beating an Aston-Martin DB5.
The award for most impressive optimism so far has to go to sole motorcyclist Tim Scott, whose 1922 FN 750cc suffered a collapsed rear wheel almost before the rally began. After spending a lot of miles on the back of trucks, he was on the road again recently, only to suffer a seized piston during a long mountain climb. Was he bothered? Not much: 'I’ve got a spare. All I need is a workshop,' he grinned.
For daily updates, timed section results and live GPS tracking of all the competitors, see www.pekingparis.com.