• Print
User Rating:  / 0
PoorBest 

Peking - Paris - Report 8 - Very very long days...

The last two weeks of the rally have no rest days and have always large daily mileages, from 500 Km upwards. Two days ago was the longest day of the whole event, with 725 Km, from Erzerum to Kozakli and three gravel stages. This means of course that if you break down your only chance is to make repairs overnight. And major repairs are virtually impossible...



Erzerum is a famous ski station in Turkey at an altitude of just over 2000 m. Our hotel was high above the city with a ski lift outside the main entrance. It was cold, windy and drizzling when we arrived but that turned into persistant rain the following morning.

For the last week or so we had travelled without a sump guard (in place that is, it was in the boot...) to improve oil cooling. But because the next day had gravel stages we decided to put it back, and we had Michael Wilkinson's help in doing so. We were not very happy with how some of the bolts were made tight, but that was the best we could achieve.

Because of our continuing rear suspension problems we decided to skip the first stage, which was quite long with some 50 Km, and only do the other two, which were much shorter. So we had a fairly relaxed early part of the day cruising on the main road for some 300 Km at an average of around 90 Km/hour.

At one of the time controls news came fast that on the first stage the Wilkinson's Alvis had gone off the road, straight on on a muddy and slippery bend after a crest, having landed some 10 meters below and stopped some 60 meters further on. They were shaken but free from any serious injuries but the car could not continue on the rally and it took some ingenuity to get it back on the road with the help of a rear excavator. Then later on on the main road we saw the number 2 Itala of David and Karen Ayre on its side and with broken front wheels. It had clearly also gone off road on a slippery tarmac section and Karen was under the care of the rally doctor. David was unhurt but she suffered a small hand bruise.

We approached the start of the 2nd stage late in the afternoon with light fading fast and in a gloomy mood. It was raining and fog was starting to form. There was a queue at the starting control which I could not understand, until it was our turn and the marshall explained to me that there was a muddy and very slippery upway section which we could see from the start line, which the later cars were having difficulty overcoming. He would not allow the next competitor to start until the previous one had cleared that, and in most cases that would take more than one attempt, thus the delays. With our lack of power it was difficult to gather the required momentum and we had to climb in first gear. Twice we "died on the beach" with only 10 m or so away from solid ground...We had to come back but eventualy managed to be towed up by a farmer tractor...
Five or six miles up on the stage another muddy section caused four cars to stall, until we found an alternative track that eventually led us to the final control. A freezing wind and heavy rain left us frozen while we were out of the cars discussing alternatives...
The third and final stage of the day was not far away but by the time we got to the start it was pitch dark. Gravel was rough and we took extra care not to break down under these circunstances... We were the last car to reach the end control on time, but our time was awful.

Two miles after the end of the stage, still under heavy rain and on muddy gravel, the sump guard went... Well it was hitting the ground, only held by one bolt... No option but to jack the car up, get our overalls and lay on the mud to remove it...

But the day was not over. From then on we still had about 100 Km to the final control at the hotel. A few miles later on good tarmac the ignition started to play games. The ignition light would come on and the car would stop immediately with ignition failure. A few minutes later it would restart, only to fail again a few hundred yards later... We could not find any loose wire on the engine bay (coil, distributor, etc.) and decided to wait for the sweeper team, which we managed to contact by phone confirming they were still behind us.
Peter Banham arived half an hour later and quickly found the fault: a loose wire on the ignition switch on the panel inside the car! And we drove in convoy to the hotel where we arrived at 11 pm...

Great rallying!

  • ignition
  • muddy stages