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(3) 2010 P2P - Report 3

Here we are again on another rest day. Well, actually two days this time, because not going to Kyrgystan has allowed (forced) the organisers to do so. We are thus spending three nights at the 5-star Almaty Intercontinental in Kazakhstan.

The last six competitive days in Mongolia, from Ulaan Baatar to the border with Russia, were very very tough.

Mongolia is changing and we noticed some not so subtle differences from three years ago. From modern Louis Vitton and Ermenegildo Zegna shops on UB main square to "new" roads everywhere... The old "parallel" track network was fun to drive, sometimes with reasonably smooth surface built by decades of regular use, always requiring attentive navigation to reach a given waypoint.
By contrast, the newly opened "roads" are wider but very rough gravel tracks, mostly straight and flat and thus boring to drive, requiring little or no navigation to speak of, with horrendous corrugations that force most cars to drive at 10 to 20 miles per hour. Our favorite game this time was to avoid the new roads, finding a track that would bypass them and would lead us to the same point...

Six nights of camping in Mongolia left us dirty and dusty. And it was very cold some nights: 12C below zero at the border camp in the Altay mountains!
Crossing the two borders between Mongolia and Russia took "only" eight hours. We entered Russia at 4.30 pm with 700 Km to drive to the first Hotel in Russia at Belokurikha. Arrived at 2 am, enjoyed a shower on a "zero star" hotel, slept 3 hours and were ready for another long day with a border crossing into Kazakhstan. First hotel there at Semey (Tourist Hotel...) was even worse, only very slightly better than our "record" at Byisk three years ago: no hot water, no lifts, no bed matress, no toilet seat, unbelievable... ( ). But still reasonably clean. No shower though.

And next day another camp site on the road side under full moon.

Mechanical problems with the Magnette have been a daily constant, but we managed to reach Almaty under our own power, not needing any further tow or truck transport.
Actually, most serious breakdowns on this leg were again on the rear suspension alone. After repairing the top mount bolts in UB (with non-hardened metal), we suffered a sucession of related breaks, as follows

- First, one of the bolts sheared, and the backup team improvised with a thinner bolt to get us going;
- then next day the other one went as well;
- we found other bolts of correct dimensions at Khovd market, still not the deal metal, but they have hold up until now;
- one of the rear lower plates holding the lower shock mount had shown some cracks the day before. We reinforced it by welding in situ but next day it broke. We removed the shock absorber and found a welding shop nearby, just missing the open times on a Passage Control closeby but avoiding penalties at the remaining ones for the day and at the final Time Control.
- later on the same day the two U bolts holding the rear axle to the leaf springs also sheared and again a threaded rod came to our rescue.
And this is how we reached Almaty. We have a long list of repairs and maintenance work to be done tomorrow.

It seems some design or tunning flaw with the rear shocks is causing this debacle. With the loaded car the shocks seem to be too long, putting a lot of loads on both top and bottom mounts. And with all the reinforcements, the new plates do not allow the knobs to rotate when in place, making it impossible to adjust compression pressure. The shocks are very sturdy and of course it always breaks by the weakest link, i.e. the mounts...

You may remember that three years ago it was the front suspension and low ground clearance that was causing all the problems. These have now performed flawless so far. In contrast, the rear suspension is now the villain...

The other problems we suffered are very minor compared to this: loose wires on the starter, a packed coil, a cracked distributor rotor, one flat tyre, etc. No big deal...

We will do some changes tomorrow, namely by reversing the lower plates and increasing the distance between top ad lower mounts by over an inch and adjusting compression strength. Will keep you posted.
Jose Romão de Sousa

  •  and a minibus with american volunteers delivering wheelchairs in mongolia
  • a porsche 356c in action
  • and a pump to get water

  • and another camp site at peel river
  • best place in town. note alfa 6c and lafrance
  • best place in town

  • breakdown with rear suspension problems
  • brought help from a lady sheppard
  • camp site scene at sunset

  • chopping wood and feeding logs to the boiler for hot showers
  • day off at khovd
  • entertainment in camp at day off_archery

  • horse races
  • lower mount plate split down the middle
  • maria washing her teeth

  • maria with good friends michael and anne wilkinson from australia, this time driving an alvis
  • mongolia tracks
  • morning frost

  • peter banham fixing a loose exhaust before early morning start from camp site
  • queuing to cross mongolia border into russia
  • shop at border

  • tday off at khovd, car problems fixed (for now
  • the two mg's at sunrise, with a bentley hood on the foreground
  • toilet and shower at tourist hotel semey

  • tourist hotel at semey
  • two mg's under full moon, on the last camp of the event in kazakhstan
  • typical frenectic activity on a day off

  • typical mongolia landscape
  • where everybody was either washing up or putting beers in the cool river water
  • with additional power

  • with traditional lamb for dinner

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