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Report: Peking to Paris, day four

Published 01 June 2013

Altanshiree to Ulaan Bataar

After two days of driving from the Great Wall of China, the competitive element of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge kicked in as the entrants reached the remote plains of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert.

With two days of Time Trials ahead of them, some drivers came into their own while others were left playing in the sand. In the Vintageants group of pre-war cars, Mike Reeves and BBC World Service presenter Michelle Jana Chan head the results in their ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ 1940 Ford V8 Coupe after the first event.

Having completed the long test-section with a blistering pace, the British pair chalked up a three minute lead over their rivals, fellow Brits Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown in their red 1937 Chevy Fangio Coupe, and Denmark’s Lars and Annette Rolner, in the 1928 Bentley four-and-a-half.

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The trio battled it out over a vast undulating plain of sandy, dusty, gritty, gravel tracks for the second event with the growling Ford V8 keeping its lead and ending with the second placed Chevy breathing down its neck. The Ford completed the Time Trial in 66m 12s, the Chevy chalking up 67m 47s, helping the Ford consolidate its lead, which now stands overall at 37h 9m 21s, compared with the Chevy crew’s 37h 16m 25s.

In third place, the Rolner’s Bentley has a total of 37h 17m 42s, just over a minute off the pace of the Chevy. A surprise fourth is the Swiss team of Mani Dubs and Robi Huber in the 1932 Rockne Six 75. This American saloon has excellent long-travel suspension that rides the bumps and crests most impressively. The British crew of Bill Cleyndert and Mark Van Hees in a 1929 Ford Model A Speedster hold an excellent fifth place among the Vintageants.

Meanwhile in the Classics division, the lead has become the battle of the Aussies as the ex-1974 World Cup Rally winning Citroen DS23¸ driven by Robbie Sherrard and Peter Washington, races for the top spot against 81-year-old Gerry Crown and teammate Matt Bryson in their 1973 Leyland P76 (below).

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In the first trial, the Leyland was victorious. In the second, the Citroen took the lead. The total overall was 7h 34m 15s for the Citroen, with the Leyland on 7h 36m 17s, with two VW Beetles close behind. The 1970 Beetle of American’s John and Brett Layzell is third, over a minute adrift, with Garrick Staples and Hayden Burvill and their 1969 marque in fourth with a total of 7h 38m 11s - a minute and a half ahead of the 1965 Porsche 911 of Peter Lovett and Tim Smith. Car 100, the 1973 Holden pick-up, crewed by Peter St George and David Gainer is fifth.

While some drivers and cars are focused on winning, others just want to survive the day let alone the 33-day long challenge, with newcomer-crews getting to grips with the complexities of navigating by GPS using their Garmins, combined with the Tulip-style route book and excellently illustrated map book.

The rare Chevrolet Stylemaster suffered a broken half-shaft in the axle, requiring a truck, while the big Mercury Park Ward was side-lined with gearbox and axle problems, collecting maximum penalties. The Bentley of car 11 stopped early into the Time Trial with a blown clutch but fortunately had a spare. The big La France stopped a few kilometres into the second Time Trial with the enormous rear axle moving on its spring mountings, which with some fettling and axle-straps, was brought back to life.

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