Friday, 14 June 2019

Novosibersk, Friday 14th June
On Wednesday on a gravel road, we broke the differential housing and waited four and a half hours for a tray truck to transport us to Novosibersk, missing two and a half days of the rally. We arrived here at 3am, having been driven through the night. The truck dropped us at a workshop and we took a Uber to the hotel about 4am. The truck driver stopped for dinner at a spotless place which simply looked like a two storey house. No English and we managed to get a delicious meal of chicken soup, chicken & potatoes, baked bread & coffee for a total of $25.
At 7.30 am we went back to the workshop and the car was assessed by a mechanic. The whole rear axle assembly was removed, the broken side removed and welded. It was reassembled and put back in the car. Many other items were attended to, such as the sump guard which took a 40 tonne press to straighten, headlights reattached, engine mount replaced and sundry small jobs. Achim, the mechanic was excellent with great work.
We've accumulated huge penalties because of the missed controls but better to have the car repaired and now concentrating on getting the car to Paris.
The roads in Mongolia were diabolical with huge gullies, ruts, bumps etc, very hard on the cars so a large attrition rate. We survived the camping in Mongolia and some of the camps were in spectacular places, beside lakes or running streams. The camps were set up with temporary shower blocks, toilets and a mess tent. The food was excellent and plenty of vegetarian options.
The people in this part of Russia are very friendly and helpful, a vast contrast to the people of Mongolia. Border crossings to date have been slow and bureaucratic, particularly the one from Mongolia to Russia. With a long line of 60 cars waiting to cross, the entire crossing shut down whilst the staff walked out for lunch.
Leading up to the Mongolian border the shocker mount broke. At the border we removed the shock absorber and continued on to the day's end camp not realising that the remaining part of the mount had worked loose, allowing suspension to be hanging on one bolt. That bolt broke as we turned off the main road into the camp where cabins were provided. We suspected something was wrong as the car was pulling to the left for the last 100 kms. Turning off the main road we hit a bump and the single remaining bolt broke and the front left wheel folded under the car as that side's suspension collapsed.
Passing locals jumped out of their cars and took control. Using jacks & some of our tools had us on 4 wheels again by way of a temporary bolt and a hammered in tapered pin.This was adequate to get us the last few hundred meters to the camp, where we worked until late to effect repairs. A couple of the helpers were working on the conservation of the snow leopard as very few remain in Russia. They were providing entertainment for local children so had one of the troupe dressed in a snow leopard suit. Quite a site with a snow leopard helping to do car repair by the side of the road.
The Russian side was closed for a holiday on Tuesday and 4 cars were unable to cross so had to stay in Mongolia for another day.
Lots of animals wander across the roads here and in Mongolia: horses, sheep, cows and goats.
The villages in Mongolia were like compounds with fencing all around. The colourful colorbond roofs stood out, bright shades of orange, aqua, blues and yellows.
The dust from the roads seeps into everything in the car, including us, and we arrive at the end of the day looking like vagabonds.
Internet service has been hit & miss, and the rally very intense so very little time to blog.
Tomorrow is a rest day before we head to Kazakhstan on Sunday.
The Russians are extremely particular about taking US dollars, anything old looking, creased, marked etc is rejected. Every note is examined twice and we've had a few rejected at the bank today.
Having had five blowouts in 3 days due to bad advice received about installing tubes in tyres, we are off tomorrow to have the remaining tubes removed and to obtain some cast-off tyres from another Australian competitor who has had new tyres flown in. Along the way we have purchased 3 tyres of varying quality, mainly second-hand. It will be good to be back on 4 good tyres with one good spare as we have driven the last 3 days with no spare whatsoever. We are also attempting to obtain another rim as we destroyed a rim in Mongolia.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

In Ulaanbaatar. Part two

having technical issues so continued here.

We bent a wheel and had a flat tyre yesterday day 4.
Destroyed our tyre so we bashed the wheel straight(er) and purchased a new “similar sized” tyre from a yokohama tyre shop today.

Also fabricated new shock absorber rubbers and fitted those..  Tidied up the car and did a few other repairs and now ready to go tomorrow.

For photos and organisers reports visit.  There is a photo of us on either day3 or day 4, can,t remember which.
No time so far to add our own photos but maybe at next rest day.

Now into email blackout for next fed days.
We are well and looking forward to next desert stages.

In Ulaan bataatar

Following day two we have been in  camp on day three and now in UB last night, end of day 4
Day  3 from Erenhot in China was spent mainly at the border, exiting China not too bad, entering Mongolia a complete and utter shambles, more than three hours to be processed. The people engaged by the Organisers were useless
Heavy snow meant our original route to that nights camp was flooded so we spent more time congregated whilst a new partial route was found and we were convoyed in groups to a point on our original route. After leaving the hotel at 7am we arrived at camp around 6ish, heavy wind and a melted shock absorber rubber which phil replaced whilst Laurette and friends erected our tent
The shocker rubber disintergrated and we banged our way along for the last hour into camp not knowing what the problem was.

Next day was a late strt with several timed speed sections of up to 70 kms on sometimes smooth gravel at 125 kmh and the ditches and many rocky section we had to crawl over at low speed.  We flew through the first section and would have had no penalty but for confusion at the start line where other cars were jumping the queue and we think we left around 30 seconds after we should have.

The next stage we did easily, the Alfa going well.  We use our headphone intercoms on these stages as the engine is revving hard, around 4 to 5000rpm most of the time and rocks and gravel hit the underside of the floor.  Very loud.

The next stage, both of our GPS units went blank at the same time and we got lost, driving over a dried lake bed to rejoin the road. Eventually found our way.

Arrived at UB and parked up. Good dinner at the hotel, at 11 pm last night 15 cars had not arrived.
One car rolled several times after hitting a ditch at high speed. Parts of the car were found 150 meters away.  Only a broken arm and concussion we hear.

The organisation and timing has been a shambles and a real dissapointment and despite being in 14 th place, we believe we should be closer to the top 10.

Monday, 3 June 2019

On our way, end of day two.

Yesterday we started at the great wall, dancing dragons, musicians etc
A long day left the hotel at 6.00 am and got to the evening finish at 7.00 pm.  One car crashed on the short hillclimb speed test so it was cancelled for the rest of the classic cars we didn’t get to do it.

Today was much shorter including a circuit dash on a dusty rough paddock, around the flags. We did 2 min 33 seconds which was 23 seconds slower than the fastest cars, but quicker than a lot

Our good friends the Gills in the 73, mercedes had a crash today when a taxi pulled out in front of them on a dual carriageway. They do this here, simply join the road without looking. We have all had to take avoidance action at one time or another.  We reckon the Gills, who are now back in Hohot, will get the Merc going again within 24 hours and rejoin the rally. The driving standards here are appalling.

A short report and no photos today and we will probably be out of contact now for a few days

Tonight in Erenhot. A much easier day today.

Phil had a stomach bug all yesterday and is recovering today, hopefully now got some immunity.

There are probably half a dozen cars with problems so hope they can keep going.
Another team pulled out at the end of the first day. Probably a bit more than they expected.

Off to dinner shortly so all for now

Will post this whilst connection is working

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Ready to go

After breakfast we went out to the carpark and saw that the queue for scrutineering ( checking for our safety equipment and vehicle eligibility ) was still quite lengthy so we repacked the car as all tools and spares had to be in boxes for shipping and we have lots of places in corners where bits and pieces go.

We then wandered off to try and find both Gin and Tonic for the desert camping nights in Mongolia. We had looked extensively in the preceding days and found Gin but not Tonic.  This time we went into a coffee shop for coffee and spotted Tonic in their display case. Bought 6 small cans, making sure the staff did not open them for consumption on the premises.

By the time we returned to the hotel the queue was short so we joined it and a little while later were checked and signed off.

We then signed on at rally HQ in the hotel foyer and are now ready to go

Collecting the cars and a lesson on driving laws in China

On Thursday, we had a lecture from the senior traffic officer in Beijing, via an interpreter, as to how we should drive in the PRC.  This very informative lecture included advice such as determining which side of the steering wheel was on, being prepared to brake at green lights, and no sliding down hills.  Also, casual lane changing was prohibited.  The people who would have benefited most are the other thousands of drivers on Chinese roads.

Friday morning having been given such valuable advice yesterday, we were able to collect or Chinese driving licenses and a number plate for the car.  When Laurette checked details on our number plate we discovered that we had been given someone else’s number plate. We quickly tracked down the other team and exchanged plates

Later that day we were bussed out to a warehouse an hour or so from the hotel to collect the cars.
The fuel tanks had been drained in Melbourne so that they held only a couple of litres, or in our case it appears that the engine had been left to idle for several hours to reduce the fuel load which resulted in fouled plugs.

After removing and cleaning each plug Avanti started and unlike some others made it to the nearest fuel station to fill up. Quite a few cars ran out of petrol or sputtered into the filling station on fumes.

After a drive back to the Hotel we parked up and left scrutineering for Saturday due to the queue of cars already waiting.   That night we had cocktails on the lawn and then dinner in the dining room.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

A Sunday reflection with one week to go

Today being Sunday means that we have 7 days until the start of the event.
The packing is completed and we are ready to fly to Beijing.

Tomorrow we fly to Beijing and have a couple of spare days before the pre event activities begin

Thursday we have the Chinese Police briefing on “how to drive in China”, and where they lecture us on abiding by the local driving laws. We will see how that allows us to survive on the crowded roads.

Friday we collect cars and commence scrutineering and signing on. We also collect our Chinese driving licenses and number plates, having now been advised of how to drive.  Welcome cocktails and dinner follow that night.

Saturday we have paperwork and a competitor briefing from the ERA officials.

Sunday we are off to the Great Wall for the official flag off and start.