The Mission


The Peking to Paris Rally is a recreation of the 1907 challenge issued by Le Matin, "Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?"
The 2016 version will follow a route of 13,695 Km (8,510 miles) and take 35 days. We are travelling in Rhubarb and Custard, a 1936 Buick. We know nothing about cars or rallying.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Gloves

My everyday car is a BMW M3 with a lovely thick leather covered steering wheel.  I never really understood why steering wheels were leather covered until I started driving Rhubarb and Custard, which has a wheel made of some kind of hard plastic or Bakelite.  It's quite an unpleasant thing to hold in your hands for long periods and tends to get slippery if your hands sweat.  Very quickly I found that it was much nicer to wear leather gloves when driving,

The trouble with gloves is that your hands get hot if the sun comes out. On our last trip I tried to overcome this by wearing finger-less cycling gloves but these aren't leather they are some kind of technical fabric and didn't give me any grip on the wheel.

As a result I've been doing research on gloves and have found a firm called Dents, which is based in Wiltshire in England and has been hand making gloves since 1777.  They made James Bond's driving gloves for Skyfall - how cool is that!

I bought three pairs of gloves from them:

Finger-less unlined driving gloves for normal driving. I tried these out on a roof down drive on a cold spring day last week and they were most excellent.






Full fingered, string-backed and lined driving gloves for cold weather. The string backing stops your hands getting too hot.




Full fingered, string-backed but unlined driving gloves made of peccary leather which is supposed to be the best possible leather for gloves.  However I found that the lack of lining exposed the seams internally and that they were not comfortable and so they went back to Dents for a refund.








Friday, 29 April 2016

Photography

Apart from getting the car ready, obtaining visas, having various jabs, booking flights and sundry other housekeeping matters we have to think about how to keep a record of this monumental trip.

There's this blog of course - about which more another time - and there will also be a photographic record, but that isn't as easy as it sounds.

The reality on a rally is that both driver and navigator are busy nearly all the time. The event is time driven so stopping at the side of the road to take a few snaps is rarely an option. We are also there to enjoy the moment - not to spend all our time recording the moment.

On the other hand 35 days spent on one of life's great adventures without keeping some photographic record doesn't seem quite right.

The ERA has photographer Gerard Brown in tow on its events and he does a great job because he knows just where to stand to capture the cars at dramatic moments.  I've bought several of his pictures of Rhubarb and Custard. They are expensive but really high quality so I think worth the money.

The ERA also makes a video of the event but this is less satisfactory because with over 100 cars it isn't possible to give everyone equal screen time.  Basically the more oddball characters make better TV as does anyone who has broken down, crashed etc. If you are having a more straightforward rally then you won't feature much, although of course the video acts as a reminder of the feel of the thing.

I did think about bringing a drone along to take aerial shots of the car but my drone is quite bulky and the mini ones take very poor quality pictures.  I was also a bit concerned about flying it in Russia and being arrested as a spy.

So here's what I've decided to do.

  • I'm going to bring along my Nikon SLR fitted with a 28-200mm Nikon lens. This lens is is off-the-scale amazing (see the picture at the top of this post). The camera is light and simple to use.
  • We've fitted the rollover bar of the car with a Go Pro on a Feiyu Tech  gimble so that it holds steady as we are driving along.  The Go Pro can be operated from my iPhone. We also have a remote control so that in theory we can pan and tilt the camera from the cockpit.  I have to admit that in practice this is difficult when you are also trying to navigate.
  • I've got a second Feiyu Tech gimble on a selfie stick so that I can put the iPhone out of the car window and shoot video as we drive along.  These gimbles are pretty amazing at correcting the movement of the car or your arm  but of course they do need to be kept charged. 
One problem is that video fills up the iPhone memory quite quickly and so I've bought a PhotoFast i-FlashDrive Max 128 GB USB 3.0 flash-drive.  This tiny gadget is driven by an iPhone app that can be used to transfer files including video files from the iPhone to the flash-drive without needing a computer or any other device. Having backed up to the flash-drive you can then delete the video from the iPhone to create more storage space.












Thursday, 28 April 2016

Underwear

Can't believe I'm writing this blog entry, but here goes. When we went on Owen Turner's PtoP familiarisation day he recommended that male participants buy silk underwear for the trip as it is very fast drying and (he says) very comfortable.  Owen is the one on the far left of this photo. Definitely a man comfortable in his own pants I would say:



So, I've been online to a site called The Underwear Expert and which runs The Underwear Club:



From this I learnt that Hanro Silk Modal Boxer 3094 are the Rolls Royce of the Silk Boxer world but sadly not available in the UK.  Accordingly I have been reduced to buying a cheaper alternative from Debenhams - I got the last two pairs in my size! 

Now we gonna win that rally.  


Face Masks

Def need a face mask for crossing Mongolia. But which one to choose?







Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Tyres

There's a lot of discussion amongst rally folk about what tyres to run on.  There is the option of special rally tyres designed for Mongolia's off road conditions, but these won't work so well on the tarmac roads that cover most of the rest of the route (although there are several special stages on gravel and dirt roads).

We've decided on van tyres for Rhubarb and Custard.  These fit onto the existing wheels, don't weigh too much and should be easy to source if we need new ones. They won't give us a fast time around a racetrack - although as is often said on Top Gear the fastest form of transport in the UK is a white van, so who knows.  On balance we hope they are a good compromise between practicality and serviceability.

We know that punctures are a problem and so we have brought a puncture repair kit. However, neither of us have any idea how to use said kit. Nor do I see how it is possible to remove a tyre by the side of the road when special equipment is used if the garage does this.  We also have spare inner tubes which I recall my father always saying you must never fit to radial tyres. Again, we have the same problem of how to get the tyre off the wheel and back on again.  I've seen on one of the 2013 blogs that a competitor had 20 punctures along the route. We are only carrying two spare wheels so if we have that kind of bad luck the repair kit will be coming out.

There is the option of replacing the tyres at some point, whether or not they are damaged or punctured. At least a set of van tyres should be available and affordable in most places. Although a bit of me is reluctant to trust a tyre from a garage in the middle of nowhere.

There's quite a lot of altitude change along the route which may require adjustments to tyre pressure.  I think the advice in Mongolia is to run with soft tyres (that's certainly what mountain bikers do).  It sounds like we may be constantly pressurising and depressurising the tyres.  I've just come back from Iceland where the off-road Super Jeeps can inflate and deflate their tyres from the cockpit. We are going to fit bluetooth enabled tyre caps so that we can monitor tyre pressure form our smartphones. Mind you that's yet another thing to make life more complicated.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

What Does The The Peking to Paris Rally Cost?

I thought future readers possibly thinking about entering the rally might be interested to know what it costs to enter.

The basic entry fee is £40,000 per crew of two, which for a 35 day trip including hotels and support crew seems like very good value to me.

Unfortunately it doesn't end there. Among the additional costs are:

Fuel in Mongolia - depends on engine size but £1500
Fuel on the remainder of the trip £Not Known but probably another £3,000
Shipping  - depends on where you start but £3,610 for us to get the car to China and £840 to recover from Paris
Chinese Import Bond 1% of the value of the car (so for some of the participants this could be a very big number)
Chinese Stranded Tax 0.3% of the car's value
Insurance £2175 for us

On top of this there are flights out to Beijing and return from Paris and costs of extra tickets at various events in Beijing and Paris if your loved ones are joining you. There isn't much to spend money on during the rally but we are told to take $10,000 of emergency money and plenty of participants find they need this.

Finally there is the cost of the car and fixing up the car which is whatever you want it to be.  We know that some of the cars have had a £250,000 build on top of what they originally cost to buy.  Rhubarb and Custard has not been so privileged. You also have to carry a fair inventory of spares - probably £5,000 or £10,000 worth, but of course these will not be needed on the trip (ha ha!).

So it's impossible to say what it might cost - there will be people who spent a fortune and some who are on a shoe string.  Rhubarb and Custard is somewhere at the lower end of the middle I would guess.

Still what price can you put on the experience of a lifetime?


A Little More Competition


Car 68 is a 1968 (how did they do that?) Mustang owned by Peter Weigelt and Beat Hirs from Switzerland.

These nut jobs ran a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost on the 2015 Alpine Trial - how it went around the hairpins I do not know.  From memory I think they did pretty well.

Here's a photo of the Mustang and below one of the Ghost standing next to Rhubarb and Custard.



A Little Competition

Car 22 is  a 1935 Alvis Silver Eagle Sport driven by Richard Bowser(GB) and Paul Rivlin(GB).

As it happens the person who sits opposite me in the office is Paul Rivlin.  For the moment it's all friendly but when we get to Mongolia - the gloves are coming off.


Monday, 25 April 2016

Mongolia - A Preview

We already know where the overnight stops are in Mongolia but of course we don't know the exact route we will be following.  In general the rally organisers try to find interesting and beautiful routes that will also stretch the cars and the teams.

I've plotted on Google Earth the stopovers through Mongolia and into the first camp in Russia.


The red line is the route we would take as the crow flies - which obviously we won't be doing.

The map below is from the website 'Dangerous Roads' and the pins show some of the World's most dangerous roads that we might take if that's what the organisers have in mind.  At least one of them is 4x4 only and has a gradient of 35% so I don't think we will be doing that.



I thought if I looked carefully at Google Earth I could second guess the route but it's completely impossible. The various pictures postyed onto Google Earth make Mongolia look rather lush, green and rolling. But I gather the rally organisers are capable of finding dry, dusty and hilly parts as well!