A shakey start for entants in the Fifth Peking to Paris Rally
At the start 96 cars set off from the Great Wall of China on the 28th May the start of their 7,500-mile journey. Preparation standards were put to the test as raging floodwater threatened the cars.
Sent on their way by Chinese dragon dancers, five international TV crews, and a crowd of over 2,000 well-wishers, the teams found themselves and their cars tested from the outset.
The first challenge of the day came in the shape of a 50-metre stretch of raging floodwater in a run down village that claimed two victims. The Dutch crew of Willem and Ellen Vermeulen in their 3.4 Jaguar Mk1 saloon -Car 74 needed a push through the water after drowning out.
Fellow Jaguar drivers Daniel and Alexandra Spadini -Car 71 were less lucky, with water sucked up into the engine, and the hydraulic effect was enough to bend two con-rods. The engine is very sick but remarkably still runs, and Daniel announced on driving into base for the evening that he “doesn’t intend to give up.”
The 1938 Chevrolet Fangio Coupe crewed by the French duo Christian Lalarderie and Christian Morales -Car 32, suffered when its battery exploded due to over charging, while the British Team of Matthew Telling and Andrew Wyers ended up with their 1927 Vauxhall 14/40 -Car 5 on a truck due to loss of oil pressure.
Oil pressure also proved a stumbling block for Aussies Paul Darrouzet and Ian Brown in their 1928 Packard Phaeton (Car 9) but the sweeper mechanics came to their aid. Punctures, a wrong turning and a cracked windscreen were also some of the opening day woes suffered by the drivers.
But the Citroen DS 23 from Australians Bob Sherrard and Peter Washington -Car 87 glided over the rough stuff, and just hoisted up its adjustable suspension to sail through the floodwater. The car that won the 1974 World Cup Rally across the Sahara in the hands of Jim Reddiex and Ken Tubman made light work of the day’s challenges. So too did previous Classic category winner Gerry Crown and Matt Bryson, also from Australia, in their 1973 V8 Leyland P76 -Car 90.
Many of the pre-war Vintageants looked particularly impressive, the drive of Mani Dubbs and Robi Huber in a 1932 Rockne Six 750 -Car 23 looked effortless as its suspension took command through the torture of giant crater-like potholes. Roll on day two!