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Peking - Paris - Before the start

We arrived safely in Beijing yesterday getting ready (overcoming jetlag, that is...) for the big day on Sunday. Today we got our first experience of chinese requirements: we were given plastic car number plate and driving license, both valid for a week.  I enclose 3 pictures.  We will get our cars on Saturday and I hope to send you more pictures.


Logbook for Friday 25th

Today we collected our cars from a warehouse east of Beijing, already cleared from customs and in driving order. What a site, to look for the first time to this lineout of extraordinary motor vehicles! The day was sunny for a change if a bit windy (that's what cleared the pollution over the city skies...) and hot.. Our car started first time and we drove off into the sunshine and stopped outside of the warehouse to take pictures of the cars. We then drove out of the compound on our way to the hotel and stopped on the first petrol station to fill in.. But the first problem was soon to surface: since the tripmeter was counting and I did not wanted to zero it in, I switched off the ignition switch only (rather than the main switch) which meant the petrol pump was still ticking away. After 70 litters or so the pump attendant pointed to the floor: a big pool of petrol was pouring out at the front!

I started the engine and drove the car out 50 yards or so to allow other cars to fill in, opened the bonnet and saw that the petrol return pipe from the rear carburettor was totally off the T junction (that joined it to the return pipe from the front carburettor and then took the excess petrol back into the fuel tank). Ah, I said, that's easily cured. And I proceeded to put it back into place.  But then the car would not start!  After several attempts, one of the other cars (we were all filling in at the station) went back to the compound to get one of the mechanical support teams and a few minutes later Andy had arrived.

I explained what had happened, but since petrol was definitely being pumped into the carburettors but not getting out into the engine we all agreed that a blocked float or needle was the most probable cause (SU's are well known for such ocurrences) so Andy took them apart and cleaned everything. Unfortunately after almost two hours the problem persisted and was  puzzling everybody.  Until we retraced the sequence of events and Andy disconnected the return pipe from the rear carburettor. Bingo!

To make a long story short, we seem to have always had a fuel circuit "design" problem: I am not sure when and how the return pipe came loose, but it seems that it was solving a back pressure (into the fuel tank) problem. Leaving the fuel pump working with the engine stopped exposed the loose pipe. Either the return pipe goes deep into the bottom of the rubber tank (I had never filled it up to the top before) or somehow it gets pressurised and would not allow the carburettor vacuum to operate. Using a "free flow" overflow pipe for the rear carburettor into the ground on the right hand side of the car (which was still dry after a 20 mile run to the hotel, i.e., no overflow at all) solved the problem. 

Not bad for the first day even before the rally started. What else can we expect on Sunday?

I will let you know how we get along.
Rgds Jose

Update on the 2007 Peking Paris Challenge

Day 17 and we arrived today at Yekaterinburg, on the foot of the Urals, after an uneventful ride of just over 300 Km. from Tyumen. Tomorrow is a day off and everybody is preparing to do repairs on the cars and get them ready for the second half of the event.

Yes, would you believe it, we are already about half way on our road to Paris, even if a sign on the road today signaled Moscow 2304 Km!

The story of the event so far is the crossing of Mongolia to the west, from Ulaan Baatar to Altay, Khvod and Tsagaannuur, crossing the Mongolia-Russia border at Tashanta, which only opened to foreigners in 2004.

Our Magnette at a sophisticated ger camp

It has proved an extremely hard car-wrecking exercise. No roads to speak of, mainly very rough tracks and a lot of off-road traveling. Most tracks are made up of large solid rocks and/or wash-board surfaces that get everything loose in a car. Five consecutive days of camping also left an imprint on competitors, especially those (like us…) who arrive after 9 pm at the camps and do not get dinner or a hot shower.

Virtually every car has suffered from this uniquely hard combination and at one point there were some 30 cars stranded in the desert or broken down and being repaired in the villages. They are now slowly rejoining the rally, sometimes 3 or 4 days behind schedule but driving long non-stop hours to catch up.

Our little Magnette has also had its share of problems, mainly related to the front suspension and the low ground clearance. Early on the first day in Mongolia we already broke a front shock absorber and the top “cup” mount and drove some 200 Km on those conditions. Sand was also a problem and we found ourselves stuck in soft sand twice during the day, one of them costing us some ¾ of an hour to finally get free, with the help from many equally stranded competitors.

Almost everyday, at the end of the day, we had to find repair shops to replace shock absorbers and bushes, weld exhaust manifold or pipes and a myriad of other small jobs. All this among sand storms that paralyzed GPS reception… The ingenuity of Mongolian “mechanics”, working on the ground, without tools or artificial lights (they all use their customer’s tools…), is truly outstanding.

But the event that cost us a gold medal was the shearing of an engine mount, 30 Km from the end of day 11. The fan blade hit the radiator and there was a water splash that fortunately caused the engine to stop. We were towed by an organization 4x4 (at 60 km/hour…, at the end of a 5 m rope over the rough track, broken head lamp and fog lamps, chipped windscreen, another broken shock absorber and the sump guard hitting the sump (!)) and delivered to a “garage”, which saved us from spending several hours stranded on the track waiting for a tow…

The radiator was severely ruptured and I had my doubts about whether it could be repaired. We left the car at the garage and were driven to the camp where we finally could setup our tent at 1 am. This was the scene at sunrise, Harry’s MG SA and tent on the foreground by the river.

After one unsuccessful attempt at fixing the leak, the car was ready by 6 pm the following day. But with one headlamp only and another 300 Km of extremely rough terrain in front of us, we decided to hire a flat-bed truck and traveled from 8 pm to 6 am the following morning to the border camp.

Unloading our car at the border using a natural ditch made the daily picture on the organisation’s website…

Since then we have lived the almost daily routine of re-welding exhaust pipe, manifold and sump guard. With no more front shock absorbers (they have proved impossible to source here in Russia and we will only get fresh supplies in Moscow over the weekend), the car bounces up and down, hitting hard on any small wavy road surface or large pothole. We have been driving real slow to prevent further damage.

Still, we moved a couple of places up the ladder and are now 9th on the classics.
Please follow up the next episodes at the official site of the event on

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