“A Lap Of The Globe”: A Story About Rallying Around The World

A few days ago I made a post about a rally book that I had just added to my library.  This book “A Lap Of The Globe” is the story of one American team that entered (and finished) the Around The World In 80 Days Motor Challenge that was held in 2000.

“A Lap Of The Globe” Is An Enjoyable Book About A Very Challenging Rally

One of the first things that I noticed is that while the Around The World In 80 Days Motor Challenge was held in 2000, this book was not published until 2006.  Perhaps the author needed six years to wind down from the challenges of this monumental event.

The book is the story of the development of the idea to compete in this event right through to the finish line in London, with a few reflective thoughts after the event.  The author, Kevin Clemens, chose a 1959 Mercedes-Benz 220S sedan as his rally vehicle for this challenge.  After reading his story, I came to the conclusion that he chose his vehicle well.  The Mercedes-Benz was tough and, just as importantly, there was a reasonably good dealer network along the rally route, which allow for significant repairs to be made and parts to be obtained.

One thing that I appreciated about Kevin’s story is that he was an experienced “rally guy” before the event.  Many of the other stories that I have read about these challenging long distance rallies are told by competitors who had little or no previous rally experience.  Clemens had previously competed in SCCA Pr0 Rally events, the Alcan 5000, and the Ontario Winter Rally before undertaking this around the world rally.  His navigator was experienced as well.

This 1959 Mercedes-Benz 220S Proved To Be An Able Long Distance Rally Car

 The key to these long distance endurance rallies is to have a very well prepared simple and sturdy car.  Combine this with good driving, not necessarily great driving as good is good enough, and make no self-inflicted navigation or timing errors and you’ll end up at or near the front of the field.

This Was A Typical Scene From The Nightly Car Repair Ritual

Kevin and his navigator, Mark Rinkel, were both lucky and resourceful and between them, along with assistance from an assorted collection of mechanics and tinkerers encountered along the way, managed to get that Mercedes-Benz over the finish line.  They spent many evenings and almost every “day off” working on the car, in addition to the nightly nut and bolt, keeping the car and themselves in this rally.

It was good to read some passages in this book about some rally people who I know.  For example, John Bellefleur and Ross Wood from Ontario, put together the North American portion of this rally.  Also Neil Dubey and his crew from Star Motors in Endicott, NY (a fine Mercedes-Benz classic restoration and repair shop) stopped by the team’s hotel room during a night stop in Binghamton, NY to offer help to the rally team to fix the Mercedes-Benz 220S plus Neil and his crew also helped some other rally teams that night who were at the hotel.  I have met Neil and some of his Star Motors crew and have been to Neil’s shop before, as they have done some work on Harald von Langsdorff’s 300SEL 6.3 Mercedes-Benz car in which Harald and I have driven in a couple of rallies.

If you are interested in long distance rallies, then I would recommend this book.  Despite a busy schedule, I read through this book in three days as I found it to be an interesting account of a great motor challenge.  I thought that the last paragraph of the book was particularly interesting: “In our age when telecommunications and the internet are bringing people closer together, I realize now that probably the most important discovery that I made during this grand adventure is this: Anyone who says it’s a small world hasn’t tried to drive around it.”

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4 Responses to “A Lap Of The Globe”: A Story About Rallying Around The World

  1. Hi Steve,
    Your research triggered me to look around the web also.
    I am currently listening to a 4 part audio interview called Peking to Paris
    For everyone with ITunes go the Store and search for Podcasts of the same title. The interview is a total of 2h. It’s free. For those with no ITunes check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcast and find another podcast program.

    • Hi Harald,
      Thanks for that information. That should be interesting. The Peking to Paris Rally will be run again in 2013 from May 28 to June 29. There are several US and Canadian entrants in this event.


  2. Tim Winker says:

    Hi Steve,

    A friend and I followed the Around The World Rally from Shelby, MT, to Newark, NJ. I took a load of photos, some of which ended up in Kevin’s book. Unfortunately, many of the photos were digital and were lost in a computer crash. I also did some P.R. for the event and posted daily updates on my web site (at the time) VintageRally.com. Details are still out there at:

    The tales of keeping those old cars running day after day, trying to locate parts or fabricating parts are the stuff of legend. There was a pair of service vehicles following the event, both loaded with tools and various generic spares like fan belts and brake lines, and they were kept busy day and night. It’s amazing that they got any sleep.

    Tim Winker

    • Hi Tim,
      I do remember reading in Kevin’s book that you caught up with the rally when then were around Montana. Kevin wrote that he was glad to see a familiar face.

      I can only imagine how difficult it must be to keep those cars working day after day over a the roads that they drove. I am convinced that car selection and preparation are issues that would need to be carefully considered, if one were enter a similar rally.

      As an aside, I recall meeting you briefly at Targa Newfoundland in 2003. At that time I was navigating in some TSD rallies in the New England area with a fellow named Jon Butzke who had a Saab 99 that was the car that you competed in the SCCA Pro Rally series. I enjoyed rallying in that car with Jon. Unfortunately Jon moved out west (San Diego, I think) and I have lost track of him.

      Thanks for providing more information about this challenging long distance rally.


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