This past week I got an email message from Michael Eatough of England. Michael and I will be competing in the 2019 Peking To Paris Motor Challenge. Michael has prepared a report that is to be published in some marque publication is in England. Michael has given me permission to present his report on my website. Michael’s report is presented below:
Preparation and More Preparation
It was the 26th February 2017, my 66th birthday, yet another landmark, one of many. I was reading my emails during that Sunday morning, looking forward to a family celebration at a favourite local restaurant. “Ping” in my inbox arrived an invitation ahead of the official advertising allowing me three days grace to think about and enter the 2019 Peking to Paris Endurance Event. Arguably the toughest endurance event for classic cars in the world. I parked the email talking myself out of it.
At this point in time I had already competed in many endurance events, had recently finished the Haka in New Zealand and was looking forward to my next event, Paris to Prague. A short seven day event but full on. I had also entered the third Trans Am taking place in 2018 from Charleston to Seattle. I was silently thinking I had exhausted my self-imposed budget and perhaps I would enter another seven day event during 2019.
I put Peking to Paris (P to P) out of my mind, turned off my laptop and began thinking about my birthday lunch as my family began to arrive.
Later during the day, my long suffering wife Jane said to me “I have seen the email inviting you to take part in P to P are you going to enter”? I said “no far too expensive and I am committed to the third Trans Am”. The conversation continued all evening and guess what. Jane talked me into it, she simply said “you are a long time dead, do it now before you are too old”.
Within 48 hours I was filling in the application form, my friend and expert navigator Steve McKelvie a Canadian who lives in Franklin USA agreed to come with me. Steve is within a couple of months the same age as I am and to compete in P to P is one of his ambitions. Steve would be my navigator and co driver during Paris to Prague, we were a reasonable team finishing fourth in our class.
My 1965 Mercedes Fintail (registered 4th January 1966) has always been my rally car. Nicknamed Reggie by my youngest son, the name has stuck. We have been all over the world together and gradually over the last fifteen years this car has morphed from a cherished saloon into an Endurance Rally Car. I only use this car for events. Reggie is far too precious to risk on a constant basis.
Reggie is uprated with a 2,800 CC engine, a back axle from a 280 Merc, heavy duty shock absorbers, springs, oil cooler, larger 15inch steel wheels, from a Mercedes Sprinter van, eight ply van tyres, sump guard, much strengthening (to protect from gravel ,potholes and God knows what else we need to travel over) rally instruments etc. I could go on but this gives the reader some idea of what is involved.
With two rallies successfully completed in the space of less than a year, old Reggie needed preparation for the third Trans Am, a major event. My friend and mechanic Owen Warboys took Reggie back under his care in July. Owen knows every nut and bolt in Reggie who has always been 100% reliable in the rallies he has taken part in. The reliability is not just down to the outstanding quality of this car but because of preparation.
Originally we were just going to prepare for the Trans Am but instead we have decided to tackle alterations with P to P in mind. There are three secrets for Endurance Rallying. Suspension, Suspension and Suspension. With this in mind the suspension has been rebuilt yet again with many new parts, and Owen has been right through the car. Anything not liked is taken out and replaced with a genuine new Mercedes Benz part. The great thing about Mercedes is that you can buy almost anything for a classic Merc direct from the dealer. The parts are not cheap but they are of the original quality. That is important.
As the task continued Owen has done more and more work. We decided we needed to make the car lighter, so off came the very heavy rear and front bumpers, out came the heavy rear seat, anything we don’t need has been removed. We have taken about 140 pounds of weight out of the car so far.
For P to P we need more range, so a new fuel tank is about to be commissioned increasing the capacity from 65 litres to 100 litres. This will be fitted inside the large boot with an outside filler cap. Giving the car a circa 450 mile range. I am now considering new carbon fibre front seats, the originals are very heavy.
Old Reggie will be ready by the end of January, ready for shipping to the USA for the Trans Am in April. My son Marcus will be my co driver on this event. Reggie will arrive back home again probably in September. He will then need new heavy duty shock absorbers and Owen will go through the car again making him ready for the next adventure. A lot of the work will have been done and we can test over circa 6,000 miles on Charleston to Seattle. There are many new parts in Reggie, he is really equivalent to a 12 month old car in a 52 year old body.
Preparation is not just for Reggie, but for the crew as well. Peking to Paris takes no prisoners and roughly 30% of the cars will fail on route for a variety of reasons. The crew need to be fit and healthy to stand the rigors of driving circa 11,500 tough miles in 35 days across some of the roughest roads and tracks on the planet. Which include, China, Mongolia and Russia.
To get into shape I am running at least 20 miles a week, and Steve recently mentioned in one of his emails he was also embarking on an exercise programme. The preparation will continue until we reach Peking.
I have every confidence in old Reggie he has always brought me home safely, Peking to Paris will be yet another adventure in his eventful life. I think for Steve and me it will be perhaps the challenge of a lifetime.
I am pleased to be competing in the 2019 Peking To Paris Motor Challenge with Michael Eatough. This will be a significant challenge for us, but I am looking certainly looking forward to it. I am also looking forward to seeing Michael and his son Marcus when they compete in the 2018 Trans America Challenge which I have been helping the Endurance Rally Association put together.
If you have any comments or questions about this post or the 2019 Peking To Paris Motor Challenge please leave a comment below, or you can send me a private email message at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net