The Road to Mandalay

February 1 to February 24, 2015

Day 6 - Georgetown - Rest Day

As usual the first rest day of a long distance rally provides some welcome relief to both cars and crew and the Eastern and Oriental Hotel, our billet for the day is a welcome oasis of calm, air conditioned, dust free efficiency.

However the term ‘rest day’ is a bit misleading. There’s not much actual resting going and a quick look in the clean, well lit and level multi storey carpark confirms this. Looking like a cross between a breakers yard and a refugee camp the third floor rang to the sound of hammering, grunting and revving all morning as drivers, mechanics and sweep crews tried to become 'man and machine in perfect harmony’. 

We see things on ERA rallies that even a main dealer would baulk at and there’s not much that can’t be fixed from the back of one of the ERA’s new fleet of specially adapted red Toyota Hilux trucks.

Nicholas Pryor commented wryly that “all going well other than the fact that we’ve got turbo charger problems and we’re only firing on eleven of out twelve cylinders.” His well-travelled Volvo PV needing only minor attention today.

Anton Gonnissen - Bentley Speed 8 - unbuckled the hood and flicked the switch on his under bonnet light to reveal his 8 litre ex Rolls-Royce tank engine. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, he just likes looking at it - this might sound sad, if you’ve not seen it. Lars Rolner was giving his Bentley a once over but was more worried about his forearms after the days of heaving the machine through the jungle backroads we’ve become used to. Roger Anderson in his Ford Model A arrived late last night on the back of a tow truck but set to early this morning with Tony Jones and Jim Smith to iron out transmission problems. We fully expect to see him rolling with the pack in the morning.

David Tomlin with his Ford Coupe was thinking of travelling without his bonnet covers for the next few days…. The Ford is getting a bit too hot and bothered for his liking. Len Treeter, he of the Cowboy Cadillac, had emptied his boot which is the size of an Olympic swimming pool to give the car a bit of as once over and a brush up. Rob Kitchen and Alan Page were hard at it under the AC 18/80 of Philip Noble working on a broken rear spring whilst Danny Day was looking for a way to eek out a little more performance from his drum brakes.

Patrick Sommer had a gearbox and a mechanic flown in for his VW Karmann Ghia and the engine was seen spread neatly over the floor of the carpark in all of its glorious simplicity. All being well, he should be rolling with fourth gear tomorrow for the first time in three days.

Outside of the carpark there were five separate sessions taking place in the hotel lobby dedicated to the art of regularity timing. ERA experts Clark, Rutherford, Heal, Preston and Cotton offered up years and miles of experience to those navigators  who felt they needed a bit of a steer in this area. Regularities are all about matching speed and distance to a schedule set by the organisation. It sounds straightforward enough but the ERA have never been known to make life too easy in this department and we expect to see some imaginative choice of roads over the next few days.

There are something like 16 crews on this event who are using it as some sort of shakedown for next years Peking to Paris, and among them there’s a great sense of excited anticipation developing. Those who’ve done it before keen to pass on tips and tricks whilst the newcomers being equally keen to take on as much inside information as they can. David Roberts, a two times veteran himself in a Sunbeam Alpine was looking forward to sitting them all down together later in the day.

Finally, some news on a couple who can’t be with us slumming it in this palatial hotel. Daniel and Rabia Schlatter are in Singapore, Rabia has had an operation to have her broken arm pinned, and Daniel has had a thorough check over after breaking a couple of ribs. “We could not be in a better hospital,” said Dani, “our thoughts are with the rally.”

We leave Malaysia tomorrow for the Thailand frontier, so we say goodbye to our Malaysian agents who’ve been excellent travelling companions and invaluable fixers. Heartfelt thanks to this slickly-presented back up operation. Must go, the cast-iron slipper bath in front of the smoked mirrors is about to over-flow.

Syd Stelvio


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