The Road to Mandalay

February 1 to February 24, 2015

Day 13 - Kanchanaburi to Phetchabun

Just when you think you could not enjoy a better a day, after yesterday’s run through a rain-forest in bright sunshine, today surpassed all expectations.

We began with a drive past field workers harvesting pineapples, loading them into trucks, before driving them down to market. Our route meandered through thick 30ft-tall bamboo plantations on a road that had received a fresh coat of tarmac in recent days, billiard-board smooth and rose and fell satisfyingly on the contours of a hilly rain-forest. The first section of the day’s competition on this remote road was a Regularity test before driving on to a roadside café for an authentic Thai lunch, and finally ended up at a school that specialises in developing children for sport.

It is here that the local motor-club were right behind our efforts in closing down every junction over a 10 kilometre gravel loop that corkscrewed through dense canopy jungle, with graded gravel as smooth as Finland or Sweden – this course having been used by Thai rally championships in the past.  With miles of barrier tape and lots of local marshals manning every footpath and junction, this was highly organised for our benefit, and the tracks were transformed into one of the slickest Test-sections we have experienced so far.

Pressure mounting on the leaders, both Gerry Crown briefly left the road for a short excursion into the paddy field, before regaining the course, and Peter Lovett, new Classic Division leader, performed the same act – the result was that Gerry lost out by one second to the Porsche, with the Datsun of Grant Tromans putting in the quickest time. However, on the earlier regularity, it was the Leyland P76 of Gerry Crown that had beaten the Porsche by one second, resulting in both cars ending the day on the same penalty score, with no change at the top. The Datsun crew had put in a perfect run on the regularity, with no loss of time, the only car to do so.

One crew only dropped one second on the regularity in the Classic Category – David and Jo Roberts in the 1954 Sunbeam Alpine. Stan Gold dropped two seconds, along with Rob Garnsworthy, Nicholas Pryor and Matthew Todd – several crews are clearly getting the hang of the Regularity game.

However, in the Vintageants, we have a new leader. Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown have topped Bill Shields, when Bill collected a one-minute penalty for after making a navigation error on the Regularity test. The Chevy of Garratt and Brown had dropped just one second on the Regularity, a performance matched only by Mike Butler in a Chevy Saloon, and Paul Kirkham in a Ford Model A, the Kirkhams are now lying 8th overall in the Vintageant Category.

It was good to see the return of the white Jaguar 3.8 of Daniel Spadini and his daughter Alexandra, missing for the past few days having to fix the gearbox, however, the two Jaguar XKs were missing from the final test of the day, and we hear that Heather and Jo Worth are waiting for an engine transplant for their Volvo in Kanchanaburi.

The car park was busy tonight with service work and repairs going on, with the biggest job being the Beetle of Garrick Staples and John Layzell, who have limped through the day with a misfire, now detected as a problem with one cylinder. The sweep team were taking out the engine when the dinner gong sounded - this team are in for yet another late night.  During the meal, Nikki Bannister took the stage and sang Happy Birthday, encouraging  the rest of the rally into also joining in, with a cake emerging for Manoj Saxena, driver of the orange Datsun 240Z. It’s unanimously agreed that today has been rather special all round.

Syd Stelvio



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