Over the weekend of 17-18 November 2018 the Endurance Rally Association once again enjoyed a Peking to Paris, pre rally get together, at the Gaydon British Motor Museum.
With less than 200 days until the flag drops at the Great Wall of China, almost 100 crews made the journey to Warwickshire, to meet their fellow competitors, the organising team and to learn more about the event which is now fast approaching.
There were some new faces among the crowd but many in the audience comprised ERA regulars who were more than keen to pass on some hard won hints and tips to the understandably anxious ‘freshmen’
Alan Smith, was one such old hand. Along with the late Philip Young, Alan was instrumental in planning the Beijing to Burford pre rally event in 2007, as it was called then.
Alan was back with us this weekend in both an official capacity – handing out some sage navigational advice, but also in his role as a competitor as he’ll soon be sitting alongside Jamie Turner in a Morris Minor.
Saturday therefore was taken up with basic navigational training (if required). Pete Stone took charge of all things Garmin, and, to make sure that crews had paid attention, a 40km route had been devised – complete with marshals, passage controls and time controls. Some crews such as Alex Vassbotten and Brian Scowcroft brought their actual rally cars along to drive the section whilst the rest made do with all manner of rental cars. The important thing was to be there and to soak up the atmosphere.
Out in the lobby there were further opportunities to quiz the organisers and collect rally plates / jackets and stickers with Annette Daley and Lizzy Lewis emptying boxes and ticking names off lists at an impressive rate.
On Sunday, even more concentration was required and the venue was the cavernous conference room where Guy Woodcock, the ERA / Hero Competition Director set the wheels in motion and introduced the event before handing over to John Spiller, the Clerk of the Course. Jim Smith outlined the pre start formalities and the Chinese section of the event before giving way to Chris Elkins who presented his detailed breakdown of the journey via the vastness of Mongolia and Russia.
Gill Cotton then described the route through Europe to the Paris finale before the ERA Office manager, Eleonora Piccolo dealt with the grown up stuff around visas and paperwork.
An excellent lunch was provided for the delegates before the gathering re convened to hear from the rest of the team which included Dr Michael Thompson, Melvyn Palmer, Gary Pickard, Martin Tinsley and Tony Jones.
Patrick Burke, the Hero / ERA MD who, like some of the competitors had sat through the proceedings for the first time, then wrapped up the day by thanking all who’d taken part and had helped to put together such a comprehensive briefing.
The next time we all meet again it will be in Beijing, and that’s when the fun really starts.