Peking to Paris – Gaydon Briefing Weekend

The Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon was the centre of the action over the 21-22 November weekend when the ERA team got together with a large number of the Peking to Paris participants for a couple of busy days of briefings and practical training ahead of next June’s Beijing start.

A cold but thankfully clear – for those in the open cars – two days saw more than 80 crews join us at the Gaydon Motor Museum for some practical advice, a little light theory and a bit of getting to know you.

Jane, Annette and Nikki were kept busy at the welcome desk as more than 160 participants registered their details and signed on the dotted line for the half day navigational training on Saturday. Pete Stone uploaded the day’s route to the Garmin GPS units that will soon become the crews’ best friend on their way through the wastes of Mongolia.

For this weekend though Alan Smith and Kim Bannister had put together a simple yet effective route through the altogether more civilised lanes of Warwickshire to allow the crews to acquaint themselves with the intricacies of the route book, the timing and the associated waypoints.

As well as a detailed description of the route, advice was given on car preparation, Visa applications and insurance and shipping issues.

Some of our medical team including Dr Andrew Buckley were in attendance handing out the vital medical kits which all crews must carry and dispensing useful advice on personal health issues. Simon Ayris began the process of setting each of the crews up with a Spot vehicle tracker.

There were far too many people in attendance to include them all but a few need to be mentioned. Dom Bernazzi for example was a face we remembered well. Last time we saw him ‘in action’ was in 2013 in a hot Rolls Royce which was afflicted with chronic fuel vaporisation issues. Even the expert attention however of the late great Philip Young, who gamely stepped in to help with a roll of Baco foil and a Swiss Army knife couldn’t get the old car going again. Once bitten, twice shy perhaps and although he’s back for a second helping of Mongolia, Dom has ditched the Rolls and has opted for a Volvo this time.

Lloyd and Treacy Reddington already have the 2010 Peking Paris and the 2012 London Cape Town down on their palmares but the last time we saw them was in San Francisco in their American Nash which they’d sportingly brought down from Canada to cheer the crews over the finish line of the Trans America Challenge. A sizeable US contingent was also present and included Jo Robillard, Willie McNickle, Tim Eades and Jeff Urbina who had joined us fresh from the Sahara Challenge. Brits Adrian Hodgson and Richard Mills, David and Jo Roberts and Keith and Norah Ashworth were also still dusting the desert sand from their cars as was Jan Petterson from Sweden.

Paul and Christine Hartfield were with us again whilst their Packard is with the spannersmiths undergoing some post Moroccan TLC.

From the Netherlands we saw Mick de Haas and Anthony Verloop who are back for a second crack at ‘Driving the Impossible’ having also taken part in the 2015 Trans America with Tom van Den Berg and Femke Schepers.

The buzz in the room was palpable as the weekend progressed and was punctuated on the Sunday by an excellent lunch, but as the wintery sun dipped below the horizon and the talking drew to a close we realised that all good things had to come to an end.

Next time we’ll all be together it’ll be for real.