Driving a 1954 Austin-Healey 100/4 from Peking to Paris in the June 2019 ERA Rally.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

0073 How to navigate across the Gobi Desert

20th November 2019
In England to learn some new skills

194 days to go !!

Gathering for the briefing in UK
The Endurance Rally Association (ERA) was holding its P2P Briefing 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 and the organising team, and to learn more about the event which is now fast approaching.  It may seem a little ridiculous to come all the way to UK for such a briefing, but with the not inconsiderable investment we have already made in terms of both money and time over the last 2 years, it would be churlish not to spend a little more of both in order to ensure we give ourselves the best opportunity for success. And since I had some urgent Healey parts which I could pick up in the UK, I came, leaving Ashton to hold the fort in Australia.

England in November was never going to be warm, and so it proved. The little 16th Century Swan Inn was excellent, with good atmosphere and good beer on tap - Although the cold showers on a couple of the mornings (due to an electrical issue) proved interesting !  I just pretended I was in the Gobi and treated it as a training exercise, pretending I was thankful to have any water at all !! Also in the hotel were Lee Harman and Bill Ward from the USA, who are competing in a 1931 Ford Victoria - This is their first such event too, so we had lots to talk about over breakfasts.

Chev Fangio
Meeting in the British Motor Museum the next morning, several of the British contingent had their cars there. including a Chevrolet Fangio that had apparently just been completed by RPS
Bentley S1
in the UK specifically for this event.  In fact it went from the sublime to the ridiculous, with the enormous 1958 Bentley S1 of Doug and Mike McWilliams, to the immaculate 1948 (?) 6.5 litre Bentley Bob Tail Special from
Bentley Special
the USA, to the 1933 Alvis Firefly for Norwegian Alex Vassbotten which his just recently had an engine increase from 4 cyl to 6 cyl.   Naturally I
1933 Alvis Firefly
was digging for ideas everywhere for anything that might help us, or about which we hadn't thought.  Believe it or not, I found very little !!  Belgian Anton Gonnissen, who we had met in Alice Springs with his Bentley, was also there, although his replica 1907 3 wheel Contal "motortri" was "not quite ready", according to Anton !!

Having Garmin data uploaded
Gathering information
Inside, about 100 crews (of the 110 total) were represented, and tables were set up around the room for different subjects to be covered during the briefing - GPS, Insurance, Shipping, each of the 3 separate geographical zones, Spot Trackers, etc.  Since the
first day was all about GPS and a trial run around the roads of Warwickshire, it was crowded around the GPS table where everyone's Garmins (of varying descriptions) were being loaded with the necessary maps and waypoints for the day.  It was very obvious that few people knew how to operate their Garmins (including me), so there were lots of group discussion with everyone trying to work it out before we hit the road. It was also a little disconcerting to see how many people's Garmin's didn't load correctly the first time.   Some of us were navigators without drivers, and some vice versa.  I teamed up with John Young who will be the driver of a Peugeot on the event, but as he didn't have a car, and mine was a hire car, I had to drive, so he had to navigate - Not the perfect option, but all we could do.  John had competed in the 2016 P2P as a navigator in a 1936 Bentley Sport Special, so he knew what we had to do, and we hit it off very well.

Cars parked outside
We managed to find our way around the set course, visiting all the way points, but with limited access to accurate and quickly resettable distance recorders, it was difficult.  It didn't help that everything in the car is set to miles, but the test course was all set in kilometres !  In the end I feel that it is more in the "set up" than the actual operation of the unit -  Once you have the right information showing on the screen, it is much more straightforward.

Our plates and numbers
We had been split into two groups, a.m. and p.m., so for us a.m.
group most of the afternoon was spent analyzing the mornings test, and trying to fine tune the Garmins.  We also collected our P2P jackets, rally plates, and the number roundels for the doors.  We are car 77 !

Sunday was all "class room" stuff, with briefings from the relevant Clerks of the Course - the event is split into 3 sections for organizational puproses - China being one, then Mongolia and Russia, and finally Europe. Visa and other paperwork issues were addressed in detail.  After lunch we went through Medical, Mechanical, and 101 other aspects of the event, and I have taken copious notes which I now need to prĂ©cis and get to Ashton ! 

More details of the day, along with some excellent photos, can be found on the ERA site here Gaydon Briefing

Ist Works Healey
Del Boy's Reliant
During the day I met with a number of competitors who I shall look forward to spending more time with during the event - All in all a very diverse group of people, with varying experience in an event such as this, but all very likeminded people.  At the end of the day I had an hour or so free to go down and have a quick look at the Museum - Not the biggest collection of vehicles, but nevertheless very interesting, even having the first Works Austin Healey on display that was once driven by the Morley brothers.  Another favourite for me was one of the two Range Rovers that crossed the Darien Gap in 1971, and of course Del Boy's Reliant Robin !!

Part of our route half way across the world
Monday morning saw me heading off to Southam where, just 7 miles from Gaydon, AH Spares is located !  I had hand carried an incorrect water pump pulley to return for credit, as well as a dicky SU fuel pump that they had agreed to replace with a new unit.  Speaking with John at AH Spares was so different from my last visit 2 years ago when we were about to start our rebuild, and didn't really know what we were letting ourselves in for !  We discussed quite a lot of issues, and in leaving I managed to get a free Austin Healey umbrella which we will strap to the roll bar and use in case of sudden showers when we are stationary at Time Controls !!

After that it was time for a couple of family visits before I headed back to Aus at the weekend, carrying not only the fuel pump, but also a full set of top end engine gaskets from Denis Welch, and a lockable choke cable off an MGB so that we no longer have to use a clothes peg to keep the choke out !!

Rest of the pics are here :-  https://photos.app.goo.gl/KFDmegLp29ZcVat68

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Ashton & Giles welcome any visitors, support, and comments as we prepare for our Adventure !