The weather has changed. It is now raining and worse, fog – and there are three Time Trials scheduled for the day. These are the first in days, or maybe it’s weeks – it all becomes a blur after a while – and no one know exactly what to expect over this new terrain.
Certainly the standard of living here, at least in the larger villages or towns is much higher.
We have the same group of cars slogging their way to the first Time Trial – we rarely see the very old cars as they leave about 1 ½ hours before we do each day. No matter how slow they might be or how fast the classic cars can travel, that is too big a lead to catch up.
There is an alternative route for cars that do not wish to do the Time Trial but once you commit, there is only one way forward.
Unfortunately (or fortunately if you are a car), the first Time Trial was canceled before we arrived due to an accident. One of the cars went off the road and down an embankment. The car suffered extensive damage but the driver and navigator, while they were taken to a hospital to be checked out, were not seriously injured.
We had to drive the route which was up and over very steep and rough terrain but could do so slowly as there was no timing. It was a good thing as we encountered a flock of sheep along the way. Apparently our reputation has not spread this far as neither the sheep nor the shepherd seemed concerned – little did they know how precarious a situation they were in. Fortunately we passed without incident.
The weather really reduced both what we could see and take pictures of but this is typical of the area – rolling fields and then abruptly a group of rugged mountains – very pretty even in the rain.
Some of the cars slogging along … From the left is the # 32 car – a 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom I driven by George Howitt and Monique Rombouts, the # 16 car – a 1925 Buick Standard Six driven by Harry Jurgens and Peter van de Zilver and finally the # 92 car – a 1956 MG Mgnette ZA driven by Jose AND Maria Romao de Sousa (and I have no idea why the picture is backwards).
Now here are a couple of brave men – this is the # 47 1933 Lagonda M45 Tourer driven by Martin Egli and Galleon Graetz. You might notice that there are no front fenders (or “wings” as the Brits would call them). Apparently they disappeared (read that as fell off) back in Mongolia but it hasn’t been a problem until now. The rooster tail thrown up by the front wheels lands right on the occupants – not a pleasant way to spend the day. Just to add insult to injury, their windshield was also broken by kids throwing stones back in Iran. Another couple of inches higher and the driver would have been seriously injured.
This is one of the overall leaders – the # 96 car a 1967 Anadol driven by our Turkish friends Ahmet Ongun and Erdal Tokcan. The car was prepared by the Ford rally team in Turkey and is a great performer – the guys are a lot of fun also and have helped a number of competitors as they seem to have great connections all over central Asia.
We passed the # 2 Itala off to the side of the road with apparent problems to the front axel. According to David Ayre who was driving, they were descending a steep slippery grade in the rain when he gently applied the transmission brake. Unfortunately this locked one rear wheel which caused the car to spin (2 ½ times) and a front wheel caught in a construction embankment just off the driving lane. David’s wife Karen was thrown out of the car on the first loop and the front axel and one of the hubs were damaged. The good news is that Karen and the car, while slightly injured, are ok. These are very brave and tough individuals to have driven this car this far – hope they can make it to Paris.
We completed both of the afternoon Time Trials – the Cadillac performed flawlessly and Lloyd’s driving was superb. I can’t wait to see the results as this is the first opportunity we have had to move up in weeks due to cancellation of timing in recent days due primarily to border crossings.
After a very long day we arrived at our destination on time just after 7 pm. To do so we had a couple of hours driving at night and in the rain – not so much fun on a gravel road with no lines. For those of you thinking of doing a similar event in the future, do not believe the claims that there is no night driving – this was scheduled this way (of course, the rain was not). We were lucky to be in by that hour, several of the cars did not arrive until well after 10 pm.
Then the final treat of the day – the Asos Thermal Hotel in Kozakli – apparently a Muslim spa. While the hotel was nice, the room arrangements were something out of a comedy. We had what is best described as a one bedroom suite with a nice double bed which I assigned to Lloyd.
The sleeping accommodations for the other occupant consisted of two couches pushed together with a sheet. While there was a small desk, there wasn’t even a chair to sit on. Oh, I forgot, the couches were now a bed – how silly of me. I know this is petty, but after a long day and night of driving in the rain and for the price of admission to this rodeo, I would have expected something better. Guess I’m getting old.
The final straw came at dinner when we wanted a glass of water and were presented with a bill – guess they have a water shortage here.
Maybe our next stop will be better.