A Travellerspoint blog

14 September 2010

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We rose late and ate a hearty breakfast comfortable in the knowledge that the Princess was in safe hands at MSM the Mercedes garage. The first two days in Mongolia wreaked a terrible toll on the rally cars, there are more than 25% of the cars in workshops all over UB. The roads were horrendous. About 9:AM we took a taxi to MSM expecting to see the sump removed and bearings exposed, and get an assessment on the extent of the damage. Alas she had been pushed aside and hadn't seen so much as a spanner. There were nine other cars in the workshop. Bruce Washington in the Chrysler tourer was annoyed as the work done by the mechanics had caused more damage to his vehicle. He located Major Drilling, an Australian exploration drilling company with 22 exploration rigs working in Mongolia with their main maintenance facility. He was having his vehicle towed there and suggested we follow him: we did! We met Rob Martin the manager, a real can-do person. He directed us to a ramp and within minutes a mechanic was removing the sump. An inspection of the residue in the sump revealed fine metal flakes, not an encouraging sign. Removal of the end caps on number 5 & 6 con-rods revealed that the scored crankshaft had damaged the bearings. The chances of grinding the shaft and finding replacement bearing shells in UB were most unlikely.

Three cars were lost on a semi and turned up in the afternoon, taking 72 hours for the 700km journey from the border.

There was a narrow timing window to get a replacement crankshaft and parts from our spare engine in Australia. An executive decision was made to go for it. After frantic phone calls to the Brice office and Damien at Kustom Kool Cars the motor was delivered to Damien and stripped. The parts were packed for express courier delivery to Major Drilling in UB. Normal delivery time through DHL or Fedex is 7-10 days. Michelle Murphy of Major's and Val Brice were super-efficient, co-ordinating the delivery and paper work with Airland Logistics and Cargo Network. The consignment was delivered to Toll Priority with 10 minutes to spare. Michelle has arranged pre-clearance and the parts will be collected from UB airport at 9:40 p.m. on Friday: all just over 3 days. Well done everyone, we owe you big time.

Our schedule was discussed with the route coordinator Kim Bannister. If all the planets remain in alignment, we should catch the rally crew at Almaty in Kazakhstan on the rest day

Colin and I went to the cocktail party with raised spirits and raised our glasses.

Posted by nbrice 17:24 Archived in Mongolia Comments (0)

12 September 2010

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The car was still on the lorry so we had it dropped off at the border after filling up with fuel. The main tank only took 22 litres before overflowing from what appeared to be the breather. We will get it checked further in Ulaan Baator.

After clearing customs and driving through the border crossing the engine oil pressure was very low so we decided to have the car trucked to UB to preserve the engine. In total 6 unserviceable cars plus the motor bike were loaded onto two lorries. This would give us additional repair time in UB. We left ahead of them in the local tour company's mini bus with the driver plus 10 passengers and the tour operator's son. He turned out to be the fount of useless information, all of which was incorrect. We had the most cramped and uncomfortable ride of our lives: 7.5 hours to bounce 230km across the desert to the Sainshand campsite for a quick bite to eat. The "road" which is the main road from China to UB was a series of rutted corrugated tracks, this is apparently the worst section of road on the rally, you could not imagine it. Many of the cars made it through, but we passed many broken and damaged cars. I think the mechanics got most of them to the camp. One car needed a lorry: the crew waited until 5 AM then had to ride on the shelf in the cab behind the driver. They haven't reached UB yet.

After eating we left for UB in the bus. There was over 200km of rough dirt and multiple tracks in the dark, before we reached the bitumen 190km from UB. We finally arrived exhausted at the Chinggis Khaan hotel at 8 AM after 20 hours on the road. The driver was amazing. He had driven from the campsite to the border for 7.5 hours before picking us up - effectively 27 hours driving,with only two rest stops. We took turns watching him to rouse him if he seemed to be dozing off.

After check in, a quick shower, and breakfast it was down the the Mercedes dealer to discuss repairs. Our cars are due to arrive this afternoon.

The Princess is in dire shape, needing a crankshaft grind and replacement of main and big end bearing shells. There is a place in UB that grinds shafts but is renowned for poor work. The Mercedes staff will supervise them to make sure it is done properly. The real difficulty is going to be to locate bearing shells that we can adapt: we remain hopeful. We will know more later this afternoon after the removal of the sump and a check. After discussing repairs with the service manager we returned to the hotel. At midday Colin is asleep on the bed snoring his head off. We are both knackered, feeling the pressure from lack of sleep, difficult conditions and worry about the car.

Hopefully it will be repaired before the rally departs on Wednesday morning; otherwise we will once again have to play catch-up to rejoin them.

The schedule has been really full on, especially with our problems so we have not had time to upload any pics - maybe on the rest day tomorrow

Posted by nbrice 18:14 Archived in Mongolia Comments (4)

11 September 2010

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Things didn't look much better in the daylight. Between the organisers and the hotel staff we hired a tilt tray truck to transport us to a nearby village mechanic. We positioned the car over his service pit and removed the sump to check the big end bearings. No. 5 had totally failed, destroying the shells and with the crankshaft journal badly scored. We must have been so close to seizing the connecting rod onto the crankshaft journal and throwing the connecting rod through the side of the engine block. No.4 big end bearing was damaged and should have been replaced but we only had one spare.

Whilst this work was going on over a hundred villagers gathered to check out the foreigners sitting on deck chairs on the footpath. One lady came to the front and introduced herself in halting English as Emily. Turned out that she was an English teacher at the local school. Then she and many of her students tried their English on us; where do you come from, what do you do, have you any children, how old are you, what are you doing in China etc. Children brought school books for us to look over. She then invited us to lunch at her friend's restaurant near the repair shop. They were incredibly hospitable, with the food probably the best meal we had in China. I left her with a business card and she was going to email me and I said I would send her some pics from Australia.

Meanwhile the mechanic, assisted by a local policeman, filed, scraped, and smoothed the journals and refitted the bearings using a piece of lemonade can to shim one and foil from a cigarette pack for the other. The engine was reassembled and started: no knock so the sump guard was welded back into one piece by the policeman without an eye shield, closely watched by many local villagers.

After we had the repairs made in a village near Dai Hai we decided it was too late to attempt the drive to Erenhot on the Chinese/Mongolian border. We arranged to have the car trucked and rode in the back of one of the local rally helper's car. Big mistake as he had two other lorries with broken down cars to organise! This delayed our arrival into Erenhot until 4:AM. If we had ridden in the car on the back of the lorry we would have arrived at 12 midnight. After a shower and an hour and a half sleep we were up ready to continue for day 3.

Posted by nbrice 18:13 Archived in China Comments (0)

10 September 2010

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It was an effortless trip to the start at the Great Wall at Badaling. The start was delayed for an hour due to a broken down lorry loaded with at least 50-60 tonnes of 12mm rebar stuck across the road. We were the last car off. Our concealed entry to the expressway was grid locked and we and two other cars missed it and were on the road back to Beijing. We made a U turn, joined the freeway and were on our way, confident - as it turned out, in blissfull ignorance. We were travelling well at about 85kph when there was a loud clatter from the engine. The oil pressure dropped to zero, the engine overheated instantly and we came to a halt. Lifted the bonnet, the fan belt had shredded, tried to fit the spare but after much cursing and swearing it was too short. The sweep mechanics came to our assistance, fitted a temporary belt and once again we were on our way after having lost 2 hours.

We were pushing it at about 105-110kph to make up time when about 50km down the road the engine started making a noise like spanners being rattled around in a steel garbage can. The engine had lost all oil pressure. We stopped immediately fearing a big end bearing had failed. The sweep mechanics again came to our rescue and towed us for about 50km until the engine had cooled. Then towed us in gear with the ignition off to see if we had oil pressure. With a cool engine there was pressure. They suggested an oil change ASAP but could do no more. We limped on to a roadside repair shop with a pit and after drawing sketches of an oil change got the oil changed, removed the sump guard to improve cooling and limped on. The sump guard had to be cut in two to fit in the cab The engine had a terminal knock above 38km/hr, so on we limped at 37km/r with over 200km to go to our first overnight stop: most of this was travelled in darkness. In China lorries drive at night by law to reduce congestion. There were thousands of them all with blinding headlight arrays and no inclination to dip them. With the narrow road, no linemarking, and farmers and cyclists with no lights everywhere it was the most difficult drive of my life. We made it into Dai Hai at 12:40 AM for a late dinner followed by a few hours shuteye before rising to consider our options.

Posted by nbrice 18:12 Archived in China Comments (0)

Beijing 9 September 2010

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After breakfast out to the car to check the horn which wasn’t working yesterday, it was OK today. Then to check the fuel tank leak, probably the sender or breather will need a hoist to remove the tank to find and repair. In the meantime we will continue on the auxiliary 95 liter tank with jerry can backup.

Passed scrutineering all hurdles now jumped. Comprehensive briefing at 2:30 PM with plenty of pictures of the route lots of dirt and gravel roads some sand and magnificent scenery in Mongolia. Dinner tonight at 7:00PM then off to the Great Wall at 6:00AM tomorrow and the adventure begins.

We can’t wait

Posted by nbrice 15:39 Archived in China Comments (1)

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