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ROVER P6 WINS EPIC ROAD TO HANOI MARATHON

In a spectacular start to 2024, Rally the Globe’s first ever driving adventure in the Far East – the Road to Hanoi Marathon (27 January to 23 February) – was an incredible journey of discovery through the byways of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. It was also the not-for-profit club’s second consecutive ‘Marathon’ category event following swiftly after its super-successful Alaska to Mexico foray into North America.

Set 8,000 miles apart on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, both escapades were long-distance driving journeys with the emphasis on endurance and exploration, during which participants faced an inspiring mix of challenging on- and off-road sections. While similarly awesome in concept, both were very different in terms of geography, ethnicity, climate, character and cuisine. And both produced four very different category winners. While Fords had ruled in their US fatherland, in Asia the spoils were shared between triumphant crews aboard Chevrolet Fangio and Rover P6 entries ­­– the latter a rare rallying success for the one time bastion of deluxe motoring for the British middle classes.

The action started from Ho Chi Minh CitY with the first few days spent traversing southern Vietnam before crews headed into Cambodia and crossed the mighty Mekong River. The 4,300 mile (6,900km) route then pressed northwards into Thailand before entering Laos and eventually returning to the Ho Chi Minh Trail and mountains of northern Vietnam en route to the finish, nearly four weeks later, in historic Hanoi.  


Rewarding both driving and navigational skills, the intrepid itinerary included around 40 Regularity Sections on quiet minor roads – some of which were loose-surface – plus 15 Speed Tests at venues such as race tracks, sports stadia and roads specially closed for the purpose by the local police. Moreover, six well-chosen rest days provided participants not only with the chance to make running repairs to their cars but also for sight-seeing excursions to must-see tourist attractions such as the Angkor Wat temple complex and Ha Long Bay, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

With so much ahead to savour, an excited field of 26 entries, representing no fewer than 10 nationalities, took the start. In age, the cars ranged from a 1929 Chrysler 75 Roadster to a Porsche 911 and Mercedes Benz 350 SL from 1974. In between were five Mercedes-Benzes, a trio of both Bentleys and Volvos plus a pair of Ford Escorts while a Jaguar Mk2, Ford Mustang Convertible and Fiat 124 Spider all added to the eclectic mix. 

Manuel and Irene Dubs, winners of the Pre-War category in the Alaska to Mexico Marathon, had swapped their victorious Ford Coupe for a distinctive 1932 Rockne Six 75. An early gearbox failure, though, robbed them of any hopes of a back-to-back win. The unfortunate demise of the Studebaker produced American machine handed the early advantage to Swiss speedsters Daniel Sauter and Martin Reubel in their 1938 Chevrolet Fangio; they were hotly pursued by Keith and Norah Ashworth aboard their 1927 Bentley 4½ Le Mans and Nigel Dowding and Mary Antcliff in their 1934 Aston Martin Mark II. 

By the end of the first week, however, the plucky 1495cc Aston had surpassed its far bigger engined rivals and the little giant-killer seemed on target for an heroic triumph until it shed a rear wheel with the finish almost in sight. Its retirement gave the Chevrolet – now co-driven by Severin Senn – a clear run to the finish. “It’s really been a fantastic journey and an amazing event,” enthused a delighted Sauter. “I like these marathon events – I like to drive long and fast. The organisation has been first class and the spirit among all the competitors has been great; we’ve met new people and made new friends and had a lot of fun together. This definitely won’t be my last such rally with RtG.”

The battle in the classic category was even closer and although the Rover P6, expertly crewed by Peter and Louise Morton, always seemed in control at the front, podium battles raged throughout. Having eschewed one of their normal Bentleys for a pacier 1973 Porsche 911, Graham and Marina Goodwin finally finished second after fending off the 1961 Volvo PV544 of Nigel and Sally Woof. Alaska to Mexico category winners Ean and Alison Lewin had to settle for fifth place in their now very well-travelled 1973 Ford Escort RS1600.

“We’ve had an accurate trip meter, a reliable car and a big dose of luck which have all played their part,” acknowledged Peter Morton who defied expectations in the P6. “Everyone said we were mad to have a Rover as they break down, but my dad had one and I wanted to persist. The car was incredible… as was the organisation and the camaraderie amongst the competitors. It’s been a great event with plenty of rest days in some lovely places, the sort of places you really wouldn’t want to just drive through.”

The hard-working Rally the Globe team was equally pleased to have further enhanced its world class reputation having overcome considerable obstacles to stage yet another highly acclaimed driving adventure. “The Road to Hanoi has been rescheduled twice thanks to COVID and unrest in Myanmar but, after the last four weeks on the road, I think that we can say it was worth the wait,” proclaimed Rally Director Fred Gallagher, who also praised all the efforts of the entire Rally the Globe team and its travel partners on the ground. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself and it’s clear that everyone else has too!”

Clerk of the Course Mark Appleton was equally effusive thanking all those responsible for putting together such a memorable route and the spirit in which the competitive elements were tackled by the crews. “There have been some long days and some challenging roads but I think that South East Asia was a great place to stage a marathon event,” surmised Appleton.

In addition to the overall and class trophies, a pair of notable discretionary awards were also presented at the prizegiving in Hanoi. The Spirit of the Rally award was scooped by two newcomers to the world of endurance rallying, Clive Hopkins and Charles Gooch, for wholeheartedly throwing themselves into the event in their brightly coloured Ford Mustang. The Against all Odds trophy was taken by Enrico Paggi and Federica Mascetti who battled back from three blown head gaskets and a melted piston in their Fiat Spider to make the finishing line.



2024 ROAD TO HANOI: TOP FIVE RESULTS

 

Pre-War Category

1. Daniel Sauter & Martin Ruebel/Severin Senn (CH) 1938 Chevrolet Fangio 3m:45s (time penalties)

2. Keith & Norah Ashworth (GB) 1927 Bentley 4½ Le Mans 6m:35s

3. Tony Rowe & Mark Delling (GB) 1939 Ford DeLuxe V8 91A Coupe 7m:08s

4. David & Jo Roberts (GB) 1929 Chrysler 75 Roadster 12m:18s

5. Melvin Andrews & Barry Douglass (USA) 1936 Bentley 4½ DHC 1h 23m:53s

 

Classic Category

1. Peter & Louise Morton (GB) 1972 Rover P6 1m:17s (time penalties)

2. Graham & Marina Goodwin (GB) 1973 Porsche 911 Targa 1m:48s*

3. Nigel & Sally Woof (GB) 1961 Volvo PV544 2m:02s*

4. Mick & Grace de Haas (NL) 1966 Mercedes 230 SL 2m:41s

5. Ean & Alison Lewin (GB) 1973 Ford Escort RS1600 3m:16s


* Class winners