Around the World Motor Challenge drivers arrive in Anchorage AP Photo pursuing

Posted: Sunday, June 11, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Drivers with the 80-day Around the World Motor Challenge arrived in Anchorage on Saturday, but without their antique cars.

The transporter delivering the cars from China was delayed leaving Peking, said Mike Wiedmer, a member of Antique Automushers of Alaska and local coordinator of the event.

The rally began May 1 in London. Teams are driving 19,245 miles across four continents before the race ends back in London on July 18.

All the cars are antiques, a quarter of them predating World War II.

Thirty-nine drivers arrived in Anchorage Saturday morning. Their cars weren't expected to arrive until about 7 p.m. When they do, they will need a lot of repair work after being roughed up on China's roads, Wiedmer said.

Many of the cars need new tires and suspension work but people are lined up in Anchorage to do the work, he said. The delay will make it tough to stay on track.

''We are scrambling to keep on the schedule to depart,'' Wiedmer said.

The drivers include a retired airline captain, executives, artists, entrepreneurs and others who have invested large sums of money in making this once-in-a-lifetime trip. One report says the teams will spend an average of $120,000.

The group left London and drove on a course that took them to Istanbul and across the continent into China.

The cars are American and European models, ranging from Fords to Bentleys. The rally leader at the halfway mark is driving a replica Hillman Hunter, seven minutes ahead of a Dutchman in a Porsche 356.

After a rest in Anchorage, the drivers will be back on the road Monday, heading out to Tok, where they are to stop that night. Wiedmer said he expected the group to leave as planned on Monday.

On Tuesday, they plan to head over the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City and turn south, trying to reach Newark, N.J., by July 6. Then they intend to fly to Morocco and pull into the Royal Mint Court in London on July 18.

The race, organized by the British Classic Rally Association, is the first round-the-world automobile race since 1908, when the race did not actually circle the globe, according to the Fairbanks News-Miner.

The plan in the 1908 race was to drive from New York to Chicago and then head northwest to Dawson City, where they would go on the Yukon River to the west coast of Alaska and drive to Russia. This was to be done in the winter when the ice would make a suitable highway.

But after being told that driving across Canada to Dawson City would not work, the planners shifted gears and decided to take a ship from the West Coast to Valdez. At Valdez the cars would drive to Fairbanks and then drive on the Tanana and Yukon rivers and along the coast to Nome. Again, this would be done in winter.

As it turned out, the cars couldn't make it over the snow. The American car was shipped to Valdez and the crew saw at once that they would never make it as far as Thompson Pass.

After that, the car and two others were shipped across the Pacific Ocean. The three teams drove from Vladivostok to Paris, an incredible achievement that helped erase the stigma of the Alaska fiasco.

Teams in this race have a set time to cover the day's terrain, and get penalized for arriving late or missing checkpoints.

Although the cars travel only an average 250 miles a day, it's often on potholed or unpaved roads. The top speed for some of the older, museum-piece cars is no more than 25 mph uphill.

The oldest car to begin the race, a 1912 Locomobile, never made it out of London due to engine problems.

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