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Bentley 4 1⁄2 Le Mans crew scoops last-gasp victory on Peking To Paris rally 2024

Words: Nathan Chadwick | Photography: Will Broadhead/Blue Passion/HERO-ERA

Following 37 days, 14,500km and many mechanical maladies, a 1928 Bentley 4 1⁄2 Le Mans of Andy Buchan and Mike Sinclair (pictured above and below) came home victorious on the Peking to Paris Rally 2024, after early leaders Richard Walker and Faith Douglas succumbed to alternator failure on the final border into France.

Walker and Douglas were making their Peking to Paris debut in their Chevrolet Master Deluxe Coupe, and the car’s nimble nature promoted the duo into an early lead. A mid-point navigational error briefly cost them the advantage to Buchan and Sinclair, but they soon regained ground and built what was thought to be an unassailable lead. Then the alternator failed on the Chevy as the crews prepared to cross into France just three days from the end of the event; fixing the problem dropped Walker and Douglas out of contention.

Buchan and Sinclair, also Peking to Paris debutants, retook the lead and, subsequently, the victory. “Absolutely elated, it is fantastic,” said Buchan. “When we set off, first in class was the target, but then it became apparent that things could be in reach. We had our battle with Richard and Faith, and it was a cruel rally for them, but we had to take our opportunity.”

“A lot of work has gone into getting us ready, but we would never have expected this,” added Sinclair. “We just kept going day by day, looking after the car – and here we are, on the top step of the podium. We are absolutely delighted.”

Alex Vassbotten and Bas Gross finished second in an Alvis Firefly, while Carlos Rieder and Urs Schnüriger came home third in a Ford Model A.

The Classic Category was again won by Matt Bryson in a Leyland P76 (pictured above), his fourth victory on the event but the first alongside navigator Mike Pink following the passing of Gerry Crown. The pair didn’t have it their own way, with Lars and Annette Rolner leading the competition across China and Kazakhstan in a Porsche 911 S – but their first day in Azerbaijan was marred by a navigational error that dropped them down the order. They eventually recovered to second, ahead of a titanic battle for third between Martin Belvisi and Andy Lane’s Porsche 2.2 S (pictured below) and Kevin and Cole Bradburn’s 912.

The battle for third was only settled on the last day, with the Bradburns taking the final step on the podium.

Class winner Bryson said: “The thing about this rally is it is so incredibly tough to finish, let alone be competitive. Then to win it, it hasn’t really sunk in yet. We didn’t expect to win, but Gerry [Crown] did say, when he knew he couldn’t do it, that if I entered, we would win it – and that was probably the biggest pressure.”

The event was marked by challenges and dramas through the event, underlining the toughness of the Peking to Paris. HERO-ERA chairman Tomas de Vargas Machuca and the Royal Automobile Club chairman Ben Cussons had their charge in their 1914 American LaFrance come to a dramatic end in Baku. A fire pretty much destroyed the car, although de Vargas later rejoined the rally in another vehicle.

The next Peking to Paris takes place in 2025 – more details can be found here.

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