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Road to Hanoi Marathon, an 8000-mile adventure in the Far East


Historic rallying organiser Rally the Globe held its first event in the Far East, the Road to Hanoi Marathon, from January 27 to February 23, 2024. The epic, 8000-mile journey saw 26 intrepid classic car crews drive through four countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos – and complete 40 regularities, before reaching the finish line in Hanoi. 

The Road to Hanoi Marathon was Rally the Globe’s second consecutive Marathon rally, following the equally challenging Alaska to Mexico event in North America. Fittingly, it was Ford that reigned victorious on that occasion, yet the demanding landscapes of the Far East saw a Chevrolet Fangio and a Rover P6 conquer demanding on- and off-road sections to split the win.

Four weeks before the winning crews were crowned, the Road to Hanoi began in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. From here, the crews spent several days navigating through the south of the country, before heading into Cambodia and crossing the vast Mekong River. 

The route alone is enough to make the Road to Hanoi one of the world’s most difficult Historic rallies

The route alone is enough to make the Road to Hanoi one of the world’s most difficult Historic rallies

With 4300 miles covered, the cavalcade of classics drove northward into Thailand, before crossing into Laos. Then the crews returned to the perilous Ho Chi Minh trail and the mountains of northern Vietnam, en route to the finish line in Hanoi.

The route alone is enough to make the Road to Hanoi one of the world’s most difficult Historic rallies, yet all those regularity sections – some on loose surfaces – plus 15 speed tests on race tracks, in sports stadiums and on closed roads, compounded the demands put on drivers, navigators and cars alike. 

Happily, crews were given respite with six rest days, which provided the opportunity to repair their cars and explore the local culture and destinations such as Angkor Wat and Hạ Long Bay – both of which are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Hailing from ten different nations, the 26 crews undertook the challenge in a diverse array of classics, ranging from a 1929 Chrysler 75 Roadster to a 1974 Porsche 911 and Mercedes-Benz 350 SL. Five further Mercedes-Benzes, a trio of Bentleys and Volvos, and a pair of Ford Escorts fell in between, while a Ford Mustang convertible and Fiat 124 Spider further added to the diversity.

Entries were split across four categories, and the experienced duo of Manuel and Irene Dubs were early favourites to take first place in the Pre-War Class after doing the same in the Alaska to Mexico Marathon. Unfortunately, however, the Dubs relinquished their class lead after their 1932 Rockne Six 75 was stricken with transmission problems. This handed the lead, and class victory, to the 1938 Chevrolet Fangio crewed by the Swiss team of Daniel Sauter and Martin Ruebel.

“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 competition in the Classic category was similarly fierce, yet the Rover P6 of Peter and Louise Morton expertly managed their position at the front of the pack to take the win. The Mortons were joined on the podium by the 1973 Porsche 911 of Graham and Marina Goodwin in second, and the 1961 Volvo PV544 of Nigel and Sally Woof.

“We’ve had an accurate trip meter, a reliable car and a big dose of luck, which have all played their part,” Peter Morton concluded. “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 among the competitors.”

Two discretionary awards were also handed out at the Hanoi prize-giving event. Newcomers Clive Hopkins and Charles Gooch were presented with the Spirit of the Rally Award for embracing the challenge in their Ford Mustang, while the Against All Odds Award was given to Enrico Paggi and Federica Mascetti for overcoming three blown head gaskets and a melted piston in their Fiat 124 Spider.

Click here for more on the Road to Hanoi Marathon 2024.

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