Aya to Novosibirsk today, nearly 600km and a mix of tarmac and off road stages awaits – but so does a much needed rest day in Novo. Not sure that either Matt or I are superstitious but Day 13 certainly does not start well. About 20km out of Aya we head off the main road and a bridge that os marked on the Tulip charts as ‘very narrow’. As we approach the bridge we are behind a few cars and there are traffic lights, as it is only single lane, so we are crawling. Seconds later there is a sickening crunch and banging from the underside of the Jaguar. Sensing a big problem we stop immediately and as there is no point trying to get to the other side of the bridge we reverse the few feet to clear the entrance.
It is unbelievable that we have taken a 60 year old saloon car across the wilds of Mongolia and after 2 days on tarmac roads we may have brought our rally to a premature end.
Inspecting the bridge reveals the culprit, a small bit of metal protruding from the plate that levels the bridge platform to the road. What is not clear is why we should have hit it. While we have ongoing suspension and ground clearance issues this is not a big protrusion and even as we stand there every other car that passes has no problem clearing it.
Inspecting the car is a bit more scary, the exhaust is clearly badly damaged, the rear box is concertinaed and the tailpipes are sitting on the ground some 6 inches further back from their normal position – so we have also pulled the whole exhaust back. Of more concern is the oil that is dripping heavily from what seems the gearbox.
Fortunately we are just about to call in our position to the sweep crew on the sat phone when a very welcome red Hilux comes into view.