The following recount of the first day of TransSyberia 2008 is from Laurance Yap, co-driver of the Team Canada Porsche Transsyberia, which is driven by Kees Nierop.
Transsyberia, as I learned last year, has an awful little habit of taking you down a notch just when things are feeling really good.
Kees and I had spend the whole week preparing and our car was sorted out exactly the way we wanted; I got a good start on the navigation, entering waypoints into the GPS. We'd both even had a decent night's sleep.
The police-escorted convoy to and from the start in Red Square was harrowing enough - Moscow drivers are hands-down the world's craziest - but the run out to the start of the stage was easy enough. As was about the first 20 km of the special stage itself.
All of which changed somewhere around kilometre 26 (of 48) in the roadbook, where the directions stopped making sense and we found ourselves driving around in circles. I would have felt bad for screwing something up, but everyone else was lost too.
A whole train of about 15 cars ended up together at one side of a massive water hole. The lucky ones made it through slowly and steadily; the unlucky ones had to be towed out. And this wasn't even the BIG water hole that the organizers had warned as about. We spent probably another hour there, being towed through.
During our adventure in the hole - I walked it first and it was waist-deep - we hooked to the car in front of us, but got going under our own power. Which was good, but it also meant we drove over our own tow strap, wrapping it around our wheel and cutting our brake line. Kees is driving it now, to the hotel, using the emergency brake; we're hoping to have it fixed tonight.
It was carnage on the first day of the rally. We started near the back of the pack, passed a good few cars and finished the stage, but not without some minor damage to the front bumper along with our brake trouble. But we finished better than we started and as I write this, it's bucketing down rain and 20-plus cars are still stuck halfway into the stage.
All I want right now is some clean clothes, a hot shower and some rest. I don't even want to think about tomorrow. Yet.
After the struggle detailed above, Team Canada came in 15th place, 2:19.06 hours behind the leader.
The U.S. Team, driven by Ryan Millen, son of 2007 TransSyberia Rally-winner Rod Millen, and co-driven by Colin Godby encountered problems as well. The team's Cayenne sustained minor damage after being hit by another competitor going the wrong direction. Then the team encountered navigation system issues, which was a problem for many other teams. Team USA is currently in 17th place, coming in 2:27.51 hours behind the leader.
The rally started on July 11th in Moscow's Red Square and will finish on July 25th in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar, covering a total of 7,000 kilometres. The second leg begins on July 12th from Vladimir to Kazan, and is 711 kilometres including a 58 kilometre special stage.