Lanzhou - The participants of the fourth and fifth "E-Class Experience" group spent their last day of rest from the final stretch to Beijing in the Chinese metropolis Lanzhou on the banks of the Yellow River. The car keys were exchanged at a traditional Chinese dinner. Thus far, the marathon fleet has already covered 432,000 kilometres. At the end of the fourth leg the meter of German taxi was at around 16,000 euro.
The most exciting news was brought to Lanzhou by Johannes Reifenrath, Head of Global Communications at Mercedes Car Group, from the Stuttgart Mercedes-Benz Headquarters, who during the group dinner cheered the participants of the fourth and fifth leg with the promise: "We will have another drive from Paris to Beijing next year." The joy was great, but didn't t last long: "However from Paris, Texas, in the USA to Peking, Illinois, USA ", he said with a quizzical smile. The distance is only 1 500 miles and can be travelled painlessly in two days. "But then we'll take only BLUETEC vehicles", said Reifenrath, awakening new interest in the group.
Previously many participants in the long distance drive had used the last day of rest with a change in transport: They took a boat to the Buddha caves at Bingling Si, which can only be reached by water. Over a stretch of two kilometres 34 caves and 149 niches are cut into the rocks, which hang approximately 60 metres above the waters of the Huang He (Yellow River). The Buddha caves conceal about 800 remarkably well preserved figures carved directly from the rock or modelled from clay, as well as around 900 square metres of wall paintings. The main attraction of the site is a 27 metre high seated Buddha.
The alternative options were two city tours in Lanzhou: The view over the metropolitan city from the White Pagoda Mountain showed the Yellow River dividing the city into a northern and southern half. The visitors trekked across the Mister Sun Yason Bridge, which was developed by a German designer and is generally considered to be the most beautiful bridge over the Yellow River across China. Large water wheels serve as a reminder of the way the local people have used of the flow of the Yellow River for electricity production for many decades.
Those who chose to branch out on their own could admire the ubiquitous construction activities and take up contact with the local people, who watched the "long nosed" strangers with giggling curiosity: "We were viewed as creatures from Mars wherever we went"; recounted Lothar Fesser, department management of Motor and Traffic News at the newspaper "Leipziger Volkszeitung". He also admired the Chinese propensity for service: "Although there were only four of us, at the restaurant no less than nine waiters advanced upon us and brought every one a beer." Another remarkable occurrence: at many corners on the sidewalks stood yellow painted fitness equipment that at first glance appeared as monkey bars at a kid's playground. In actual reality, however, they were manned by adults who now and again would let the passers by see a sample of their craft: a full swing on the bar balancing head down. That sure deserved respect!
Lanzhou, the capital of the north western Province of Gansu in the Upper Yellow River, played an important role over the centuries as a garrison city. Moreover, this was a crossroads of the trading routes to Lhasa, Siberia, India and central China. The industrialization of the 1950s, mainly in the areas of petrochemicals and non-ferrous metallurgy as well as construction of crude oil refineries, marked the beginnings of strong economic development which was accompanied by the rapid growth in commercial space.
Today, Lanzhou extends around 45 kilometres along the bank of the Yellow River. Looking at the city from the east shows a great number of construction cranes erecting one apartment complex after the other, which provide simple living quarters for the influx of settlers from the country regions: In just a few years, the population has grown from 2.5 million to its current level of around 3 million residents.
Still captivated by the pulsating metropolis, the seasoned China drivers had to bid farewell to the long distance drive and make way for the punctual start of the fifth group on the last leg. The car keys were exchanged in the traditional noodle restaurant "Dong Fang Gong", where the most economical drivers of the fourth group were awarded at a dinner of eight or more delicacies and some spectacular show cooking. The victory went to the favoured Ebay team from Germany. Despite the stormy sand passages and their fast driving habits Martina Schollmeyer and Klaus Armbrüster's performance of 7.06l/100 km was well deserving of the two bottles of champagne.
A taxi drive would have been significantly more expensive: As waiting times and breaks are also counted, after around 12,000 kilometres, the meter of the German taxi had climbed to around 16,050 euro. The tour in the Paris tax would have been even more costly: Here, the metre of the taxi showed 34,090 Euro.
Finally, there were two other records to celebrate. With the departure of the jolly Hans-Friedrich Fuge the long distance drive lost its tallest member (2.07 metres in height). At the same time, the charming Denise McCluggage from the USA (age 80) took over for the last leg as the oldest member of the rally.
Big Reception in Hohhot
Official reception by the government of Inner Mongolia
23d Day's drive over 611 kilometres
Weather: Sunny, -3-9 centigrade Celsius
Hohhot - The 23d day's drive proceeded under optimal climatic condi-tions and pure sunshine through fascinating steppe and desert land-scapes to the capital of Inner Mongolia without any hitches. Along the way, the participants of the E-Class Experience visited a unique natural attraction, the "Singing Dunes". The province capital Hohhot was the destination of the longest day's drive of the fifth leg.
At the cocktail reception Secretary General of Inner Mongolia, Yun Daping, greeted the participants of the Mercedes-Benz long distance drive in their hotel in Hohhot. Against the backdrop of the typical country decor, the secretary general made a reference to the economic development of his province, giving special praise to the commercial vehicles commitment of DaimlerChrysler AG. It is also urgently needed: In this area, exhaust-reduced trucks are just as un-known as modern filter installations for power stations and blast furnaces. Sec-retary General Daping expressed his special joy about the day's route of the E-Class Experience of Paris to Beijing through Inner Mongolia in this way: "Please take as many positive impressions as possible home with you, so that we may greet more people from their native countries as guests in the future".
The route through the fascinating steppe and desert landscapes proceeded on roads of very different quality and partially off-road due to road construction work. Detours in China are generally dealt with as everywhere else, in a very pragmatic way: Off the road and onto the field. The E 320 CDIs sported their special strengths on sand and gravel surfaces with the permanent all-wheel drive 4MATIC. In addition, the chassis of the E-classes repeatedly demon-strated their balance during the day. Werner Liedkte, seasoned road warrior and Ebay participant, said with appreciation: "The E-Class offers fabulous chassis frame calibration with an optimal compromise between sportiness and comfort." The performance features of the six-cylinder CDI made a believer out of Liedtke. His team partner Anja Laufs added: "Here we are experiencing a unique journey through China and come to places that one would not reach at all alone. And the greatest thing of all is that one can travel independently in the process."
In the Mongolian steppe, the infinite vastness going up to the horizon drew the participants of the long-distance drive along. While the flora was characterized by great scarcity, the fauna of the Mongolian steppe offered more change: next to cattle, sheep and goats, donkeys, horses and camels were particularly popular and patient photo studies. In contrast, the occasional overland power lines and omnipresent masts of the mobile radio antennae provided clear signs of the intense efforts for economic promotion and development of the remote provinces. The cell phone is becoming the standard equipment in Inner Mon-golia.
A special highlight on the way after Hohhot, the cultural and political centre of the region, was provided by the so called "Singing Dunes". At up to 110 meters they are the highest sand dunes of China and for more than 20 years one of the most popular tourist attractions. This fascinating desert landscape owes its name to special winds or wandering dunes, which activate these noises. Ac-cording to the legend their song is supposed to drive travellers far into the de-sert thus causing perdition and death by starvation. Luckily, they remained silent on that day.
However, some of the participants took a cable car to the "summit" of the dune. Among other things, it was possible to sled down the slope on wooden bobsleds. The two Olympic champions in the double kayak, Tim Wieskoetter and Ronald Rauhe, did not let this opportunity pass them by. The two top sportsmen who are underway to Beijing with the golden "Bambi" E-Class, de-nied considering a change in discipline after their dune decent. However, they admitted candidly: "It was a great experience."
The Goal is in Sight
Last station along the Great Wall before the great finale in Beijing
24th Day's drive over 463 kilometres to Badaling
Weather: partly cloudy, -3.5 - 9 degrees Celsius
Badaling - The next to the last day's drive of the "E-Class Experience" led over Zhangjiakou (Kalgan). This is where the participants in the first automobile rally in world history made a stop on their way from Beijing to Paris 99 years ago. The participants spent their last night before the final arrival of the
"E-Class Experience" in the Chinese capital in Badaling at the foot of the Great Wall.
In Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, the teams of the "E-Class Experience" initially started under cloudy skies. Nevertheless, the good spirits of the international participants from 21 nations were not dampened as the group has attracted continually high attention from the Chinese people since their start in Lanzhou. Wherever the colourfully painted E-Classes go, crowds of curious onlookers form within seconds. Children in particular often show great joy over the unusual visit. Even the numerous people in uniform working on the street generally greet the passing marathon drivers quite cordially.
The day's route passed through the city of Zhangjiakou, which is called Kalgan in Mongolian, and some hundred years ago was the site of a remarkable automobile adventure: At the time, the globetrotters, who shortly before had started on the first long distance drive in automobile history on 10 June 1907 in Beijing, made a stop in Kalgan. On the way there, Prince Scipione Borghese, who two months later won the race in his 40 PS Itala, noticed that other travellers made greater strides on the badly constructed roads: the Italian aristocrat was frequently taken over by horse buggies, speedy government couriers and wealthy merchants carried on palanquins. Ninety nine years later, the situation is nearly reversed: With their E 320 CDIs, the teams of the long distance drive from Paris to Beijing are among the most powerfully motorized, safest and cleanest vehicle drivers to be seen on Chinese roads.
This was confirmed by Dominique Kracht, graphic designer from Switzerland, who praised the quick response of the powerful diesel saloons: "There is absolutely no turbo lag to be felt," she said knowingly. She was also enthusiastic about the automatic interval control system DISTRONIC, which renders driving safer and more comfortable. Her team partner Jeremy Cox drives a C 270 CDI as T-Model for his personal use. The frequent driver from the area of Birmingham (Great Britain) liked the low fuel consumption and low noise level of the V6 diesel engine of the E-Class.
Shortly before Badaling, the destination city of the day, loaded trucks blocked the road bringing traffic to an 18-kilometre halt, in which the teams got stuck with their E-Classes. Thanks to quick information assistance on the local conditions, the drive quickly continued on side country roads, which were partly unpaved. Along the way, the drivers passed by a new residential development with unusually designed houses built according to western construction standards. The name of the settlement, which was written on a wooden gate in Latin letters, was telling enough: Jacksonhole.
Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG and responsible for Mercedes Car Group, travelled to Badaling in the evening. He greeted the participants at the group dinner and thanked them on behalf of all marathon drivers for managing to arrive safely in the vicinity of Beijing with all their 36 E-Classes over the great distance of nearly 14,000 kilometres.
Final Destination in Beijing
November 17,2006. Beijing - The longest diesel marathon of all times ended successfully in Beijing today. The 36 Mercedes-Benz E-Class cars, which left Paris on 21 October on a transcontinental rally covering about 14,000 kilometres, arrived safe and sound in the Chinese capital after traversing Europe and Asia. Through this endurance test under extreme conditions Mercedes-Benz has once again demonstrated the outstanding performance of its modern diesel engines in terms of emissions, fuel economy and reliabil-ity. Proof of this is also the fuel consumption of the victorious "Ebay" team which won the fuel economy contest with an average of 7.19 l/100 km diesel. The best result on a daily leg was as low as
5.5 l/100 km.
"During this endurance test for a total of more than 500,000 kilometres, the 33 E 320 CDI and three E 320 BLUETEC impressively showed the potential of our high-tech diesels . They proved that driving enjoyment, great fuel economy and environmental compatibility are not mutually exclusive" said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG responsible for the Mercedes Car Group. "At the same time, the long distance drive from Paris to Beijing rendered the qualities of the new E-Class generation more tangible. The E-Class has lived up to all the promises that we had previously made to the participants and our customers.", he added. Today's grand finale of the long distance drive took place at Beijing's historic Yongding Gate, the southern access point to the "Holy Axis" of the Forbidden City.
During the five legs of the "E-Class Experience" more than 360 drivers from 35 countries took turns at the steering wheels of the diesel sedans. In only 25 driving days they passed through nine countries under partly extreme condi-tions, such as snow and ice, as well as unpaved roads. The average daily driv-ing distance was about 560 kilometres. Together with the 24 escort vehicles, which ranged from the G-Classes of the Mercedes-Benz crew and technical trucks to the mobile Aral diesel service station, the marathon entourage cov-ered a total road distance of about 840,000 kilometers. This corresponds to the 21-fold circumference of the earth at the equator.
Five legs from Europe to Asia
After the start in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on 21 October, the route of the "E-Class Experience" initially led through France, Germany, Poland and the Baltics to St. Petersburg, where the first change of drivers took place after seven days. In this case, the route followed the path of the legendary first transcontinental automobile race held 99 years ago, which ran in the opposite direction from Beijing to Paris and wrote automotive history.
The second group steered the E-Classes through Russia and over the snow-covered Urals to Yekaterinburg, while the third group drove through the hot, late-summer weather in the steppes of Kazakhstan to Almaty. The high-point of this leg of about 2500 kilometres was the overnight stay with Kazakh guest families in the small town of Balchasch - organized by the local mayor.
In many places the convoy was spontaneously surrounded and joyfully greeted by local people who appreciated their striking and unusual design. All participating E-Class cars are decorated with the flags of the participating nations, in order to underline the internationality of the long distance drive.
Through the Taklamakan Desert onto the Silk Road
Last Wednesday the diesel marathon crossed the barrier between Kazakhstan and our destination country, China, as the last of eight border crossings along the route. The final change of groups took place in Lanzhou on the Yellow River after crossing the Taklamakan Desert and driving about 1000 kilometres on the legendary Silk Road. From there, the last 1700 kilometres led to the south of the Gobi desert and through the grass steppes of Inner Mongolia. Yesterday evening the teams of the
"E-Class Experience" spent their last night in Badaling at the Chinese Wall.
Record breaking consumption figures: 5.5 litres/100 km and 5,300 ba-nanas
The Ebay" team in car number 3 won the fuel economy contest over the entire distance with a consumption of only 7,19 l/100 km. Thanks to their economical driving style, the "German Taxi" team only needed 5.5 liters of diesel for every 100 kilometers on the 616 kilometer-long drive from Lanzhou to Wuhai. The figures are especially remarkable because all participating cars are standard production E-Classes with 165 kW/224 HP. And: The luxury sedans didn't have it easy. They where fully loaded with up to three passengers and numer-ous pieces of luggage. Because of the anticipated bad road conditions and cold weather all cars were equipped with winter tires and a suspension that was raised by five centimeters.
With a low total average consumption of 8.32 l/100 km diesel fuel for all 36 Vehicles the goal of demonstrating the diesel engines' superior fuel efficiency was clearly met on the individual legs as well as over the entire distance. In total the fleet of 36 vehicles consumed about 40,530 liters of low sulfur Aral super diesel fuel. That is about 20 percent or 10,000 liters less than originally estimated. The participating 18 rear-wheel drive vehicles consumed only 8.10 l/100 km diesel, while the 18 4MATIC models with four-wheel drive ended up with a slightly higher average of 8.53 l/100 km.
The 360 participants and 40-person support team had relatively higher con-sumption: In addition to breakfast and dinners, between Paris and Beijing they consumed about 8,200 lunch sandwiches, 5,300 bananas, 4,000 chocolate bars and 9,600 bottles of mineral water. All participants endured the strains of the marathon - apart from occasional upset stomachs - in good health, which luckily left the two-person physician team accompanying the entire tour with hardly anything to do.
Five fender benders but no dropouts
The 36 diesel sedans of the participants and the nine E 320 CDI of the crew proved to be both safe and reliable over the total covered distance of 640,000 E-Class kilometres. Despite the partly extreme road and traffic conditions there were no serious accidents, and only five fender benders occurred in traffic. Thanks to this, all cars which started in Paris reached their final destination in Beijing. The spare parts needed for the entire drive consisted of only three bumpers, two fenders, an alloy wheel, four windshields, and a rearlight. In ad-dition the list mentions twelve electric bulbs, an alternator (following a coura-geous water passage away from the planned route) and 20 tires, which were changed with breathtaking speed by the traveling Michelin service team. Oth-erwise, the technical crew had "no special incidents" to report, except for two more figures for the statistics: a total engine oil consumption of just eight liters and the use of over 110 liters of window cleaning fluid.
Extensive logistics behind the scenes
The success of the diesel-marathon depended on extensive logistics. As part of the preparations, nearly 5,000 hotel rooms in 27 cities had to be booked in advance, hundreds of visas obtained, flights booked and materials transported into the most remote of Russia, Kazakhstan and China. Even the diesel fuel for the fleet was distributed in advance among the stations along the route. The low-sulfur diesel needed for modern engines is not available on more than 10,000 kilometres of the route110,000 liters of Aral super diesel were allocated in daily rations and sent in containers along the journey. The fuel for Russia was imported via Finland because of the simpler customs procedures, while the diesel for Kazakhstan travelled through Poland and Belarus. The contain-ers for China were initially shipped to Shanghai, from where they were taken by trucks to the intermediate stations along the 5,000 kilometer long route through the Middle Kingdom.
The world's cleanest diesel engines
The E-Class fleet that had started in Paris on 21 October is comprised of 36 serial
E-Class models with clean diesel engines, half of which are equipped with the all wheel drive 4MATIC. In addition to the 33 E 320 CDI, three E-Classes with BLUETEC went into the field. This new technology turns the Mercedes-Benz sedan into the cleanest diesel of the world. The E 320 BLUETEC has the first and only diesel engine worldwide that can outperform the current "BIN 8" US exhaust emission standard, particularly with respect to its nitrogen oxide emis-sions. The E 320 BLUETEC will initially be offered in the USA (in 45 states) and Canada and consumes up to 30 percent less fuel than comparable vehi-cles with gasoline engines in North America. Thanks to its enormous range of up to 1,200 kilometres on one fuel tank it is the ideal car for a marathon such as Paris-Beijing, something of which the alternating drivers could personally convince themselves.
A taxi trip for 40,000 Euros
The most unusual vehicles in the fleet were the two E-Class taxi cabs which accompanied the convoy over the total distance. In this case, the competitive comparison showed clear cost differences. The fare in the German taxi came to 16,050 Euros at the end of the fourth leg after just 12,000 kilometres. The trip in the Parisian taxi would have been clearly more expensive: At that point, the meter already displayed the proud amount of 34,090 Euros. Until the arri-val in Beijing, the total will have come to nearly 40,000 Euros.
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