A unique insight of how businessman and motoring novice Barry Weir drove into the world record books at the wheel of his wife’s 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4. He became the first person to drive an historic sports car around the world in 80 days... a new world record. Crossing four continents and driving through 22 countries, it was the longest ever rally in the history of the car and the first ever timed circumnavigation of the globe for a magnificent collection of 40 classic, historic and vintage cars.
The story begins almost two years before the rally itself when Barry bought the car for his wife at auction. But just a couple of weeks later after hearing about the rally he casually asked permission to “borrow” it. Driving Ambition is an inspirational account of what it is like to prepare for and take part in such an event - the frustrations, the personal, mechanical and driving challenges and the sheer joy of arriving home after 80 days on the road.
Keeping a fast car on the racetrack for three hours plus in a Grand Prix is no mean feat. It requires skill, concentration and a car that’s up to the job. Change the scenario slightly and put an historic sports car on an 80-day timed rally around the world, and you have another great motoring challenge.
Chapter 1 – An Innocent Gift
My passion for classic motor cars was a late bloom, unintentionally brought into flower by my wife Roma with the innocent gift of a blue Mercedes Benz 300SL sports car on my 40th birthday in July 1990. Had she known how great an effect her gift would have on my life, she might have thought twice about introducing me to such a rival.
Chapter 2 – Preparations Under Way
Once I’d made my decision and paid the deposit, I was committed. My experience in life has been that, if you’re going to do anything, you have to give it all you’ve got; there can be no half measures. As far as I was concerned, I had entered the rally and I was going to win it.
Chapter 3 – Back to School
During August and September I spent weeks in Penrith with Timothy going through the car and learning how it was built and how to repair it. It was like going back to school. When I arrived the floor was out so all the joints and the frame could be inspected.
Chapter 4 – The Flying Dutchman
As the car had recorded 402,000 miles since new it was a fair bet that the engine had had several re-builds. With every re-build the head is tightened down and the block tends to ‘bow’. Eventually the block
splits from front to rear... Goodbye engine!
Chapter 5 – Problems, Problems and More Problems
In the DB7, I received an alarming telephone call from Tim Stamper. He had been checking the new engine, just returned from the Tulip Rally. The new crank had six cracks on the flywheel-fixing flange. I spent over an hour talking with those who had had experience with such matters. There were several theories but no definite answers. I would have to wait until Monday to contact Beauxfield for an explanation. On Sunday, still thinking about the crank problem, I decided to call on an old friend for coffee. He had worked on all the old cars and was an engineer with great knowledge. “Stress cracks!” Get a new crank was his advice.
Chapter 6 – Almost Ready
I met George and Rita Richcreek, AMOC members from Minnesota, USA. They offered to be my parts depot in the USA and get parts out to me, should it become necessary. I had an article coming out in the next AMOC newsletter and was hopeful of hearing from others living near the route who would be willing to help out if required.
Chapter 7 – The Rally
London to Istanbu
It was 7.15 am on a grey drizzly Monday morning. While other competitors were enjoying a leisurely breakfast and mentally limbering up for the challenge ahead, I was out in front of London’s Royal Mint rummaging through the back of the Aston. Based on the premise that every little helps, I had decided to off-load anything I thought we didn’t really need. A risky manoeuvre at this late stage, perhaps, but I was doing my best to ensure that by the time Ronald arrived we would be set to go with the lightest load possible.
Istanbul to Beijing
We worked on the car all morning. We had misfiring yesterday and found it had only been running on four pistons instead of six. We still managed to stay third overall and second in our class and we caught up by a minute - pretty good for four cylinders. We cleaned out the car, sorted out the piston problem - although I don’t know quite how - and changed the distributor. It seems to be running quite well now. I burnt my arm on the inlet manifold while adjusting the carbs. It has blistered badly. If it was hotter it would have burnt and a scab formed almost immediately. But a blister will take time to heal - not good.
Anchorage to New York
At 6.00 am on Monday morning I stood eagerly awaiting the arrival of my newly overhauled car, but when ten past came, and then a quarter-past, and it still hadn’t come, I began to worry. I knew the mechanics would have worked most of the night to complete the work, but what if something new had reared its ugly head?
Marrakech to London
Temperatures rocketed for the drive to Quarzazate and we had to work very hard to keep the engine from overheating. The towering Atlas Mountains were just visible ahead of us through the morning mist as we set off from Marrakech. Already it was very hot, and it was destined to be the hottest day of the event so far...
Aston Martin World | Barry Weir | World Rallying Book | Driving Ambition | Aston Martin