Yap’s helmet
Yap’s helmet. Title image: the Porsche Cayenne that valiantly gave its life to preserve those of Laurance Yap and Kees Nierop. Click image to enlarge

Originally published September 4, 2007

2007 Rallye Transsyberia, or “How I crashed big in the middle of Mongolia and lived to tell the tale”

Article and photos by Laurance Yap

Somewhere-in-Mongolia – Dirt. There’s dirt everywhere.

There’s dirt in my stuff. In between the keys of my laptop, gumming up the zoom lens of my camera. There’s dirt, still, in all of my clothes. There’s dirt in my dreams. In images of dried-out plains where we drove for what seemed like hours. In memories of unzipping the tent every morning to see another perfect, yet absolutely different from last night, landscape. Dirt in my nightmares, too. Of the ground rushing up to meet us as our car tumbled end over end three times, finally coming to rest on my side of the car. There was dirt all over the inside of the car; dirt mixed with some of the blood that had started to flow when my crash helmet smacked the roll bar hard enough to cause a compression wound on my head.

It was, until that point, all going quite well. Kelowna-based ex-Porsche factory driver Kees Nierop and I were running in the top 10 and had just stamped our time card at the last checkpoint and were cruising across a grassy plain, the GPS device telling us the next waypoint was straight ahead, about five kilometres up. Across the plain, rally cars were going in a dozen different directions, following a dozen different ways to the same point. After having finally broken into the top ten after a good run on the previous stage, we’d talked last night about how we were going to take things easy, maintain a steady pace and stay safe. As we drove toward the crest of the hill, Kees eased onto the Cayenne’s brakes in order to slow the car down – I’m not sure how fast we were going – not knowing what was on the other side.

We expected to drive down the other side; we did not expect the ground to drop out from underneath us. All four wheels left the ground and we paused to hold on in midair before the front-left corner dug into the ground and tipped us forward. There was a moment when Kees looked over from the driver’s seat to ask if I was okay, only to be cut off by the final impact, which shattered the windshield into a million pieces, which sent my watch flying from my tensed arm and also detached the engine from the car, skittering off to a landing spot many metres away. There were car parts everywhere – the front wheel and headlight had detached at the first impact and off in the distance, a planetary gear set was still rolling away when I climbed out of the driver’s-side window.

Warning: video contains strong language starting shortly after 0:42.

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