The Rallye Transsyberia, which started in Moscow, Russia, on July 11 and finishes in Mongolia this Friday, July 25, after 4,347 miles, is judged to be one of the toughest driving challenges in the world.

After an impressive performance on their debut in the event, the Team Porsche Cars Great Britain entry of Martin Rowe and Richard Tuthill has been forced to withdraw.

The British team of Martin Rowe and Richard Tuthill (both from Deddington, Oxfordshire), driving a 385bhp Porsche Cayenne S ‘Transsyberia', had established themselves as contenders for overall honours in the challenging endurance event, and were running in the top ten at the time of their retirement.

For reasons as yet to be explained, their Cayenne caught fire on day five after 29km in to the special stage. Both Martin (37) and Richard (34) were able to leave the car safely and unharmed. This was very disappointing, as the drivers had made a big effort to prepare scrupulously for the Rallye Transsyberia, and this was evident in the pace of the duo in the all-wheel drive four-door Porsche.

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"We've made some really good friends here, we've got some great people doing the rally, there are some great people at Porsche, so we just have to thank everybody at Porsche Cars Great Britain for the opportunity we've had, and it's a shame we didn't go any further," said Martin afterwards.

The Rallye Transsyberia started from Red Square in Moscow, and twenty Cayenne S Transsyberia vehicles set off on the long journey to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. The Porsche teams are up against experienced marathon rally drivers in vehicles from a variety of marques, and who each also have their sights set on reaching the finish first.

The Rallye Transsyberia showed competitors early on day one why it is regarded as the toughest marathon for near-standard specification off-road vehicles. The 48 km stage near the Russian city of Vladimir ran through boggy forest paths with deep ruts and large bumps. Due to extremely heavy rainfall in the days leading up to the event, the ground had become totally sodden. Puddles turned into deep water holes, placing huge demands on man and machine.

The next few stages brought more excitement and difficult moments for the teams to deal with. On Sunday July 13, all the teams crossed the Ural Mountains and left the continental land mass of Europe to enter Asia, where further extreme conditions awaited participants. Due to severe thunderstorms, the fourth special stage on the way from Yekaterinburg to Tyumen had to be cancelled.

However, for Martin and Richard of Team Great Britain, they were quickly into their stride and during the second special stage of the rally claimed sixth place in the end of day classification, which placed the team in tenth position overall.

"Things went better for us today compared to yesterday," said Martin on Sunday after finishing the stage. "This is how I know rallying and that's why it was so much fun on the special stage. We got through without any problems. The Porsche is simply fantastic. I'm constantly amazed at what the Cayenne can do over difficult terrain. It's impressive!"

The third day of the rally was even more successful for Martin and Richard, for they finished the stage in fourth place, just 26 seconds behind the winner of the stage – Team Porsche Russia 2 keeping Team Porsche Cars Great Britain in 10th position overall.

"Today's stage was in true rally style," commented Martin, the 2003 Production Car World Rally Champion. "That's what we like and what suits us perfectly. It was a shame that it was such a short stage, and we were only able to enjoy it for ten kilometres. Hopefully there will be a similar stage in the coming days. Then we'll show what we and the Cayenne are capable of."

The fifth stage presented some more difficulties, especially with dust that greatly limited visibility. Most of the teams enjoyed the challenge of the special stage, but not all participants made it. Kees Nierop and Laurance Yap from Team Canada retired, and after the stage on July 16 Team Italy also dropped out.

Unfortunately due to the fire early on day five, Team Great Britain was not able to continue the rally and Martin and Richard flew home to the UK.