Aylsham man in Antarctic world-record success

An Aylsham garage owner is part of a team which has just completed the fastest-ever vehicle crossing of the Antarctic continent.

Pete Ash is one of the 10-strong Moon Regan Transantarctic expedition celebrating its record-breaking 303-hour crossing.

The team is now heading back to Union Glacier on the west coast, where the epic journey began, and will notch up another world first on arrival, becoming the only vehicle-based expedition to complete the round-trip.

Mr Ash, 42, who runs Aylsham's Dunkirk Garage and lives in Norwich, is the team's chief mechanic and has been kept busy throughout the trip, which began on November 23.

There have been problems with the expedition's three vehicles – two specially-adapted six-wheel trucks, known as SSV1 and SSV2, and a revolutionary propeller-driven ski vehicle.

After a 1,945.9km trek, the team arrived at the furthest point of their expedition, the Ross Ice Shelf, last Thursday, December 9.

They have now been back through the South Pole and are on the homeward strait.

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But a message on the expedition's website yesterday read: 'With the South Pole behind us, we make incredibly slow progress to Union Glacier as SSV1 has fuel problems, travelling at only 5km/h. We hope it is just one dirty barrel.'

One of the team's blogs records that travelling at such a slow speed is 'incredibly frustrating' and as bad as being in a 20-mile tailback on the M25. In recent days Mr Ash has also had to fix a leak in SSV2's air compressor. The men and vehicles are struggling against temperatures dipping to -40 degrees.

In a jubilant blog entry on the day the expedition crossed the continent, Andrew Regan, one of its founders, recorded his thoughts on each team member.

He said of Mr Ash: 'Pete – looks like Keith Richard's son and has more energy than a Duracell Bunny. Nothing is ever too much trouble, he attracts dirt quicker than a Dyson hoover. Pete and Gunni bicker constantly, much to the amusement of the rest of the team. Mega respect for him as an engineer and so, so, glad he came along.'

The expedition takes its name from lawyer Andre Moon, an expert on Polar history and navigation, and Mr Regan, a businessman.

During the trip the team is conducting a range of scientific experiments, including testing the use of bio-fuels in sub-zero conditions.

The whole trip is expected to cover 3,600 miles and the homeward leg was estimated at about nine days.