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Staples2Naples, 2004

Back home: Recollections
15 Oct 2004


Maestroman!

So, the rally is over and we have finally returned to normality. It seems bizarre to think when looking out of the window at all the rain we’re getting at the moment, that only a week-or-so ago, we were enjoying a balmy 26 degree morning in Southern Italy. A world away.

The rally has been a success, and I suspect that next year, all the teams will be returning along with a whole load of new ones. We’re pretty sure about coming back, although have yet made up our minds as to whether we come back with a serious effort (quick, economical car, to go for the win) or play it for laughs (a blue Morris, we can call “aqua-Marina”). Either way, we’re intending to have fun again.

The car has been sold on eBay for the not inconsiderable sum of £350, and it went to fellow S2N’er Les Hedaux, who bought it for his wife. I am sure that she will use it a lot less hard than we did, and will enjoy a long and event-free life with it. So it looks like we will be handing around £800 to Cancer Research UK once we have finished counting and totting up.

For reference, we eventually travelled a total of 3,636 miles…

Thanks to cool-guy Andrew Elphick from the team running Croker’s Tour Bus, we have a picture of one of our rally heros.

We’ve yet to find out his name (but would love to if anyone knows), but we simply referred to him as “Maestroman”. Basically, he chugged along in his (94-year old) mother’s Maestro Vanden Plas, without a care in the world, reliving his TR days in the 1950s. Allegedly he was one of the first to make it to Naples – then turned straight back again.

Not sure if he was actually “in” the event, but he seemed to pop up at several points along the way. We saw him in Calais, the caught up with him in Switzerland – and finally we saw him at the top of Stelvio. Andrew caught up with him at Maranello, and managed to bag a picture. Good work, fella!


I was there…

Declan Berridge’s thoughts…

Despite having had several months to prepare for the event, I took a typically last-minute approach to getting ready, finally taking possession of a passport with just a few days to spare and only getting round to packing a bag when Keith arrived to pick me up on the eve of the rally itself…

Having said that, the idea of partaking in Staples2Naples had captured my imagination from the first time Keith mentioned it. Not the most widely travelled of people, it had been around thirty years since I’d last visited France or Switzerland, and the rest of mainland Europe was a closed book to me. With the added prospect of driving on Alpine roads (something I’d only ever seen in films like The Italian Job and Avanti), I was hooked.

The trip to Dover brought what was for me our first good omen: while travelling in slow-moving traffic on the M25, we found ourselves following an Audi with the registration S2 NAA… The crossing went very smoothly, and as we left the ferry at Calais it was reassuring to catch our first sight of another team’s car – the skillfully decorated Peugeot 309 of “Team Pugnacious D”, complete with the drivers’ names displayed in the rear side windows and some tailgate graphics making it clear which event they were partaking in…

Next stop was our hotel for the night, where we found the car park full of competitors’ cars. As we parked up, a young guy called Paul crawled through his bedroom window to greet us; he would turn out to be one of our heroes of the event, as he and his team-mate – known to all and sundry as Ginger and Blue respectively – managed to keep their stricken Sierra going to the very end with the aid of hotel napkins and tie-wraps – and were then heard hatching a plan to take it back to the UK with them…


Blue and Ginger of “Team Drive The Globe” celebrate reaching the end of the rally. They’d been having to pack their split CV boot with grease every couple of hundred miles since the start of the rally, and when they lost it altogether on day two, were forced to improvise. To make matters worse, by day three they were also intermittently losing the use of several gears… but they made it!

While we were talking to him, we noticed a couple of guys touring the car park removing one hub cap from each car. As they walked past us, they explained: “It’s OK, we’re Scousers – it’s expected that we’ll nick stuff!”, before adding that they would all be returned in the morning. These guys were Dave and Nick – or “Team Danger Scouse” – who would pilot their desperately underpowered Fiat Tipo Diesel with consummate skill as our paths crossed at several points throughout the rally. When we got another chance to chat with them at our hotel in Tirano on the Saturday night, it turned out that driver Nick had been a member of the former Austin-Rover works rally team, and had many a tale to tell of past endeavours. They finished their rally in style by having the passenger door of the Tipo bent back double by another passing team member, before selling the car to the owner of a bar in Naples for four beers and a couple of burgers…

These two early encounters sum up the key factors of the rally for me: the camaraderie, the determined resolve of many teams to make it to the end in the face of adversity and the interesting stories that many of the participants had to tell. It seems churlish to speak of “low points” on such an enervating event, but from a personal point of view I’d have to cite my tendency to freeze like a rabbit caught in the headlights whenever a video camera is pointed at me in the hope that I’ll say something worth preserving for posterity. It was also sad to hear of those few teams who’d been forced to retire at various points along the way, and another minor regret was not getting the chance to photograph the car at the rally’s spiritual starting point, Staples Corner. The high points came thick and fast, but one that sticks in my mind was videoing Team Danger Scouse from the back seat of our car as they repeatedly came within inches of our rear bumper while we were ascending one of the early Alpine passes. (To be fair to Keith, who was driving at the time, we were being held up by slower cars in front.)


Team Danger Scouse’s Fiat Tipo being driven with demonic determination by ace driver Nick Edmond. Our car’s rear spoiler and wiper can be seen in the foreground…

The icing on the cake (as Stephen “TinTin” Duffy might have said) was that we managed to raise the best part of £1000 for our nominated charity – Cancer Research UK. Add that to the amounts raised by the other teams, and it makes the whole venture very worthwhile indeed.


Alexander Boucke’s thoughts…

Oh dear… Where to start? After returning home from the rally my head was really spinning from all these memories.

Ok, from the start: On Friday I set of a 6AM to meet up with Keith and Declan at the start of the rally in Calais; we then would drive back to Aachen in a convoy of two Rover 216s and collect some points for visiting Belgium, Netherlands and Germany along the way. But the day started with such heavy rain that I nearly had to halt on the motorway! Luckily there were no more drops of rain during the whole event. This was probably very important, on how the journey developed… We had such a good time at any place we stopped, be it on top of a pass where we were able to have a chat with other teams wearing t-shirts, be it in the late evening with everybody sitting outside of a bar and having a cold beer, be it on day 3 with all those pump-1-shot stops…


Alexander’s car parked alongside our spookily similar team car at CiteEurope in Calais – the starting point for the rally.

Being the navigator on board, I tried to lay out the route and our time-schedule as carefully as I could. I even tried to plan the stops to refuel the car – needless to say that this failed as the car developed a good thirst when in Keith’s hands… It showed in the end that finding the way was not the most difficult thing about the rally, which made my life on board a lot easier than I expected it to be in advance. But you can’t imagine how hard it is sometimes to find pump no. 1 at an Italian service area! Sometimes it was disused, sometimes it was a forlorn pump for lorries far out… During that day my view of the challenge changed from ‘what a stupid idea’ to ‘what great fun’.


One of the many team photos taken alongside pump number 1 at each and every service station on the Autostrada between Tirano and Viterbo.

Before setting off, we all probably had very different ideas about the rally. Well, we wanted to win, that’s for sure. I personally tried to enjoy myself along the way as much as possible. And the stunning scenery we drove through most of the time held a large part of it. This lead to me acquiring a quite laid-back attitude towards the pace with which ground was covered. And yes, it’s possible to drive along Italian Autostradas in a relaxed way. But there was no way we would miss a point on the challenges! This led to two nice, but time-consuming round-trips through medium-sized towns while trying to get back on the motorway where we missed a petrol station. On one of these detours I noticed while driving and navigating at once, that the signposting in Italy is far from perfect, but Rome is found on nearly every second crossing!


The Italian section wasn’t all Autostrada. One of our jaunts (some planned, others not…) through a variety of charming towns and villages.

If I had to decide whether to take part in next year’s event – the answer would be a clear ‘yes’ right now. It was an event full of fun, there were lots of interesting people around, the amount of preparation and money needed where reasonably low… Indeed, compared to some other teams, we did not really spend much effort on preparation. But this is how I understood Staples2Naples: Get a cheap car, get in it and try to do all the challenges presented on the way to Naples. Well, today’s cheap cars are usually quite reliable, so I laid my main view on getting the challenges right – and our Rover 216 GTi did its best to help by not breaking down, being quick when we wanted and roomy enough to spend the time in good comfort.

Well, what could have been better than spending five great days away from home and even raising some money for charity along the way? Apart from winning, probably…

Gallery

The best £100 we’ve never spent…

Our trusty steed, basking in the Northamptonshire sunshine, following a thorough valeting.


Looks good, doesn’t it? We had yet to attach our sponsors’ logos at this point, and it you can see the missing wheel centre cap (which we replaced)…


Ewwww… old-style orange indicators. They will have to go!


Energy Brokers: our sponsor with an Italian MD… he warned us about Naples, too!


The rally…

Calais

…and some of the other Rovers on the rally, pictured at the start line.


“S6 Boyz” Rover Metro 1.4: we feared for these guys’ head gasket, but happily, they made it to the end…


The “Grumpy old men” team’s 416GTi 16V auto: without doubt, the paint job on this car (and its sister car, below) was stunningly good…


“Fishy on a dishy” team’s 216GSi 16V: Sadly, it failed on day one (distributor)… Shame really, as we wanted to get some pictures of this one alongside our’s…

Day one:

…The Calais start, then eight countries in one day…


Tension mounts, etc.,etc… Well, not really – but it was good to see all the cars together at the start. Sadly, many of them looked worse for wear by the time the time they reached Naples.


Alexander’s 216GSi poses alongside the S2N 216GTi at the “Three borders”: despite the visual similarities, these two cars drove very differently indeed.


Declan and Keith pose next to the GTi at the Luxembourg border. Despite Keith’s earlier experiences, Luxembourg did actually turn out to be quite a nice place…


Austria by night: neither Keith nor Declan had been to this country before, and it is a real shame that we only got to see a small part of it… in the dark.


Day two:

Switzerland and the Alps… the scenery outshines our car.


Even the presence of “Royal ugly car” Citroen C5 cannot diminish of the majesty of our surroundings.


At the top of Grimselpass: the water feature is actually man made, and a giant dam is responsible for the creation of this beautiful lake… (and yes, that is snow in front of the car)


Enough said…


The top of the Stevlio pass: the 216GTi acquited itself really well here, and had enough power to overtake where necessary… (notice the absence of smoke coming from the brakes – that would come later)

Day three:

…and the team become intimate with all of the petrol stations between Tirano and Viterbo…


Declan and Alexander share a joke, whilst Keith pretends he likes being photographed. There were 24 petrol stations en route, and we stopped at every one for a photo like this. As you can see, Alexander and Declan are suitably attired, but Keith seems to have left his car related tee-shirts at home…


One of the all-female teams… Another BMC>Rover car that made it to the end without a hitch.


Day four:

…the photo challenges. So much to see, so little time.


The team take a break at the top of a mountain, but only Alexander seems to have mastered the art of looking at the camera…

The scenery speaks for itself…


Day five:

S2N finished, and all that remains is to get Alexander home… the journey from Naples to Aachen took 16 hours, was 1,050 miles long, and Keith drove it all in one go (excluding fuel stops, of course). Certifiable? Probably.


Italian service stations are brilliant. Proper grocery stores, high quality restaurants and attended service. Makes you realise what we’re missing in the UK. Also, these natty shades have been put up in the car parks in order to keep cars cool… At austin-rover.co.uk we rapidly came to the conclusion that we LOVE Italy…


Back in Germany: what a difference a day makes…

Posted in: Banger rallies, Events
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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