DAY One, then, had passed without any problems. Our Skoda rattled contentedly on, the motorway miles rolled by without drama and, this time, we were let into Switzerland without a hitch. Well, that final point isn’t entirely true, but that’s another story.
The starting point in Interlaken, it has to be said, is truly beautiful. Nestling on the shores of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, we didn’t truly appreciate the place from the Hooters bar the previous evening – but, come the morning, with blue skies, crisp air and bright autumnal sun, I struggled to think of anywhere I’d rather be. That feeling multiplied when Team Chaos pulled into the car park to join the rest of the rally for the beginning of Day Two’s proceedings.
Talking to the other teams, it was clear that only one car hadn’t reached Interlaken. We’d catch up with that one later in the rally but, for now, it was a case of heading to the hills and enjoying ourselves.
The challenge for the second day was photographic but we weren’t going to bother with that – for us, it was all about driving the passes and having some fun while we did so. I took the first leg (as I did most mornings – can’t think why) and slotted in behind a Nissan Micra. Taking the tunnel out of Interlaken and avoiding the motorway, we stopped at the first petrol station to gas-up… and almost instantly, it seemed like a dozen teams followed us in.
However, as we headed for the first pass, our captivation with the scenery started to wear off a tad and we moved into overtaking mode. Considering our car’s lack of performance, that took cunning and bravery on the twisting roads but, as we’d soon hear from the other teams every time we stopped, the general consensus was that if you saw an orange Skoda come up behind you in the mirrors, it would be getting past…
Although we tended to attack the driving roads wherever possible, we’d rest at the top at the passes and chat to the other teams. At Sustenpass, we caught up with Spido (we’d meet him again later) and marvelled at the chilled beer which he had on tap in the back of his van. It seemed he owned a garage in Prague and had driven to Calais for the start of the event – only to join in and drive back. Riding in tandem with another of the event’s heroes, Mr Duck and his famous narrow-bodied Citroen 1CV, they’d provide plenty of entertainment on the drive down.
The scenery just got better and better as the day passed. Each pass offered more excitement, more opportunities to meet other teams and more chance simply to have a laugh. The stories coming back were consistent – everyone loved the Alps and even those who’d been before on several occasions found something new to love about the place.
We continued to drive far too quickly but that’s to be expected – all three of us, I reckon, are frustrated racing drivers and, given the opportunity to attack roads like this, it seemed like the perfect thing to do… even in such an awful car. Every time we completed a dodgy overtake or squealed the tyres too much, the other two would shout, ‘It was HIM!!!’
Driving down from Julierpass, we noticed that our Skoda was getting rather smelly – the brakes still seemed fine and hadn’t started to fade, though and so, at a point where we stopped – I think in Chur – when the under-bonnet smoking became too much, we popped the hood open and took a quick look.
The reason is all too evident in the picture below:
Before we left, Andrew had stuck some lead flashing to the cam cover in order to try and insulate the noise from the top-end rattle. I don’t really think that had made any difference but, as the engine became super-heated on the passes, the bitumen melted and dripped onto the exhaust manifold.
With that mystery solved, we slammed the bonnet shut and carried on. Banger Rallying can be fun, for sure.
Each time we met a team, they’d talk about how they’d spotted us overtaking something or going round corners far too quickly – that was something we were getting used to. However, they’d also tell us how they needed to watch their brakes and their water temperature – driving with heaters full on just to keep their engines running reasonably well. We didn’t… that Skoda may have been hateful but it was also dependable. Especially impressive given the abuse we’d meted out on it.
Towards the end of the day and as we closed in on our stop-over, Bormio, Dave’s overtaking manoeuvres became funnier (for me in the back seat, anyway). At one point, and following a near miss as we headed along a very narrow mountain pass to the Italian mountain enclave of Livigno (a VAT haven that sees you paying 78p/litre for petrol), he had Andrew yelling, ‘F*ck, F*ck, F*ck, F*ck you…‘, and me laughing at the sheer hilarity of it all (although, to be fair, I hadn’t seen just how close Andrew had been to being slapped in the face by another car’s door mirror). The team we were following at the time, I suspect, might have seen it differently.
Still, as we rolled into the beautiful Tirolean town of Bormio, we had little idea of how good a night we’d be having. It seems the town was having a wine-tasting festival and the whole of Northern Italy’s student population had rolled in for the craic. After meeting up with a few other teams in the main piazza, it was off to try a selection of local wines.
Dave, wearing his horn-hat and carrying the funnel was soon conversing with everyone, everywhere, while I was doing my bit for Anglo-Italian relationships by teaching some students the term ‘syrup’ for a hair piece (don’t ask, see picture below) and learning some Italian tongue twisters taught by a pretty girl who loved London and thought Joy Division was ‘happy music’.
Dave, we think, rolled into our hotel room at about 5am.