ANOTHER shortish but interesting day would see us drive from Austria and into the Czech Republic – and our challenge was a simple one: to take pictures of Trabants. We’d, of course, long since given up on the tasks but were looking forward to the drive, which took in Bavaria and rural Czech Republic – the roads looked easy and, once again, we decided to stay away from the motorways as much as possible.
We noisily lined up at the rear of the long line of cars waiting for the off in rush-hour Salzburg – Beryl the Metro’s team had tied three empty cans of Red Bull to the Felicity’s back bumper which we were now dragging along behind us. By now, the journey had taken its toll on a number of teams – the Cheerleaders’ Skoda Favorit had melted its radiator on the way to Salzburg and the girls were now hitchhiking, while a couple of members of another team had resorted to kicking each others’ faces in. We, on the other hand, were laughing more and more and the Felicity was standing up well – yes, that cam was getting noisier and the oil haze behind us was getting worse but there was a feeling of invincibility about the car that neither Dave, Andrew nor myself would have ever thought possible.
The Sheila’s Wheels team rolled up in the queue behind us to take last place and we decided that perhaps what we should do was to keep them company. Their CRX story had been an interesting one – they’d ferried down to Amsterdam from Newcastle, driven down to Calais and, on the way down to Interlaken somewhere in rural France, their front wheelbearing had gone pop. They rolled into the nearest village, paid a breaker for a secondhand one and the following morning had it fitted by a local garage.
By the time they were mobile again, they were a day behind the rally, and drove like mad to catch up. When they rolled into Bormio, the rest of the rally would have been well into wine tasting mode. Like us, they’d found themselves somewhat lonely at times during the trip, and were happy to hook up. Taking the first leg of the day, I was relieved I had an excuse to be driving slowly – I mean, I’d need to keep the girls in sight, which they happily managed all the way to the first stop.
After a quick chat, we were on our way again and, in rural Bavaria, I started messing around. When we hit a section of road which was closed, I used a field to turn round in, only to find their driver, Marico Di Nolfo, doing the same. Interesting.
Messing around a little more, I gave the Skoda a little love-tap into the armco, only to promptly get it wedged. Looking back, I could see the girls laughing hysterically. Being Germany, within seconds, the Police arrived (just as Dave was about to shove my car with the Sheila’s Wheels Fiesta) and, after a few more moments, the place seemed crammed with people… it’s hard to believe that, minutes before the picture was taken, there was no one around and the place seemed so sleepy…
However, it soon became clear that the Polizei weren’t really that interested in telling me off… and just wanted me out of their manor so, after a couple of goes on the wheel, I’d freed the car and Andrew – ever the calm one – was taping up the indicator. From that point on, I was glad to be heading out of Germany…
With Dave now at the wheel, the pace typically picked up and, needless to say, the girls remained steadfastly glued to our tails. Heading for the Czech Republic and with Jenny McRea now behind the wheel of their car, a system was devised. Dave would pass and then stay on the opposite side of the road to let them know they had room and time to pass in safety. It worked.
Crossing the border, traffic density decreased and soon Dave and Jenny were racing along – I was in the back quietly impressed by the pace we were maintaining. When Dave let Jenny past, she actually started to pull away. Perhaps the power-to-weight ratio of the Fiesta was up a little, but even so – nice one. With Prague looming on the horizon, we knew our great day was coming to an end, but had the parade in the city to look forward to.
However, when we rolled into Wenceslas Square, no one was to be seen. Were we early? Not sure, but one or two other teams turned up and we all got chatting… Justin was nowhere to be seen and the parade looked like it wasn’t going to happen. In the end word got back to us that the parade had been cancelled and that was that. Disappointed, the few teams there decided to do an impromptu circuit – and, in our car, Dave hung out of the sunroof cheering to the watching crowd which had started to gather.
Unfortunately, at just that moment, the police turned up and flagged us down (yes, of course, I was driving). A bit of a telling off, then a 500 Czech Koruna (Kc) fine was the result – I was left feeling pretty sheepish and, as I walked off to the cashpoint, I had no idea how much 500Kc was actually worth – £500 or 50p? Dave also picked up the same fine and, as you can see, he took it seriously indeed. He obviously knew what I didn’t.
Still, the event was over – and it was time to hit the town and to get the beer flowing. Once again the stories (aided, of course, by Dave’s funnel) came in thick and fast:
* Team EURO NCAP’s five cars had amassed 970,000 miles between them.
* They sold their Volvo 740 Estate to a tramp in the city for 1000Kr – we later spotted him sleeping in it, bottle in hand.
* The team in the Sierra E-Max (75bhp) was travelling five-up, averaging 40mpg, and would be going on to complete a European tour.
* The Bedford CF2 had been driven up from Cornwall by a guy who lived there but worked as a milkman in Milton Keynes.
* We spent 160 Euros on petrol on the first day alone.
We still, of course, had to sell the Felicity. The easiest solution was to leave the car at Spido’s as he’d offered us a ride to the airport and a free beer in exchange for our Skoda – exactly the deal we were looking for! Back in England, it’s hard to believe so much fun’s on your doorstep, but it is if you’re mad enough to go on one of these rallies.
Will we be back again next year? Never say never again.