AFTER a late night in Pinetomare with some of the other teams, it seemed we had earned a lie-in after several days’ worth of hard graft at the Molly’s wheel. After some initial worries, she had decided to settle down to a consistent, if rather slow pace – and proved that if you care enough abut how you drive it, a 30-year old Allegro could travel huge distances.
I have to say that my own feelings about Molly had not really softened, and I was relieved to be driving something else home. It’s not as though I hated her – far from it; I just found that she’s not my cup of tea.
Actually, we did almost cut a deal with another team to pick up their chipped Saab 9000 T16 (as well as the Polo), but in the cold light of day, the following morning, and a whacking great dent in the rear door, I gracefully withdrew, with a number of regrets. Several times during the trip back, I wondered whether I’d chosen the correct car.
After leaving late, and dropping Team Foggy at Rome airport, we settled down to the task of travelling North – Declan and me in the Polo following Alexander in Molly. It was from this vantage point that my feelings towards Molly did warm a little bit. She may not be beautiful, but she looks distinctive on the road, and one can’t help but find her brown-ness enjoyable to look at among the silver and greys of all the modern cars around her.
After a brief stop to fill up and synchronise our fuel stops, we decided to press north, avoiding the Autostrada, and see where we’d end up.
As it was, a drive through beautiful Tuscany convinced us that sticking to the A-Roads was the correct thing to do. The scenery and weather was wonderful, and as we drove along with out windows open, we soaked in the autumn sights and smells. On one of these A-Roads, we came pretty close to motoring nirvana, and it had seemed that even though we were travelling pretty gently, we had arrived somewhere pretty special – open ended bends, long undulating straights, and rolling hills slightly browned by the autumn sun, allowed us to appreciate once again that the Italians are a very lucky race.
We pressed on towards Pisa – and by 10.00pm, we had arrived. The ancient quarter of the city was a very special place, and although we could have spent hours taking it all in, time was passing us by, and we had nowhere to sleep.It didn’t stop us checking out the leaning tower and the cathederal, all the same. Very soon, it became apparent that there were no rooms in the Inn – in fact there were no rooms anywhere at all in Pisa, and some decisions needed making – as it was now nearly 1.00am.
In the end, we decided to drive on. Alexander continuing to lead, with me following. After telling our Mio Sat Nav (by now, Molly was known as ‘Molly Mio’) to avoid the Autostradas, we ended following some very interesting roads indeed.
As we pressed North into the night, the undulations became mountainous, and the curves became bends – and we ended up driving one of those truly great roads. We may have lucked in to finding this baby mountain pass, but that didn’t temper our enjoyment of it one bit. In fact, as we began to climb, fatigue was lifted as the adrenaline kicked in… Alexander may have been at the wheel of Molly, but he was clearly enjoying himself, covering ground quickly, throwing Molly through the lacets, and braking very late indeed. He may have been going quickly, but he was never rough or ragged – bend after bend Alexander hustled Molly, and never once, did she put a wheel wrong. Impressive. In fact, as I followed in the VW Polo, I was glad it had been fitted with wide tyres. Otherwise I would never have kept up.
The action continued for what seemed to be hours, although in reality, it was all over within 30 minutes. And in that time, my respect and admiration for Molly and her driver certainly increased a great deal. It would seem I had misjudged her abilities…
Day six and seven, Pisa to Aachen via Andermatt
FOLLOWING a couple of hours sleep in a lay-by (yes, I know…), we pressed on Northwards. A brief stop off just North of Milan was followed by a dash into Switzerland. Alexander, Declan and I decided we’d return to the St Gottardo pass in convoy, and thankfully, Declan took the wheel of the Polo. Why thankfully? I’d have probably ripped off the steering wheel in frustration at its lack of power!
As Declan followed Alexander, I filmed Molly strutting her stuff. Yet again, I admired how planted Molly looked on the road – and although Alexander wasn’t trying too hard at the wheel, he gave us something interesting to film. For one, the way Molly squats in bends looks frightfully amusing, and is a sight that’ll live with me for a very long time!
After the brief fun we had in the Alps, we stopped in Andermatt. Alexander pressed on to his home in Germany, and we stayed over an extra evening. As it was the rest of the journey took place on the motorway, and proved a long slog. Most of my time spent there, I was wishing I had a little more than 40bhp to play with.
Perhaps I should have taken the Saab after all!