Friday, February 11, 2005

Bill and John's Excellent Adventure. Part 2: The Start at Reims

Reims start
Originally uploaded by wjwmorrow.
Sorry this isn't a great picture. When I get the original (high-res) file from Jim I'll substitute it for this one.

Friday January 28th was freezing and again there was sleet falling. We struggled back into the overloaded Mini and drove of to the Parc des Expositions for scrutineering. Jim, Juliette and their colleague Steffan from the Luxembourg Mini Club were quite amazing. They unloaded and repacked the car, transferring piles of spare parts, tools and wheels to their Honda CRV. Then they applied the door numbers and stickers as required and helped us through scrutineering. No problems there except Bill had left his MSA competition licence at the hotel and had to return to pick it up (thanks Jim for providing the taxi service). Scrutineering over, the Luxembourg gang proceeded to do an amazingly thorough bolt check on the car. Both Bill and I felt a bit superfluous at this point and went off for a coffee and a bite to eat. Juliette had organized a late check-out at the hotel so once everyone was satisfied that the car was in good order we returned to our room and prepared for "the off". Bill took a shower and a nap. I just paced around nervously. Around 6.00pm we made our way through the wretched Friday evening Reims rush hour traffic to the town center (centre ville) where we were put in our start order place by an ACM official. I didn't fancy the rather dry civic reception and went to set all my clocks and watches to official rally time. Bill hung around the car and took great delight inviting admiring small boys (and one or two girls) to sit in the driver's seat and have their photograph taken. All sorts of last minute panics were going on: the Porsche next to us had a fire in its wiring loom and the crew were desperately trying to make repairs. A local radio station was conducting an outside broadcast and was playing very loud pop music. People were milling around everywhere. The French certainly appreciate classic rally cars and are tres enthusiastic about the sport.

Eventually we made our way up to the start. Our off time was 8.19pm. There was almost another disaster. The officials had set the ramps to the stadium very wide (too wide for the Mini's relatively narrow wheelbase) and as we started to drive up a wheel dropped off the edge. There was much fussing as the ACM people adjusted the ramps. PRX 720B then roared up to the top, announcements were made (I heard none of it, the scene was like the 1969 Steve McQueen film, Le Mans, where the only sound audible at the countdown was the driver's own hearbeat -then as the lights turned green there was a shattering roar from the engines). Well a single BMC A series lump hardly emits a shattering roar, even when Bill has worked his magic on it, but 8.19pm came around and we shot off into the night emitting at least a throaty rasp and doing a lot of horn tooting. We were heading south and had an 18 hour drive and 900 Km in front of us. The Concentration Run stage of the 8th Monte Carlo Historique rally had begun...


No comments: