This is your President's report. Rather long, but there you have it.
Wednesday 31st of May
I should really be doing the things I left for today a couple of weeks back, but
history tends to repeat itself. After the briefing I end up with fifty dirty plates in my
kitchen and still having to change the oil for the seven. I was working earlier on the
hood, damaged by some cowboys I have trusted my car to for polishing.
Thursday 1st of June
Everybody - apart from the organizers of course - are in my place on time. I cant believe it. Finally Fons and Ornella arrive with the rally stickers: With a black frame as if we are in mourning, and with the letters of the driver and navigator written in times roman size 10 - Invisible but with a microscope. The rally edition and year appear as a patch over the previous sticker, in slightly different colour. The President is not amused but I am reminded article 10 of the rules and regulations ("The President shall, under no circumstances, complain, moan or do anything else whatever to that effect"). Who did the rules?
The shiny corvette of Claude shows the first sign of problems: It leaks like a sieve from the rear left break cylinder. The breaks were repaired - probably by a cowboy given the nationality of the car - a few days ago. Crisis management kicks in and we decide to pass by Claude's house as he happens to live exactly on our way to Monte Carlo.
We eventually leave for the petrol station of Thoiry where I realize in panic that I had remembered and loaded everything in the seven, but forgotten the hood. I have to race back home and then try to catch everybody else up on the way: It was not too difficult as Claude breaks down again with a different problem (electrics or carburator). Two breakdowns in the space of an hour. Somebody found out about the spirit of the event the hard way. Andre offers to help to tow the corvette home, cigarette in mouth, which turned out to be more agonizing that expected due to the fact that the vette was constantly trying to overtake the golf in the downhill bits and then treaded on its own lifeline.
We eventually start the first special stage with two hours delay plus, only to be shocked to find out that the stage was 5.5 hours long! Fons rejects all pleads for a shorter stage and we set off for this regularity run with the instructions "take the N-something-something in the west direction out of town". Milena on the map looks perplexed. We find this road that goes perfectly north to south in the vicinity of where we are starting from. This is not a good start. We spend half an hour arguing about the spirit of the event, etc.
In one of the novice cars (the all-star combination Mauro-Georgia) they nod intelligently when Fons explains that is a Tulip diagram, take a wrong turn and end up in Val d Isere. They are shocked to find out that dinner is in Chateaunef du Pape and miss every chance to have dinner, or even to arrive before midnight.
To keep the 50 Kms/H mean speed is rather hard work and I drive like a maniac shouting 'Madman!' at Fons. We encounter Alain at some point driving the DS within an inch of its hydropneumatic life. Milena cannot breath the strong fumes coming out of that car - she is a vegetarian. Alain in the narrow streets does not let me pass, sideways in every corner, but finally overcooks it and runs wide and I manage to stick the nose of the seven out. In my mind I can hear Meg shouting.
After five time controls and quite a few hours of hard driving, after having refuelled once as the seven's range in hard driving is about 180 Kms, Fons tells us to proceed directly to the restaurant, 22 kms away. We take a wrong turn immediately and do 68Kms, some of them on a motorway going towards Paris or somewhere, and arrive at the dinner place after 10 at night completely shagged out and not talking to each other. To top it all up, as I was telling myself that the driving might have been hard, but the hotel looks rather nice - a chateau -we are told that we are not sleeping in that hotel, but in a Novotel in the industrial zone of Avignon (the equivalent of ZIMESA of Meyrin), miles away. By that time (after midnight) everybody has arrived and we are heading in convoy to the hotel, a route that involved lots of U-turns and changes of direction.
Mauro (otherwise known as the 'missing link') take the wrong turn and lose everybody else in the convoy. Ornella is not pleased. Somehow, the warm beer out of the minibar of the Novotel taste rather nice in the knowledge that *bed* is a few steps away.
Friday, 2nd of June
The treasure hunt looks like a piece of piss after the previous stage and we stop to lend Mauro and Georgia a hand so that they do not end up in Italy or something. We must have done a good job, as they end up the stage with more points than us.
At the end of this stage we are also informed about the scores of the first stage. - I end up having hundreds of penalty points, everybody else is on time and they were even looking fresh in the restaurant last night. Roger and Jane are even penalized for being half an hour or so early at some point! How can this be, I wonder, as it is clear that the TR4 is on its last legs and the seven ought to be able to go faster. Roger, when asked, is nebulous about it.
Of course what happened was that all those bastards (them and Andre and Clara) just sketched the route on the map, then took shortcuts between time controls, stopping for beer and snacks on the way. It was not explicitly disallowed they said and within the spirit of the event. Later on, Laura would say in astonishment: "I did not know we had to cheat!" I want the results audited by some higher authority of the FIA.
The third stage was a carting circuit where the best times of driver and navigator were added for the best score. I go out to find out that this is not a circuit, but a series of turns put together in quick succession. The carts are nice in the sense that they are powerful enough for the tyres used, so that you can slide in every turn. I overdrive the cart and fail to improve on my time of the first session. On checking the timing results, I realize that I am really down in the order of the drivers and that Clara has done a better time! Humiliation. Georgia, driving without a driver's licence, immediately rams Meg and then hits the tyre barrier and she is banned from entering the cart circuit again ever for dangerous driving.
The hotel arrangement is again bizarre: one nice hotel and one shitty one. I try to use my authority as president for the nice hotel but I am told off and sent to the shitty one. You can guess which hotel the organizers stayed in.
Saturday, 3rd of June
Only one stage today, the minimum distance run. The shortest road is what we also did last year, so we are confident we can do well. We waste a lot of kilometers getting out of town and we finally do 10 Kms more than Alain and Meg (who also did last year's event). Many arguments in the car and Milena announces that she wants a divorce and will not come with me next year. Great.
Roger, seeing that he could not really challenge the leaders let alone me for a good place in the rally chickens out and says that he will not compete but drive directly to the hotel. He finally breaks down 20kms away from the hotel having only forth gear left in his gearbox that sounds like a box of nails inside a washing machine in the spin dry mode. He is brave enough to attempt to drive to Geneva like that the next day.
We finish in a hotel 60Kms from Monte Carlo up some twisty roads.
Arriving for the dinner in Eze is a lengthy affair, we arrive after the sunset as always and manage to drink 16 bottles of rather expensive wine. We end up paying the equivalent of the gross national product of Nepal for the meal. By then, everybody is too drunk to care and my copilot insists to join the others for some clubbing. Andre paints a rather bright picture of the nightlife of Nice. We arrive and wander around for ages only to find all places (if indeed there were any) shut. We end up in a dodgy disco and drive back to the hotel and 6:30 in the morning.
Sunday, 4th of June
Race day today, and by the time we manage to arrive to Monte Carlo it is 10 to 2. Police has blocked the entrance to the town and we are nearly truly buggered but at one post the policeman in charge is talking to his girlfriend on his portable and we sneak in. I manage to get an excellent ticket for 100 francs where Laura and Jerry are ecstatic to manage to get a ticket for 1000, still below list price. Not a cheap weekend this.
After the (boring) race we have a pizza at Andre's favourite 'Le petit montecarlo' bar where we all say goodbye. For some twisted reason, people look happy, they have enjoyed the event. So have I. First degree burns in the inside of my arms and sore thumbs accompany me the week after to remind me of the fun we all had.
Next year I will beat you all.