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  1. #1

    Default Chasing Cars: "hmm... we should go to Spa next weekend."

    Another installment of the popular series: Chasing Cars.

    Normally it takes weeks - no, months - to plan one of my infamous 'Chasing Cars' roadtrips. This one didn't take months, it took about five minutes. And it was one of the best yet.

    It all stated last weekend when a couple of friends came up to stop at my place en route to Donington where we all had tickets for the World Series by Renault raceday. I'd not seen either of them for months and had been looking forward to catching up when they arrived. Unfortunately they were delayed arriving and didn't make it here until 11pm so, by the time we'd done catching up, it was getting light and we'd done a case of beer and a bottle of JD.

    Needless to say we never made it to Donington the next morning. Instead we settled for a lie-in followed by a stroll around the lake and a roast dinner back at my house whilst we watched the Grand Prix from Monza on TV. No alcohol for us today - we're getting old and were still suffering a little from the night before - but the meal was somehow good without it. Which is surprising for something that I cooked.

    If there had have been a supply of alcohol then maybe the random suggestion that "hey, we should go to the Grand Prix at Spa next weekend" would have received the usual smile and nod of the head. And then been politely laughed off but the idea somehow stuck. Twenty minutes later we had booked three race tickets and a ferry crossing. Then we got the map out to see where Spa actually was. It all seemed rather odd to be heading off to watch a series that we didn't have any massive interest in. My usual destination would be Nascar and I can't wait to get to the race. As soon as I've booked my tickers the excitement builds. This time something seemed to be missing somehow.

    Fast forward a few days and (my local F1 team) McLaren are fined $100m for being naughty boys. No-one disagrees that they shouldn't have received the infamous dossier but, hell, this is F1 and this sort of thing is the norm. Even for F1 that level of fine is most certainly NOT the norm. It wasn't about about what they had done at all. It was politics. And people don't like politics in sport.

    Feelings were running high amongst fans of both Ferrari and McLaren and suddenly that interest level started picking up. Controvesy sells. I called Simon later that evening and plans were forged for for a protest against the whole thing. Suddenly I was feeling that excitement!

    Friday came and again I was waiting up for Simon and Tabby to arrive. No JD this time - we had a horribly early start the next morning - but we did manage to stay up til 130am chatting and realising just ho unprepared for the trip we actually were. We had no idea where we were set to collect our tickets from, no real idea where the circuit actually was (we typed Spa into the satnav and went for it!) and had no campground booked. The last one was really worrying me but, hell, no point worrying now. There may be 100,000 people trying to find accomodation in a small town in a small European country but there'd be room for us, right?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Sounds like a whacky adventure

    There may be 100,000 people trying to find accomodation in a small town in a small European country but there'd be room for us, right?
    Hmmm, I can't wait to hear how this worked out!

    Mark

  3. #3

    Default Day Two

    I was woken at 5am by my alarm clock and a commotion outside in the street. I blearily stumbled from my bed, quickly got dressed and made my way outside to see what the hell could be happening at that time of the day. I was greeted by the sight of Simon, presumably annoyed at having to get up so early on a weekend, taking out his frustration on his car. When we'd calmed him down and loaded our kit on board we were off.

    First stop was on the other side of town to show our support to the McLaren boys. Then it was pedal to the metal all the way to the ferry. The drive down is always tedious but it was especially tedious this morning as it was pitch black and there was hardly anyone on the road. I hate it when there's nothing to see. We passed the time by sending text messages to the guy on the radio - apparently the only other person who was awake - until he finally gave in and gave us and our protest a mention on air.

    Eventually we neared Dover and, as we crested the final hill and descended to the docks, the sun finally appeared on the horizon. I don't know what it is with me and watching the sun rise but I do love it. For some reason I found watching it rise over the English Channel particularly inspiring and I found myself watching in wonder. I was bought back to reality when a madman in a minibus roared past with one hand on his horn and the other waving madly out of the window. It took me a moment to spot it, perhaps due to his passengers waving their arms around and giving us the thumbs up, but there was a small logo on the back door. McLaren. I think they rather liked our 'We still love you Ron!' sticker!

    The crossing was uneventful, other than a number of the McLaren boys coming to thank us for our support by buying us a drink, and we were soon rolling down the ramp onto French soil. One thing that anyone who has visited the UK will know is that it is a damn expensive place to live. Invariably the reason for that is the British goverment who think it a good idea to tax the hell out of anything that they can. Alcohol and gasoline are two prime examples and the French realise that there's a buck to be made out of this and have built dozens and dozens of huge wine and beer warehouses in Calais to attract the Brits. You'll probably be able to guess our first port of call.

    After a couple of hours wandering round Auchan in Coquelles we were off towards Belgium. It wasn't a short drive and we were soon heading off across the country towards Holland. We had no reason to be heading towards Holland except for the fact that it was only 20 miles off our route and Tabby had never been there. It was Tabby's birthday, after all, so it would have been rude not to go. I had noted the proximity of Germany and Luxembourg as we neared our destination but the journey took longer than planned so we never quite made it. We'd have to save that for another time.

    I mentioned previously that we didn't know where we were going when we neared the circuit but we felt safe in the knowledge that it was a big event and there would be signs. Wrong. We headed into Spa and were surprised to find little sign that such a big event was occuring so close. It was totally dead. I guess Belgium gets a little less excited about these things than the US.

    Eventually we rolled into the village of Francorchamps where we stumbled over the collection point for our race tickets. We pulled over to the side of the road to see if it was open - it wasn't - and were approached by a, let's be polite and describe him as 'merry', Canadian who had flown over for the race. He was fascinated by the Dale Jr sticker in the back window of the car and when we explained that we're fans of his and always cheer for him when we're at the races, he expressed amazement that we'd travel so far to see a race. Erm, hello Mr Merry... you're not exactly a local to Belgium, are you? We gave him another beer and he waddled off in the direction of a bar.

    As the collection point was closed for the evening we would have to return in the morning and the decision was made for us. There was no way we were driving on raceday so we would be staying in Francorchamps by hook or by crook. We'd passed numerous campgrounds but they all looked rammed and we decided the only option was to visit each one in turn and ask if they had any space left. Seriously unlikely. We turned onto the first one but there was no-one manning the gate so we drove into the site to see for ourself. Not only was there masses of space but there was a real party going on around us. It was less than 0.5km go the ticket collection point and another 2km to the circuit. This was perfect. We pitched our tents and agreed that we would find someone to pay later.

    We never did find anyone to pay which was a) a bonus and b) very lucky as we blew all our hard-earned Euros (I still dont know why we persevere with Stirling in the UK, but that's not a discussion for this site) after wandering into the village. I am delighted to report that Francorchamps was just completely different to Spa: it was buzzing. As we made our way out of the village we found that we weren't the only people who had developed a dislike for Fernando Alonso who, it transpired, was responsible for dropping his team in it.

    People really were out to have a laugh and we even found a tree that someone had felled. We decided it would look great next to our tent and headed back with it. We built a camp fire and cracked open a bottle a JD. Our Dutch neighbours would soon return and we ended up having a great evening drinking and eating. I think I put on half a stone but it was seriously good fun and, after semi losing touch with Simon and Tabby it was fantastic to finally spend some - as the saying goes - 'quality time' with them. It certainly was quality and we finally got off to bed around 2am. It was another long day!
    Last edited by UKCraig; 09-19-2007 at 10:26 AM. Reason: added photo

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Keithville, LA
    Posts
    638

    Default Cool Report

    I'm glad you had fun and got to reconnect with old friends.And I'm happy to learn what the freaking tree pictures were about. How cold was is there? Y'all are all bundled up. Would you believe that it's in the 90s here today? Blech.

    Now, what about the Bristol trip. I'm quivering in anticipation. Does Craig kill Andy? Does Andy finally eat so much he explodes and is now residing in a hospital somewhere along the east cost? Did Andy ever get ahold of a knife or a gun? So many unanswered questions. I don't know if I can take it.

  5. #5

    Default Day Three

    The previous evening we had been kept entertained by a group of Germans who had arrived on site somewhat more prepared than us. They'd bought with them several huge motorhomes and a 40' truck loaded with beer, fireworks and a serious sound system. This morning we were not amused when they decided 7am was a good time to get the show up and running once more and proceeded to play some dreadful oom-pah music (okay, fair point, it's all dreadful) at a volume that would have drowned out the race cars. Fantastic.

    I wandered back towards the village to find that someone had turned over the second portaloo and there was now sewage rolling from its door and into the gutter. I was pointed in the direction of the Germans. I was unamused but, as I made my way towards them to tell them how I felt, my mobile rung. It was a friend ringing from the UK with the news that Colin McRae had tragically been killed in helicopter crash the previous evening. Frsutration turned to despair. People who had seen Colin drive might have accepted that he was never going to grow old gracefully - indeed he had walked away from numerous car wrecks that he probably had no right to walk away from - but to die in a helicopter crash just seemed so wrong. It would later emerge that he was taking his son and his young friend for a quick pleasure trip which made more sense to anyone who knew Colin. RIP mate.

    The race itself proved to be uneventful but it was a great feeling to be there at such an amazing venue. We had only been able to afford Bronze tickets (the cheap ones!) so we weren't able to get to the best viewing spots such as Eau Rouge (we could partly see it over a fence and it looked abslutely insane) and La Source but we found ourselves a reasonable spot on the final corner. The race was still a number of hours away so we went off to get some food and have a quick look around. We returned 45 minutes later to find the area rammed. People were everywhere and we were reduced to elbowing our way as far forward as we could get - which was three or four rows back from the front - damn. Never mind, by now word was spreading about Colins death, an it seemed completely wrong to be concerned by not having a perfect view of a motor race.

    The mood was lightened as the drivers were introduced. When Alonso was introduced the whole place erupted. As the driver who was finally able to take the fight to Schumacher (to such an extent that he gave up and retired) he had become really popular. But that had changed over the past days due to his part in the 'Spygate' affair. He looked utterly stunned when almost the whole crowd started booing him and shouting insults at him. As it said on the side of out car, get bent Alonso!

    It wasn't to be McLaren's day, running across the line in third and fourth places, but we left happy. We also left in the wrong direction (don't ask) and it was 7pm before we finally got back to the car and made a dash for the port. It was 250 miles away and we had 3 hours to get there. Never gonna happen.

    We rolled into town at 1130pm and, to our relief, they were happy to stick us on the 1215am crossing. I finally made it to bed at 330am which was bad enough, but I was off to Dublin for work the next morning and had to be at work at 430am! I've never been one for sleeping on planes but I didn't even realise that we'd taken off until we bounced and skidded our way down the runway in Dublin...

    I'm still totally shattered - ten hours sleep in three days isn't the best idea if it's something you were considering - and gutted about Colin but, despite it all, it was an exceptional weekend. Next time we're planning on driving down to Monza...

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by lhuff View Post
    Now, what about the Bristol trip. I'm quivering in anticipation. Does Craig kill Andy? Does Andy finally eat so much he explodes and is now residing in a hospital somewhere along the east cost? Did Andy ever get ahold of a knife or a gun? So many unanswered questions. I don't know if I can take it.
    Coming soon to a screen near you. (If you're patient!)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,059

    Default Oom-Pah Fan

    Quote Originally Posted by UKCraig View Post
    ...and proceeded to play some dreadful oom-pah music (okay, fair point, it's all dreadful) at a volume that would have drowned out the race cars.
    Now that is MY idea of a good time! (Seriously, it is one of few forms of music that is generally enjoyed by all people, even by those who roll their eyes when they hear it!)

    Mark

  8. #8

    Default No offence...

    ... but no. Just no :)

    If I'm ever gonna be woken at 7am on Sunday morning with a hangover then give me a rumbling V8 or a screaming V12 over oom pah any day!
    Last edited by UKCraig; 09-18-2007 at 11:41 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Keithville, LA
    Posts
    638

    Default Omm Pa Music

    Ah - reminds me of my German Club days. I sometimes wonder what the heck people are thinking. "Oh what a lovely peaceful morning. I know! Let's start playing some really random music very loudly and start screaming at each other, preferably in a foreign language. That should get people excited."

    Coming soon to a screen near you. (If you're patient!)
    Have I ever expressed patience? (I think I'm going to hyperventilate here). :)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Keithville, LA
    Posts
    638

    Default Ok

    I give - what's up with the guitar toting chicken? Enquiring minds want to know. And it'll briefly take my mind off the next episode of "As the Bristol Trip Turns".

    Laura

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