Cannonball Run Europe 2009
July 7th, 2009
Wow, what a turnout that was, thanks to everyone who showed their support by giving the Cannonballers such an amazing send off.
The sun shone down us as ‘Destination Unknown…’ blasted through the speakers as the first vehicle, the massive Peterbilt truck, pulled onto the starting grid. All the other cars lined up impatiently behind it , waiting for the 30 second intervals to pass until it was finally their turn. One by one they passed in front of the chequered flag and the Cannonball Run Europe 2009 was officially GO GO GO! After all the months of anticipation and speculation the Cannonballers now knew that they were heading to Dover for a 2 hour ferry crossing to Dunkirk and then……Croatia! The ferry crossing was calm, unlike the ‘ballers who’s excitement was evident as they crowded around maps trying to decide on the best route to get to their final destination in Rovinj, on the North Western coast of Croatia.
Mission 1 - Crack on to Croatia. Dunkirk to Rovinj 956 miles
July 7th, 2009
The ferry docked in Dunkirk and at 9:00pm the cars left the port and headed south. Unfortunately most of them were confronted by what seem to be the entire population of Belgium returning from the coast after a hot and sunny Sunday which meant about an hour’s delay for the hyped up drivers, not what they wanted . Once out of the jam most of the cars headed down through Belgium, Holland & Germany, Austria, Slovenia and finally Croatia. Now you would have thought that 7 countries in one night would be enough for even the most hardened of Cannonballers, but obviously not as some of them seemed to take in Italy and Luxembourg too! The night did have some other interesting surprises in store for a few of our entrepid adventurers. The weather decided it wasn’t going to play ball and once inside Germany the heavens opened with some experiencing over 4 hours of torrential rain! The car mostly affected by the rain was Dave & Adrian’s 1970’s beach buggy; its almost total lack of weather proofing turned it into a plastic paddling pool, but this was not the least of their worries. The little Buggy decided that it wasn’t ‘playing ball’ when the fan belt pulley came loose and their only option was to limp into a local garage. The mechanic was somewhat bemused and suprised when the purple metallic 1970’s beach buggy turned up at his garage, along with a sodden ‘pimp’ and a windswept hippy. This problem was an easy one to fix but then…the dynamo packed up. With no lights and no spark the Bug was stranded in ‘no man’s land’ half way between Slovenia and Croatia so, with the light quickly fading the guys took the decision to trailer the Bug to the hotel, eventually arriving at 2am on Tuesday morning. They may have been very damp, but their spirits certainly weren’t dampened.
Meanwhile most of the cars had arrived at the beautiful 5* Hotel Monte Mullini on a hot and sunny day in Rovinj, Croatia. The pool was discovered, as was the bar….and some very comfortable 5* beds. The wonderful view was taken in by the guys as they sipped cool, long drinks from the balcony of the hotel , very happy & contented knowing that they had completed the infamous first leg of the Cannonball Run Europe.
After 40 winks and a freshen up the guys were raring to go again. At 8.00pm they boarded a boat, taking them on a 15 minute voyage across to St Andrews Island. Here the candlelit terraces of the island’s chateau greeted them. After watching the sun go down with a few glasses of champagne they tucked in to some delightful Croatian cuisine. It was then time to announce the stage winner . You could hear a bit drop as the ‘ballers waited in anticipation hoping to hear their names called out. And the winner is…. Simeon & Mark driving the Ferrari 430. The boys were delighted and proudly wore their 1st stage leaders rosettes for the rest of the evening. After dinner the boat took them into the beautiful old town of Rovinj where the evening ended sipping cocktails and further reflecting on the past 36 unbelievable hours.
Tuesday - Rovinj to Rimini
July 8th, 2009
The Cannonballers were a little reluctant to leave the wonderful hotel in Rovinj, but this is the Cannonball Run and they know their next destination could be as incredible as their last! The guys departed ‘early doors’ with mission packs in hand knowing now that Rimini was the next port of call.
One of the first to leave was the Peterbilt of Paul & Aileen, the massive truck pulled onto the streets of Rovinj like a huge robotic monster, about to devour all in its path! Many of the cars had been valeted in the garage over night and were spotless when they took to the tarmac
The roads today were very welcoming and although some of the guys were hit with a heavy rain storm early on the temperature began to rise higher & higher, hitting 35 degrees by mid afternoon and they all had an excellent trouble free “Mission”. All that is except Paul & Jo in the Ferrari 360 Spider, who were not so lucky. After a long, and sometimes taxing, first leg down, they were full of the joys of Cannonball until, POP! A burst front Pirelli put paid to any plans that this was going to be an uneventful day! Undeterred Paul & Jo over came the unfortunate event, rose to the challenge and after parting with a euro….or three their steed was shod with new front rubber. Well done Paul for keeping the beast under control and ensuring that the only damage done was to the tyres and not them.
Rimini’s Grand 5* deluxe Hotel welcomed the ‘ballers, situated on the beach front just a few yards from the golden sands it’s opulence and splendour is immediately apparent. It’s also got a well stocked bar, a pool and a private beach so every one was happy as they laid by the pool reflecting on the drive up past Trieste, Venice and Bologna
Meanwhile Dave & Adrian, who were up bright and early after what turned out to be a very late night last night, determined to make it to their next destination in time for a few beers with everyone. It would appear that the problem was simply the battery and all that was needed was to get it replaced and they would be on their way. Unfortunately it did take a little longer than planned as they needed to practically dismantle the car to do so, but they made it safe and sound to Rimini and got that much deserved beer with their cammarades. We all had something to celebrate as it was the first time that all cars were present and correct since the start!
Stage Two winners were Andrew and Patrick in the BMW 3 Series, with a average mph variance of just -0.009!
Dinner tonight was a barbeque on the private beach of the hotel, where the delicious food just kept coming and coming; just what was needed to soak up the glasses of wine and beer being consumed! After dinner they all headed to the Coconuts Club, where they danced the night away.
Mission 3 – Rimini to Stresa
July 9th, 2009
Checkpoint opened early this morning and, once the drivers had been though their daily routine with the Blow Me boys, received their mission packs. Excitement and anticipation mounted when the drivers discovered they were off to the world famous Imola track, for many years home of the San Marino Grand Prix and a favourite of many legendary drivers.
After the one hour drive, the Cannonballers received their crash helmets and a drivers’ briefing and were now ready to tear up some tarmac! The Ferraris felt at home, as did the Mazeratis. Before long all the cars were experiencing the thrills of this twisting and challenging circuit.
We then headed on to our next destination; The Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees in Stresa. This is a 5* deluxe hotel on the enchanting Lake Maggiore and has magnificent views of the Borromee Island and the surrounding Swiss Alps; a perfect setting to wind down and reflect on the adreneline fuelled day spent at Imola.
Mission 4 – Stresa to Luxembourg (550 miles)
July 10th, 2009
After enjoying breakfast overlooking the magnificent Lake Magiorre, the Cannonballers, mission packs in hand, waved goodbye to this beautiful tranquil town, many of them vowing to return. Today’s mission was divided into two sections; the first one would take them to a place called Thonon-les-Bains, on Lake Geneva. The reason for this being that there were some incredible roads and amazing scenery; something not to be missed. The Cannonballers were loving it! It would seem however that they weren’t the only ones enjoying a day out in the mountains; the local police were out in force and I think we can safely say they had a “good day at the office”! Now Cannonballers are certainly not going to allow this spoil their fun so on they all pressed, many feeling like they were reliving a scene from the Italian job (we wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Monroe was blasting out in a few of the cars
The Cannonball spirit and camaraderie kicked in and before long the tam-tam could be heard loud and clear. The boys at the head of the pack were phoning the staff to let them know where trouble lay ahead. The Norwegian Snakeoil teams did a great job as it would seem that the Swiss had no interest in them whatsoever and gave them a easy passage, which enabled them to feed back some very useful information for the Cannonball staff to relay to all drivers.
Upon leaving the mountains, even though some had slightly lighter pockets, the concensus was unanimous – what a fantastic route! They were now on their way to France. The Gendarmes were also very pleased to see us and after handing out a few fines the Cannonballers all continued their trip up to Luxembourg.
Home for the night was Le Royal right in the city centre. Everyone was buzzing at dinner and the noise level was deafening! There were so many stories to share about the day’s adventures. The biggest surprise of the day was when it was announced that the VW Camper Van was the first car to reach the checkpoint; for which they received a standing ovation!
Today’s stage leaders are Lee and Martin in the Mazda RX8. But who will be lifting the coveted trophy tomorrow night? It would appear that even those teams who at the beginning of the week were saying they weren’t in it to win it, started to think that they might have a chance and were working out strategies for tomorrow’s final stage. It is going to be very close and currently there are around a dozen cars that could be in a position to win the 2009 Cannonball Run.
Dinner was followed by a night in the VIP Lounge, Luxembourg’s most prestigious and famous nightclub. The atmosphere was amazing as the ‘ballers partied the night away.
Mission 5 : Luxembourg to Brighton (344 miles)
July 12th, 2009 - The Home Run
A few of the Cannonballers were struggling a little this morning after last night’s amazing club night in the VIP Lounge.
After the habitual breath testing, they were all on the road; just 240 miles to drive back to Dunkerque. They all arrived in the ferry port in good time and took over one of the car parks. The final checkpoint had been set up here and so, as far as timings were concerned, this was in fact the end of the Cannonball Run. Once on board most of them tried to catch up on some sleep in preparation for the final night party which they all knew would be a heavy one. Unfortunately the Ferrari 360 experienced a problem when meant they had to get breakdown recovery service to collect the car at Dover docks and take it to the garage. In the meantime the ‘ballers had hoped to get a bit of a convoy going to The Grand Hotel in Brighton; a parade lap so as to speak, but the M25 had ideas of it’s own. Traffic was very heavy and soon the cars were spread out. Unfortunately the McLaren SLR experienced an electrical fault shortly after disembarkation and was unable to continue their journey. Ray and Naz in the Range Rover collected them and took them back to the hotel while the car was now on a flatbed en route back to Spain.
Soon after 5pm the first cars started to turn up at the hotel and within an hour most of the cars had arrived. Horns were sounded, engines were revved and spirits were high as they all arrived on the finish line, greeted by the lovely checkpoint girls and a glass of champagne. Exhilaration, sense of achievement, relief, sadness…. emotions were running high.
After checking into the 5* Grand Hotel, many of them headed for the bar and started to reflect on the week’s events. By 8.30 the Cannonballers had congregated in The Pavilion bar of the hotel for pre-dinner drinks; some of them almost unrecognisable and very elegant in their black tie and evening dress. As they were invited into dinner a slide show was running capturing many moments from the week away. This was followed by a 15-minute video which Craig (Blue Juice Designs) had put together during the week. Everyone in the room was blown away and Craig received a well-deserved standing ovation. By this stage everyone had made it back except Paul & Jo in the Ferrari who had made a detour via a Ferrari dealer to fix the oil problem with their car. They now arrived and received a very warm welcome from their fellow Cannonballers.
It was now that time of the evening; the awards ceremony. Jan took to the stage, results in hand. The final standings were closer than they had ever been with the first 10 cars separated only by 4 miles! You could hear a pin drop as the results were announced. In third place, with an average miles per hour variance of 0.066 was Fraser and Murray in the Maserati Grand Turismo. In second place was Phil and Michele in the Aston Martin Vantage with an average of mph variance of -0.051. And the winners of the Cannonball Run Europe 2009…………..Jamie and Richard in the Fiat 500 Abarth! Their average speed variance was just -0.005 mph! It was about time Jamie got it right; it was his forth Cannonball Run after all, and Richard’s second.
They were very popular winners and lifted their trophies to a loud cheer. But this was not the end of proceedings. There remained one more trophy to be presented and this is the “Spirit of the Cannonball”, considered to be the most prestigious award to receive. Competition was very high this year; John and Eileen in the Peterbilt who only ever made it to two destinations in time for dinner, Rod, Jason & Julian in the Cannonball Camper , who also struggled at times keeping up with the pack but who kept us entertained and in high spirits all week, were definitely in the running. However, there could be only one winner and the trophy was awarded to Dave and Adrian in the Beach Buggy. Now bearing in mind that there was no weather proofing whatsoever on their car, and that the heavens opened up several times on us during the week, they didn’t spend much time in dry clothing. The Buggy broke down on a couple of occasions, sometimes forcing them far off the beaten track to find a part that would put them back on the road, they had no SatNav, never made it to dinner…. but their spirit was never dampened and their sense of humour never left them. (Dave, if you had spent as much time on preparing you car as you did your wardrobe, you may have been okay!) Amazing Cannonballers and very worthy winners.
After the awards ceremony we left to go to our private VIP area of the Oceania club, just a few metres from the hotel where we danced until 3am, then came back to the hotel bar where some were still propping up the bar at 6am!
That’s it – the end of an amazing week. People have taken so many memories away with them, have experienced things they could never have imagined and made friends for life. This has been The Drive of their Lives.