The day started early at 8am local time, 7am for the UK. The Carrefour petrol station did indeed stock 98RON, though being unmanned made for an 'insert card and hope' scenario. With all cars brimmed, we made our way through a quiet Dunkerque and onto the E40.
Within no time, we reached the Belgian border, signified by the large rut running across the road and watching the rest of the convoy bouncing their way into the country. We continued for an hour towards the rising sun, the convoy keeping close with a steady 120kph speed before it dawned on me that nobody had had breakfast and I was still unsure whether Adam had filled the MR2 or if he was still searching for a Shell. The next services became the first stop of the day. The Total fuel was ignored, mainly because we were all still fairly full from the morning and the first item on the agenda was a selection of baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolats. I took the time to assess the weather situation and fit the tonneau cover, I'm getting much better at that with practice! Rich meanwhile decided on some off roading in the Mazda resulting in a bent sill. Top work!
We hit the road again, our intention being to stop near Brussels. With a not so strict time schedule I kept to the sat nav and made no attempt to avoid the hell of the R0, the infamous Brussels ring road. This looked like it may have been a mistake at first as 10 miles from Brussels the traffic stopped dead and a queue formed. I decided we had to persevere and was rewarded to find the delay was only two minutes later. A Toyota Auris facing the wrong way and then a truck and another badly damaged car came into view. In the UK this would have closed the motorway for the rest of the day. In Belgium, the vehicles are just left in the middle of the road and you are left to find your way round the wreckage and through the shards of smashed plastic...
Once negotiated, it was time to lead a five car convoy round the R0. It went surprisingly well. It was busy, as expected but at a steady crawl. I've certainly seen it worse. The convoy even got a nod of appreciation from a passing biker.
Still recovering from my least favourite continental road we set off for another services for a small break. The first had the world's most confusing entrance which meant we ended up simply doing a drive past. The second was much easier to find our way through and let Rich top up his fuel.
From here, an hour away from Spa, I set the satnav for one of the four Shell stations in the area that I had pre-planned. The route took a pleasant diversion from the usual, taking us through a series of what I'd like to call "VTEC appreciation tunnels". If ever there was a fitting time to have the roof down and the airbox lid sat at home in the garage, this was it!
We approached Spa town, with a triumphant cheer at finding a familiar red and yellow petrol station that was actually open. Hooray! Cars were all now running on lovely V Power as we left in the direction of Francorchamps and the Spa Circuit.
Dissapointingly, all was quiet at Spa. We did the obligatory walk into the unguarded grandstands and took the obligatory photo of Eau Rouge before wandering into the paddock, always on the look out for angry Germans. There were no today, instead, we found a paddock full of numbered up cars, mostly English and within five minutes were accompanied by the sound of people finishing their lunch break and heading out on track. Perfect timing!
We watched for half an hour as a variety of cars took to the circuit, ranging from Jaguar D Types, to race spec Corvettes and GT3RS's and even a Brit in a standard looking Mk3 MR2. Unfortunately, as the track fell quiet we soon saw a truck bringing a damaged TR4A back to the pits, the owner looking suitably gutted. After a quick look at the carnage, it was decided to press on, no more stops now.
We left the E42 at Prum, my normal "back route" through the Eifel, only to find the road closed. We found an interesting detour with the added bonus of a couple of unexpected hairpins thrown in for good measure and I was pleased to find we had come back onto our original route just in time to take one of my favourite roads, the L10 from Budesheim to Hillesheim. It's a bumpy start, something the Rallye took in its uncomftable stride, though even the S2000 felt fine. The open corners flowed from one to the next and as long as I could always see the MX-5 at the back when it came to a straight we could press on.
In another twenty minutes or so, we found our way past the Nürburgring complex, a drive past the TF entrance to check how busy it was and down to our hotel to check in and unload. Hotel owner Eddy was a legend as always, handing us the keys to Room 1 (balcony) and Room 4 (three bed opposite), plus a garage for our storage. With the cars considerably lighter, we drove the short distance to the entrance and got into buying tickets. Prepared as always, I had come with cards which I got checked. Unfortunately I only had two of the four laps I was expecting, but one got used anyway.
I first took Adam out in the S2000 to give him a taster of what to expect. The track was damp in places with a dry line most of the way around. I stuck to a moderate pace, included some VTEC where appropriate on the straights and faster sections and tested the car's feelings of going over the high kerbs through Hatzenbach and the exit of Eiskurve. It was not quite Rallye speed but the car felt good. In the dry I'd be a lot more confident, but the feeling of having the top down enhanced the fun factor. Until I reached the car park.
Panic on... The roof is stuck in the down position. This is taking #topalwaysdown a little too far... Checked the fuses, tried and tried again but left with a broken roof I had no other option than to lock it and hope it didn't rain before jumping in the MR2 to give complete 'Ring novice Adam some guidance. Meanwhile, Rich had got back from taking Woz out and Matt had successfully lapped the now nine day old Clio. Stuff of legends TBH. Woz now took to the MR2 with Matt as passenger and guide with Rich off on a solo lap.
Adam's lap went well, he took the advice, albeit a little over cautiously in some places, though maybe to be expected for someone who's relying on blind faith in my instructions! As Woz passed us at Aremberg and disappeared down a moist Fuchsruhre at a high pace I voiced my concern, though he managed to hold it together, even if he did make Matt a little green (something that's happened before in a Rallye...)
We let the cars cool before heading down to Adenau. Whilst waiting for Matt to get out of the car park, I fiddled with the roof switch only for it to work! In a split second I realised that leaving the handbrake off so not to cook the brakes in the car park had been the problem all along. Nothing wrong with the reliable Honda (which by the way hasn't lost a drop of oil since leaving home!).
In order of importance, we first stocked up on Bitburger in the Rewe "beer supermarket" then headed next door for food. On return to the cars a strange German man asked if I would give him the S2000. I reluctantly declined.
After unloading at the hotel again, Woz and Matt took us to the famous Pistenklause restaurant in Nürburg village. I convinced Adam to have the famous "steak auf stein", a raw chunk of cow on a piping hot patio slab that you have to cook yourself. He was glad I did. Plates were cleared and after a good look at the blonde waitress' cleavage I had the job of driving the Clio back to the hotel, Matt having had a drink. It was "quite nice".
Now, at gone midnight I need some sleep. Stay tuned...