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Elizabeth and I would like to thank all our sponsors of The Italian Job 1999. We raised a sum of £2603.00 through your kind donations with all the money going towards The N.S.P.C.C. and The Society of Stars childrens' appeal. Having enjoyed the event we have decided to partake in the rally during the year 2001 giving it a miss this forthcoming year.
How did we get on? Seventy cars met at the Lydden circuit near Dover on a cold Wednesday afternoon to undertake three laps of the circuit before making our way to Dover harbour to board a ferry which was to take us to Calais sponsored by Sea France. By the time we had arrived on the other side of the Channel it was dusk and we had to make our way to Munich by the following evening a distance of 600 miles. Not too far; but ask yourself, in a mini! Upon leaving the dockside one of the 'E' types on the rally already had its' bonnet up. Just minor repairs! Three of us decided that we would go in convoy and make our way to Brussels where we would find accommodation for the night. Brussels at night and not knowing where we were going was an experience going up and down numerous tunnels. We were following Allan who projected this air of confidence dodging traffic and taking appropriate turnings. We were to discover later that he had not a clue as to where he was going. We found accommodation renting a flat to sleep six persons for £112 for the night. Our evening meal for the six of us costing a lot more.
The next morning we set out for the Auto route on our way to Munich and what a bash with a constant stream of heavy goods lorries on the inside lane with ourselves dodging in and out to avoid the flashing lights of the Mercedes and BMW's. This run was really taxing on both the cars and the occupants. On one occasion we had stopped for a break and just as we were about to pull off Allan indicated that we had something hanging from beneath our nearside front wing. Immediate attention was the order, to discover that a new Spax adjustable shock absorber had broken at the head. Within 15 minutes all was temporarily repaired and we were on our way.
Kilometre after kilometre, lorry after lorry with the night gradually closing in. We switched on our side lights and as darkness closed down the headlights went on. After several miles we then experienced a power surge on the dashboard lights and we then lost all of our lighting on the car. It was fortunate for us that two lorries realised that we had a problem and kept us between themselves travelling between them for many miles. Then came the crunch, the lorries pulled off and we were on our own. The other two cars were in front of us and assumed that we were directly behind them in the darkness. With the flashing of lights by the fast moving Mercedes and BMW's we realised that we must pull in at the next rest place.
In total darkness we drew of the main carriageway to discover that there was no sign of an emergency telephone where we had stopped. Great there was a lorry parked-up. We knocked on the cab door. The driver could not speak English or German, he did not have a mobile phone or any form of communication. We had no alternative but to consider sleeping in the car for the night. The question was what had we got with us to eat; a Mars bar, an apple and a bottle of Cognac, which we were taking to our friend in Munich where we were supposedly to be staying that night.
Wrap-up warm was essential and just one bite of the Mars bar as it might have to last us all night. After about an hour a car pulled into the rest place. We were out with our torch and fortunately the driver had a mobile phone and we were able to make contact with our friend James in Munich. The car driver highlighted our position and it was now up to James who then proceeded to 'knock-up' the owner of a trailer hire company in Munich in order to borrow a trailer to come and pick us up.
By now the carraigeway on the other side, which James would have to come along to reach us, was totally jammed due to an accident. Eventually we were woken up by the sound of a car alongside us. It was James and his son Charlie who had travelled nearly 60 miles to collect us. What a welcome sight, comfort, heat and at 2.15 a.m. we were eating curry with James and his family in Munich.
The forthcoming morning we took the car to the local Bosch agent in Munich who we left to check-out the electrical problem. Finally after purchasing a new battery at the sum of £80 we then returned to James's house where we had to totally wash out the boot along with all the contents to eliminate the battery acid which had boiled out of the battery. I can only put it down to the new Lucas control box that was fitted to the car before departure was faulty and was not controlling the current output.
Due to our technical problem we unfortunately had to miss the day at the BMW factory where the cars were put through their paces on the skid pan, the three mile straight and other regularities. It was at BMW that all the competitors from Europe, America, Japan and the U.K. were to meet making a total of 107 cars.
The next day we were then on our way south passing Innsbruck and up the Brenner Pass towards Italy. The car was going really well maintaining a good average speed of 70 mph. ensuring that we arrived at the scheduled time in Imola. Within 15 miles of our destination we pulled in for refuelling having passed several cars on our way with minor technical problems, to find that we could not start the car. Check the points; a lovely spark but would she fire up, No. By now another car had pulled in with no lights and a burnt out front wiring loom. I opened the boot to get some tools out to find it flooded once again with battery acid. As we were so close to Imola we phoned through to the rally of office and the service crew then quickly came out to our rescue. It seemed that when we used the lights the battery boiled.