Within minutes we had help. Texts flooded in from teams 118 118, Midlife Crisis, Busman’s Holiday, Dumb, Dumb & Dumber and Striptease III ¼. But it was Team 119 Aberdeen Angus, the lads from Scotland, who pulled in with the tools we needed, followed closely by Team 102 Smack my Beach Up in the Union flagged BMW. Ten minutes of climbing on the car and the light-box was off and safely hidden in the boot.
A quick convoy back up the mountain and we were all waved through without a problem. Why do I get the impression we’ve just been used to relieve the boredom of the border staff? Anyway, we soon forgave Andorra when we stopped at the tax free shopping paradise and bought a litre bottle of Absinthe for just 3 Euros!
Up through the final pass over the mountain, where snow was probably 10-15 ft deep in parts, and down into the city. Our hotel was right in the centre which allowed us to have more fun with the puzzled Andorrans before having our car put to bed under the hotel by the friendly owner Christophe.
We set-up our scoring station in the bar (of course) and waited for the teams to submit their photos. The SMS challenge had been to locate a butcher and have a picture of the team with a butcher holding a piece of meat. Bonus points for multiple butchers and bigger carcasses. Some of these photos were hilarious, with many teams getting access to cold-stores with loads of hanging animals including a real cracker from Team 110 Randy Diva Wonted. Team 111 Midlife Crisis were as competitive as ever visiting an abattoir!
It was now becoming obvious which teams were doing the challenges for fun, and those that were in it to win it.
Day 2 – Leaderboard
1 – Midlife Crisis – 1500 pts
2 – Smack my Beech Up – 1450 pts
3 – Dumb, Dumb & Dumber – 1400 pts
4 – A+ Team – 1360 pts
5 – Three Amigos – 1350 pts
6 – Striptease III ¼ – 1310 pts
7 – Dodgy Driver – 1270 pts
8 – Randy Diva Wonted – 1260 pts
9 – The Doggers – 1210 pts
10 – Busman’s Holiday – 1150 pts
Note: Team 117 That’s how we roll suffered an engine blow-out and haven’t yet submitted points
Team 117 – Engine blow-out! Towed to garage, left car and caught taxi to Andorra
Team 119 – Aberdeen Angus – Buckled wheel (replaced), failing CV joint
Team 111 – Midlife Crisis – “Cuddles” leaking oil by the gallon
Team 013 – Bangers & Trash (organisers) – fuses blowing, small diesel leak, feeling naked without our light-bar!
At around 11pm the Rally got one team larger when Team 114 Team Trevs finally arrived and were greeted by applause and a free beer from the teams gathered in the bar. It will be good to see them on the next leg tomorrow.
With the hotel’s stock of beer exhausted, and people moving on to extra large measures of spirits at very cheap prices it looked like it was going to be a late one....
For the second time in as many days we managed to ignore the TomTom and take a wrong turning. 30 miles later and we were back where we had been, but 30 minutes later into the day! Pair this up with a very leisurely breakfast and we were probably at the back of the line of bangers making their way down towards Andorra.
We caught up with the backmarkers just past Millas, and ten minutes later we were probably about middle of the pack having passed lots of teams parked up taking photos of shop fronts and bus stops to the bemusement of the on-looking locals.
The road got more and more twisty as the altitude increased, and with it came a more and more interesting drive. Although there was snow on ground in places, it was still roasting in the relentless sunshine. Run for the Sun? We’ve already found it! Time for a quick stop to grab an ice cream, and take in the amazing views.
We pressed on up through the Pyranees mountains, closer to the deep white snow on the peaks. Making sure to use the animal siren to good effect with the locals, now getting a much more friendly response than in northern France.
About five miles from the Andorra border we spotted a white vehicle in the distance, and to our delight we again caught up with Team 107 Plain Lazy in the old Bedford Ambulance. A quick chat at a lay-by and we agreed to follow them through the border. A nice idea in theory, but things were about to get interesting!
The general process at the border control is to slow your car to a crawl and wait to be waved through. The Ambulance pulled in, slowed down and then drove straight off. I think the patrol were going to talk to them but having seen them take off they decided to have their fun with our poor old Volvo instead. Step forward Jules, our French linguist, as Luke and I sat frustrated at the growing group of officials surrounding our banger. At first they wanted to know what was in the box on our back seat, but when the Andorra patrol joined their French colleagues, they turned their attention to the Amber Light-bar on the roof.
After lots of shaking of heads, rubbing of chins and private conversations, the decision was final – we were not being allowed access to Andorra! We were made to turn around by patrolmen brandishing pistols, and off we went back down the mountain. There wasn’t really a choice to make; we had to remove the light-bar. Any sensible team on a Banger Rally come equipped with tools, but not the organisers – not even a screwdriver. Our only option was to issue a Mayday SMS to all teams!
By 6am, most cars were fired up and the heaters were on full blast filled with people desperate to feel their fingers and toes – I was no exception. Camping in the French hills in April, in hindsight maybe not the best of ideas, but I'm sure we'll look back and laugh....one day!
We rolled out at 8:30, and as soon as we hit the sunshine all of the problems from the previous evening were forgotten. Before we knew it we arrived at the Millau Viaduct – what a structure! Most teams took time-out to stop at the services just before and climb the hill for a better look and photo opportunity.
A shorter day today, with a photo matching challenge as the mail daily task. But as always we were about to liven it up with the SMS challenge :-)
Team 114 - Team Trevs, not shown up at all yet and now run out of oil 80 miles south of Andorra.
Miles and miles of French countryside later, only broken up with a stop at the Hypermarket to buy a BBQ, hideous amounts of sausage, and a sleeping bag, and we arrive..... finally. By now it’s already becoming a tradition that we arrive later than the majority of teams. After setting up the BBQ and the tents, it’s already dark. Bring on the banger’s headlights and amber flashers. Let’s hope the battery holds out!
Eating by candlelight is one thing, but cooking a BBQ by flashlight is something entirely different. Luke and Jules put up a fine culinary experience for the hungry hoards. Meanwhile, I take the scores from the teams. Already the teams are split into those doing it for fun, and those that have come to win. Teams 102 Smack my Beach Up and 122 Dumb, Dumb & Dumber were the first hand in the images, and both had taken a visit to Paris Zoo!
The one thing separating the leaders from the chasing pack was matching the B&T photographed animal. We’d sent out an SMS earlier in the day stating that the animals could be “dead or alive”, and where did we stop off earlier? The Hypermarket, where we found some nice whole fish. Very few teams matched this animal.
The early running shows a three-way tie at the top, Teams 117 That’s how we roll (a two-man team from Liverpool), Team 104 Three Amigos (see this morning’s photos and look for the colourful ponchos) and the much publicised Team 111 Midlife Crisis & “Cuddles”.
Day 1 – Leaderboard
=1 – That’s how we roll – 750 pts
=1 – Three Amigos – 750 pts
=1 – Midlife Crisis – 750 pts
=4 – Striptease III ¼ - 710 pts
=4 – A+ Team – 710 pts
=6 – Smack my Beech Up – 650 pts
=6 – Dumb, Dumb & Dumber – 650 pts
8 – The Doggers – 610 pts
=9 – Dodgy Driver – 570 pts
=9 – Aberdeen Angus – 570 pts
Tomorrow’s challenges don’t get any easier, who will fall away when the going gets tough?
The temperature hadn't dropped below the 20's all day, but by 11pm it was getting REALLY cold. Hmmm, was camping such a good idea?
Breakfast at 0630, which was very ..... continental, before packing up the car. Have we forgotten something, it seems to fit better this morning? It seems the French have a sense of humour. The cars of Midlife Crisis and Team 101 Grumpy Old Men had been given an additional unwanted accessory - wheelie bins on the roof! Next onto the Muster point. It was great to get all of the cars together and compare bangers. Some living up to the name "banger", take a bow Team 119 Aberdeen Angus (all the way from Aberdeen) and Team 107 Plain Lazy. Others hiding their worn mechanics behind perfect new paint jobs, Team 102 Smack my Beach Up and Team 122 Dumb, Dumb & Dumber to name a couple.
Just after 8'o'clock and it was time to release the bangers onto the French. Luke climbed on the top of our little Volvo and set the teams on their way. Today's journey is vast, around 600 miles so the challenge is pretty simple. Take a photograph of ten different types of animal along the journey. It's not as easy as it sounds; think about it. Shortly after getting on our way we sent out the SMS challenge. On check-in we'd got the impression that some teams were nervous about the idea of venturing into Paris.
Paris, the city that road laws forgot? No lanes, no etiquette, no consideration - a test of will. And so I'm now fully broken in and ready to become a Paris Taxi driver if the need arises. Look forward, ignore your wing mirrors and constantly use your horn (and cow noise siren if fitted, which we have).
Who will be the early leader? Only time will tell.
The journey through England was thankfully uneventful. We thought we'd made the wrong choice by picking the A14 when we hit solid traffic just off the M6, but it was just temporary and again we were on our way. We had planned a stop to see a friend along the way, but after a pit-stop on the way (where we met up with Team 103 The Jurassic 4) the Tomtom was soon warning us that we weren't going to make the ferry.
So we pressed on and got to Dover with 20 minutes to spare. This was used to full effect by border control, who somewhat predictably pointed us to a hangar so we and our beloved banger could be scanned. Who would try and smuggle stuff through the border in a car with amber lights and stickers? Not exactly incognito, but then I'm no homeland security expert. The customs guy somewhat cheerily explained how we were the fourth "strange" car he had checked that morning. It seemed we wouldn't be the first to reach Calais.
It actually turned out we were far from the first! Upon arrival at the main square we were greeted by groups of British merrily drinking together outside bars and cheering our arrival. We pulled up with the other bangers, just in time to cheer in the next colourful arrival - Team 111 Midlife Crisis in their bright pink Volvo "Cuddles". They've got a live link-up with Radio Derby and have so far raised over £5,500.00 for charity, one of many who have contributed to more than £20,000.00 raised on the Run for the Sun event - amazing efforts everyone!
We set-up base camp in the "homely" Belezur Hotel, assisted by the friendly manager Isabelle. A brief introduction to 22 teams, countless bottles of beer and a little wine, and what seemed like thousands of forms later, and we were done for the day. Just time for a kebab and frites (good ole French cuisine) before retiring to bed. The highlight was being told by a member of the forces from Team 122 Dumb, Dumb & Dumber that he thought we were a "very well organised event". Praise indeed.
One team MIA already. Team 114, Team Trevs called in early on in the day to say one member of the two-man team was in hospital, but Steve was going to come alone. He called in to say he’d arrived in Dover at 11pm and would catch up with us along the route tomorrow.