Those of you who know us will know that we love a challenge… particularly the ones that involved a bit of friendly competition! From treasure hunts to racing in a Soapbox Challenge, we really do like to support our local area and raise funds for awesome charities, whilst having a bit of fun.
This latest event was organised by our local Audi dealership in Bury St Edmunds as part of St Nicholas Hospice’s Accumulator Challenge. It involved buying a banger for under £500, then drive it to Bordeaux and back while completing some tasks on the way.
Here’s a full report of what we did, when and where.
First thing on the list was to find a set of wheels…
Whilst we wanted to secure an Audi and support the brand leading the charge on this event, it proved unrealistic as we searched for an appropriate car that fell within the £500 budget. With a little bit of luck and lots of eBay searches, we secured a rather splendid Volvo 850 T5 (it’s not actually a T5, just kinda looks like one), and its Green!
Purchased for the princely sum of £350.00 English Pounds, we collected our steed from sunny Luton the Saturday before the event. On the drive home to Suffolk we highlighted a couple of defects that we would have to attend to prior to heading to the start line on the Friday evening (namely new front brake discs and pads and some brighter candles for the headlights).
Once the car was all sorted/safe to drive, the wonderful people at Coastline Graphics helped us out with some branding. We also created a page on our website so people could track our progress during the event.
Our team of brave drivers consisted of Monsieur Mathew Green, Monsieur David Buist, Monsieur Jamie French (yes, that’s his real surname) and Alan the Duck.
When we arrived at the start we saw the competition for the first time. Whilst Team BG Europa entered into the spirit of the event with a proper ‘banger’, team Audi seemed to have got themselves a bit of a Ringer…. After much banter between teams, Rachel from St Nicholas Hospice Care announced the additional challenges we would be completing along the way.
Tasks were given out along with a very generous amount of time to prep. The two hours we had weren’t really used for planning – the eating of expertly bbq’d food, drinking copious amounts of Audi coffee and yet more banter ensued until finally 9pm rolled around and we were off!
I took the first stint from Bury to Folkestone, and with nervous anticipation and an element of boyish excitement the three of us were nattering all the way there about the adventure that lay ahead. The 130 miles passed in a flash and before we knew it, a quick pit-stop was on the cards, along with more coffee! We boarded the train with ease and all three teams were crossing the channel. A driver swap on the train meant we had fresh(ish) eyes at the wheel for the run to Paris.
Mat took on the grave yard shift while I dozed and Jamie (our professional sleeper) was sound asleep in the back of the car. Arriving in Paris in the wee hours or Saturday morning, we were greeted by the hustle and bustle of a busy party city that was still very much awake, unlike us….
Having navigated the Peripherique, we headed through the Place de la Concorde following the classic Tour de France route towards the Champs Elysees. Thankful for the floaty suspension of the Volvo, we sailed over the harsh cobble stones of the Champs and onward towards the Eiffel Tower. Well within the required distance of 200 metres of the Tower, we took a few too many snaps, had a couple of sausage rolls and were ready for challenge number 2. It was at this point Team Audi rolled past heading in the same direction as us. This was when the competitive nature in all of us rose to the surface… and woke us up.
Jamie navigated us out of the Parisian rabbit warren of roads where several diversions and road closures made it feel like an age before we actually got anywhere. However once we hit the Auto Route it wasn’t too long before we really started to make progress, albeit with terrible headlights and limited forward vision! A brief pit-stop for fuel (this was becoming a theme), a driver change, a pint of coffee and the discovery that our exhaust had fractured and was about to fall off meant some rapid running repairs were required. So….after taking off the fake exhaust box, we were, to quote Donkey from Shrek – ‘on-the-road-again’.
At this stage we didn’t know if we had caught and passed Team Audi, but when we arrived at the Audi dealership we felt confident that we were ahead.
After some cheeky photo’s inside the showroom, complete with Team Audi’s name badges on French desks (for extra credit!), it’s fair to say that the dealership staff really weren’t sure what the hell was going on. Three random, tired and dishevelled Brits waving Audi name plates around and laughing hysterically at their own brilliance didn’t translate too well!
Mat and Jamie shared the driving stint to Bordeaux which was largely easy going. The trusty Volvo wafted along at a steady pace (well within the local speed limit of course), however this kind of driving can become a little monotonous and tiring. So to spice things up we had a several games of chicken with the peage barriers. As we were organised enough to have a peage tag that allowed us to drive through without stopping, we thought we’d see how responsive the barriers were to a (fast) approaching car….. needless to say, it kept us awake! 😉
A couple of stops en-route to the Chateau to pick up the other challenge requirements meant we arrived bang on schedule and with the associated items in the car. These included:
• A French Beret
• A String of Onions
• Some classic French furniture (in our case – onion crates for kitchen use)
With the required bottle(s) of wine purchased and loaded we were ready to hit the road for the home stretch. Team BG Europa headed off first on the long route to Clermont, whilst Team Audi and Green Duck headed for the Circuit at Le Mans.
I took the next stint out of Ludon-Medoc and headed north to the track. On the way, we we’re given a prompt from Audi back home – “Spot prize for the team that can get a picture of a team member next to a 2CV”. While Mat and I were discussing the lack of French vintage cars actually in France, luck came and hit us with a great big stick! Lots of unnecessary excitement and celebration promptly happened, and had you been watching us on a camera you would think we had just won the lottery!!
Picture taken and sent, and we were duly rewarded with a couple of bottles of vino for our troubles!
Another fuel stop and Mat took the wheel. Jamie was offering sage advice on Mat’s driving as I tried to get some sleep…..which was rudely interrupted by the excitement that arriving at a race track creates. Accccccceelllerrrattteeee…… BBBBRRAAKKKKKEEE……..Accccceeeeelllleeeratee…… BBBBRRRRRAAKKEEEE.
Jamie took over the driving seat as Mat had a snooze in the back… that lasted until we got to Calais…. about 6 hours later.
On the way back we negotiated terrible rain, struggled through almost zero visibility, on-coming traffic with what appeared to be the actual sun bolted to front of their cars.
As we arrived at Calais, Mat awoke like a bear coming out of hibernation. Jamie, now mentally and physically exhausted, followed Mat’s overly enthusiastic/delirious advice about what direction we should head to get on the train home. Sadly, this resulted in us heading in to the Freight Terminal where the staff are equipped with assault rifles and sniffer dogs.
While Mat was attempting diplomacy in garbled Frenglish, Jamie and I were becoming worried that we were going to cause some sort of international incident. Fortunately, a very helpful Border Agency Guard escorted us out of the Freight Terminal and back onto the Auto Route.
When we exited the Auto Route at the next opportunity all we had to do was negotiate a couple of roundabouts and we would be back on track. At the second of two, we were steadily driving round it when, to my surprise the back of the car decided to try and overtake the front. Realising that we had to ‘style this out’, we caught the slide, drifted on full opposite lock and then brought the (perfectly safe) Volvo back under control and headed for the Terminal.
With Mat’s state of delirium worsening, he decided to take another nap as we got underway and headed back to Blighty!
I took the wheel again for the return leg back to Bury, which was a long 130 miles. Sadly upon arrival at 3:36am (according to our superb online tracking) we were met with a shiny blue ‘ringer’ of a Mondeo, expertly lit by a selection of Audi’s. They announced that they had arrived just 90 minutes ahead of Team Green Duck. Whilst our initial disappointment of arriving in second place was obvious, it lightened a little when we heard that BG Europa were still in France!
We thanked our worthy opponents for inviting us along for this amazing challenge and vowed to take part again net year! These celebrations, handshakes and pats on the back lasted maybe 10 minutes, then we all parted company and headed home to the beds that some of us had left at 6am on Friday!
Later that day, and after some much needed sleep, the detail of what had been achieved was brought into sharp focus;
And whilst we arrived 90 minutes behind Team Audi, we are looking forward to seeing what time bonuses we qualify for having achieved;
Author: Benny Mansfield
Published: October 3, 2018
Read Time: 9 minutes (1800+ words)