Writtle man David
Dawsey and his co-driver Stuart Wilson of Chelmsford recently completed the
Italian Job Charity Run in a Mini. The Italian Job run starts in Imala
in Italy and ends in Ashford Kent. Over a 100 mini's of all ages competed.
David and Stuart raised in excess of £2500 for the charity of which
80% is donated to the NCH (The National Children's Home).
The Italian Job is a National Charity that has been operating for
about 13 years and has in that time raised more than £1.5 million.
Below is the diary of events as recorded by David Dawsey with a couple of
0 (Tuesday evening)
Loaded car with my things
then headed off to pick up Stuart.
First problem - we seem to be rather heavily loaded!! Anyway we head off to
Dover and arrive safe and sound with about ½ inch clearance between wheel
arch and tyre – could be problems to come!
Popped along to the local pub for last pint of real beer and get confronted
by the barmaid practicing acupuncture. We managed to avoid it and headed for
time for the 8:15 am ferry (Sea France had decided to cancel the 9:30 ferry
that we had booked).
Head for Brugge but as the rain is so bad we decide to bypass it and head for
Brussels. This city has got to have the worst roads in Northern Europe!!
Anyway we got parked and sampled the local food – McDonalds, well you have
to start somewhere.
After this we tried to get out of the city, unsuccessfully it seemed at
times, but eventually we made it and headed for Heidelberg, or so we thought.
About 7.30pm just south of Luxembourg a German frauline in a French car
managed to plough in to the back of us and wreck the boot!! Fortunately she
admitted it was her fault to the Luxembourg police and that’s what she said
on the insurance claim form.
Anyway after 90 mins delay we decided to head for Triar in Germany and look
for a place to stay. This we successfully managed and unloaded our bags into
a nice hotel in the middle of the city. We managed to find an Italian
restaurant still serving food and after a rather long and eventful day
managed to relax.
going to go for it and try to get as close to Imola as possible. Up early and
away heading for the Alps. Rain has gone and scenery is getting more
spectacular. We head for the St Bernard tunnel – unfortunately no snow yet
therefore no snowball fights, maybe when we come home! Through the tunnel and
we are in Italy – whoopee. Unfortunately we come out the tunnel and it is
raining but it soon clears as we blast our way across Northern Italy. I
thought the drivers in Belgium were bad but this lot are all lunatics and only
know one way of driving – you get up behind the driver in front of you as
quick as possible, flash your lights to get them out of the way and find your
next victim. We made good time and manage to get around Milan without to much
trouble headed for Bologna and then surprise, surprise we get held up after
two accidents -I suppose this is
normal for Italy! Eventually after fighting a battle with the motorway we
headed into Bologna where the lunatics ride scooters – absolute mayhem. We
find a hotel but then spend an hour trying to park. Give up and park in
resident only parking – well it is Italy.
interesting hotel – a big fully equipped bathroom with shower, but no
toilet. This is down the corridor and looked as though it hadn’t been
cleaned for years but the hotel is relatively cheap and in the middle of the
city. We are earlier today although it would be nice not to be searching for a
hotel in the dark! Anyway all forgiven after a very nice meal and the prospect
of only a 20 mile drive to Imola in the morning
A selection of pictures taken
during the run
Click to enlarge
unfortunately picked up a parking ticket but they are only 32 Euros and they
may never catch up with us! We arrive at the Imola hotel in plenty of time for
scrutineering and we pass, even with a dodgy boot. We get our room and
collapse in comparative luxury. Midday briefing, lunch, and away we go on the
first stage of the navigation rally. First stop Baracca Airport in Lugo with
an aerobatics display laid on. Weather hot and sunny, lots and lots of minis,
and the locals love it. We end the day at the Imola F1 Grand Prix circuit
including 3 laps round the circuit, some of us also got half a lap in the
opposite direction. As a result of this some teams have been banned from the
rooftop test track in Turin because they were driving dangerously – not us
of course. The food was good in the evening and along with good wine and beer
we didn’t have too much trouble sleeping.
weather again although a foggy start – wish I had brought some shorts! A
full day of the navigation rally which saw us spend 3 hours in the middle of
the day parked up in the central square at Modena where food was laid on. We
then headed for a private car collection at the Panini Museum which included
some fabulous cars. At the end of the Navigation rally a lot of us headed for
Maranello and the home of Ferrari. Fantastic museum and expensive shop – I
bought a sticker for the car and a mousemat for my future son-in-law! We then
had a long blast along the Autostrada to get back in time for a quick beer
before dinner. Another good meal but only 4 bottles of wine per table. This
was followed by a charity auction on behalf of NCH, which raised a lot of
money especially from those who had drunk too much. Collapsed into bed
knackered after another full day.
lying in 62nd place in the navigation rally – that’s better than 40
others! Anyway off we go heading for the mountains and the twists and bends of
the roads that link Imola and Florence including crossing the 15th century
Alidosi humped back bridge. Lunch is at the Gruppo winery in Pontassieve. We
then head back independently to Imola. Some go onto Florence, but we join
others to head back over the mountains again with spectacular views and roads.
A BMW 1 series (I think they call them minis) managed to run off the road and
bury itself in a tree. They driver was OK but needs to get himself a real mini
if he wants to go round corners properly. Anyway back via the supermarket and
get ready for dinner.
day in Imola and last day of the navigation rally. Today we head over towards
Rimini and more hills, finally I remember my shorts as it is another (boring
isn’t it?) hot and sunny day. We haved moved up into 57th
position now but that might be more to do with cars dropping out than us
Very pleasant day with some beautiful views and a special stage (cross two
time controls in 11 seconds exactly – these are the ones where we always
lose lots of points) at a Ferrari dealership. We finish the rally at an olive
oil mill (one big stone wheel crushing olives – 30 seconds to tour the whole
place) for lunch.
We now head back to the hotel to raise the rear end of the car a bit more as
from now on we will be fully loaded all the time. Has a slight hint of ‘Monster
Truck’ about it unloaded but should give us a much better ride home.
Back to our room for a wash and brush up, get out the dinner suit, fortunately
with no creases as its been hanging up for four days, as we have our first
formal dinner. A good evening with the usual thankyou speeches to our Italian
hosts but off to bed reasonably early as we are off early tomorrow.
5:15am and away by 6:00am as we have got 240 miles to do before 11:00am (the
main Piazza in Turin is only open to us between 11:00 and 12:00). We are
travelling with a young couple in a mini 1000 now known as ‘yellow peril’.
This means a maximum speed of 75 mph but we arrive without too much trouble
and start seeing the sights that are familiar to anybody who has seen the film
‘The Italian Job’.
We stay here for a few hours before we indulge in one of the most exciting
parts of the trip. We roar through the city in convoy with police on
motorcycles with sirens blaring and lights flashing escorting us to our hotel.
The streets are lined by Italians who seem to be enjoying it and finally,
after the police got a bit confused, arrived at the hotel. The hotel we are
staying at is part of the old Fiat factory which also includes a shopping
centre, conference centre etc but more to the point still has the roof top
test track as featured in the film. We are split up into four groups and taken
up onto the roof. The organisers decided, probably wisely, it was to dangerous
to let us lose on the complete track and therefore we just get a chance to use
the 55% banking at one end – but an incredible experience none the less. As
we come down off the roof we are confronted by a channel 4 TV crew who want to
know about our accident. I hope nothing gets out about it before we get home
as I don’t plan on telling my wife until then!!
In the evening we are all loaded onto four coaches and head off for some
pizza, wine etc etc. A great end to a truly magnificent day.
to Italy, where we have had glorious weather, fabulous scenery and where the
people have been tremendous.By
fluke we get out of Turin without any trouble and turn north towards the Alps
on our way to Colmar in France. The weather continues to be good making the
approaching Alps look even more spectacular as we head for the St Bernard
tunnel with ‘yellow peril’ and ‘turbo boys’.‘Yellow peril’ is struggling up the mountains with the thin air and
their little engine but turbo boys are also struggling firing on only 3
cylinders but we get through the tunnel and art into Switzerland. The boys
decide to get going as far as they can with their misfiring engine which does
eventually clear. Unfortunately just short of Colmar a tie rod become
disconnected and sends them into a motorway armco barrier. The first thing the
police say to them is that they will have to pay for the barriers! They are OK
but the car isn’t so they head for home on the back of a recovery truck.
Meanwhile we have trundled on our way at 75mph without any mishap to Colmar
where we have a very nice meal with wines amply supplied by the local
vineyard. I’m beginning to feel tired now and am looking forward to getting
we cross France with our companion heading for Paris. The first part of the
trip is very pretty with lots of Autumn colours but the journey is long (well
over 300 miles today) and rather boring – the weather is also changing
getting much more like home. We hit the Paris ring road, get it wrong and head
the wrong way – fortunately it’s a lot shorter than the M25. We find our
exit, see the Hotel, but in the time honoured fashion of these hotels in Paris
spend half an hour trying to get to it. Eventually make it and collapse in the
Bar for a drink – 11 Euro’s for two largers, I can’t wait for my £1.90
We decide not to venture very far and with another team try to find food
locally. We seem to have arrived in the Turkish quarter, everywhere you go
there are Keb-bab places but we manage to find one that does a passable.
Pizza, retire to a another bar for a couple of drinks and then head back to
the hotel. Stuart is so knackered that he heads for bed and is asleep by
9.15pm – these youngsters don’t have the staying power! We decide to have
another couple of beers but as I’m about to go to bed at 11:00 get caught by
the most boring man on earth talking about security. I finally get away by
12:15 but apparently he was still going at 1:30 so I suppose I was lucky!!
last full day – England here we come! We leave Paris in heavy rain with our
companions in yellow peril plus some others in a mauve convertible –
unfortunately they shed a wiper blade but not to dramatic as the weather
clears up and we have a safe run through to Calais. Everybody arrives on time
although we have lost 6 cars on the way to various maladies. Finally after
nearly 11 days we arrive back in the UK – yellow peril gives up and blows a
manifold gasket as well as shearing a bolt on his starter motor but he does
eventually struggle through to Ashford. We are lead in procession by the
police along the A20 and M20 to the hotel in Ashford through the gathering
gloom and more rain to complete the run. By the time we get home tomorrow we
will have clocked up 2900 miles in a little over 11 days – not bad for a car
that has done less than 1000 in the last two years!
We have the final formal
dinner this evening with some guests including Paddy Hopkirk (Monte Carlo
rally winner in 1964) plus some teams friends and families. Turbo boysturn-up in a Ford Orion and a great evening is had by all. 3:30am to
bed – home tomorrow.
Day 12 Sunday
Time to check out, have a
decent cooked breakfast, exchange phone numbers and addresses with the many
new friends we have gained, buy various bits of IJ clothing and two boxes of
IJ wine. The car is fully loaded – Stuart is resting his feet on the wine
and we head for home and in my caseroast
beef and yorkshire pudding. I own up to my wife about the accident and she’s
glad and didn’t tell her at the time. I decide to watch the Italian Job Film
tonight for a bit of nostalgia but fall asleep in the middle. I must remember
next time to book some holiday afterwards to have a rest. Yes, there will be a
next time after an experience like that I have to go again. 2004 here I come.