Friday 13th October – A visit to Banfi in the land of Montalcino
Today we headed south following our roadbooks first in the general’ish direction of Grosseto and then left inland quite a bit. Our destination was Montalcino, a name known throughout the world as the home of Brunello di Montalcino. A very nice global producer of Brunello (and other wines) called Banfi had invited us over for a visit. They have a very efficient winery which is located just a few KM’s away from their very own hilltop Castle!
Teams knew the time they needed to be at our rendezvous point at Banfi’s winery. The first team was expected to cross the line at precisely 10.15am and then subsequent teams at 30 second intervals thereafter. First quandary of the day was which exit from the hotel was indicated in the roadbook? It was a very valid question for all distances in the book would be way out if the wrong one was chosen. Gordon, Kenjay Savvy and I (the advance party) set out through the correct exit (eventually) after having to swap cars and kit because one of our teams had chosen to block our car in.
We arrived at Banfi and set up our Time Control early so once again we found ourselves kicking our heels waiting for the teams to arrive. There was a quaint little BAR close by where we had coffee and a cold hot chocolate (clearly a Tuscan trend). Teams then began arriving and crossing the TC before parking. A number of teams (who were well out of numerical order) arrived with less than nano seconds to spare to cross but thankfully due to our consideration they had space to speed up to the TC and cross without hindering anyone else.
After a winery visit all teams went back to their cars for a Le Mans style start to follow the remaining instructions in the road book up to the castle. I say Le Man but I don’t think anyone ran! Our three cars had already left to plan parking and see if a little last minute negotiation might result in us parking our teams on the central roadway leading all the way up to the main castle entrance as opposed to in a car park area. Allesandro from Banfi was very nice, chilled and amenable sort of chap who nodded a lot and gave a very definite Tuscan ‘si, va bene’ to our request to park our teams where we wanted.
Teams arrived and parked as directed. They had to first manage a tight three point turn on a tiny patch of cobble stones whilst avoiding the grass. We didn’t want t ruin the delightfully manicured lawns of the castle. I think some teams heard 7 point turn but no matter, as long as the end result was they were facing the right way and they hadn’t singed the law with a tread mark signature. Job done all teams headed into the castle for a welcome soft drink and nibbles. We were kept sweating (perspiring in more polite circles) by 30º temperatures so the search for shade ensued.
After a 20 minute rest we walked up the dark and narrow stairway of the castle to our dining room where (I must be absolutely honest) we enjoyed the best lunch of the event so far. The Michelin star chef who oversees the hotel operation of the castle clearly got stuck in to our lunch as it was incredible.
A 30 second special stage at the exit from the castle was the final official part of the event today and of particular note is Team Li who managed the 30 seconds run in a smidge over 11 seconds! Not the point of course but a source of amusement as we look at penalty points awarded. Also worth recording was a two finger salute (made in jest) from a team who misunderstood a comment concerning their current position on the leader board.
A dash back to Siena and a little car park argy bargy erupted as a conference at the hotel meant the car park was a tad congested. I could see Luca’s (reception manager) heart sink when I told him we’d need to find a way to fashion 30 more spaces! We found space in areas reserved for busses and coaches (of which there were none) so job done and cars put to rest for another day.
There’s more stunning scenery and fun driving roads in store for us tomorrow. We are headed to another castle (they’re everywhere) called Castello Meleto but I’ll report in on that on Sunday morning.