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Watch out Florence… here we come!

My apologies dear readers for my lethargy in not posting a blog following our first day of fun on Imola circuit. I had intended to but the clcok change threw me more than I had envisaged and resulted in me simply running out of time…. I propose to remedy this oversight with a substantive blog now…. though I’ll still b a day behind!

Day two of our road book took us deep into the hills to a place of mythical qualities where a bridge called Alidosi stands majestically. The apex of ‘Ponte Alidosi’ un-feasibly severe and often causes screams and yelps from Jobbers who attempt the ascent and descent. New traffic flow control lights have been placed at both ends of the bridge approach road now so as to avoid unpleasant exchanges between cars and their occupants who meet at the apex! The only problem is that not many Italians respect the lights…. and it pains me to acknowledge that some of our mob similarly felt that red did not apply to them!

From Alidosi our we wound our way along a particularly winding stretch of stunning yet stomach churning roads. Being surrounded by beautiful rolling countryside was sadly not enough to prevent the 16 year old constitution of Jono from giving in. Brings back such sweet memories of Paola being unwell in previous years…. Our route ended at a delightful Agriturismo hidden so far off the road that most teams felt sure they had gone wrong. A hearty Emilia Romagna luncheon of hand-made delicacies filled our bellies nicely. The return to Imola was less twisty and so by the time all teams had arrived and parked their cars for the night it was very nearly beer o clock!

We enjoyed our final evening at the Molino Rosso and I think most people had a pretty early night. My throat started to feel like I’d been chewing razor blades all day and convinced I’d contracted some nasty Italian strain of Asian flu, I retired to bed at 9.30pm remembering to turn my watch back one hour to mark the arrival of Winter.

Service Crew News Update: A brief interlude to appraise you of mechanical issues:

Till now the service van had been kept pretty busy thanks to 3 of our teams who insisted in giving them as much business as possible. I’m beginning to think I should park these three cars close to one another when we stop anywhere to reduce the wear and tear on Service crew Gareth’s legs! The first is team 7, Gary and Adam from Aberdeen who had and still have recurring over-heating issues. The second is Doc B. and Emily (his daughter) in the 1971 E-Type which just cannot seem to hold it’s water. The third is Stephen and Lusan Li from Toronto who are driving the VAUXHALL engined Mini….No need to say more here really. Other minor ‘mechanicals’ include wiring up a CD player, dealing with the ‘damage’ caused by an exploding can of Red Bull… and playing with the gearbox of the service van which was, according to Gareth, beginning to give him a moment or two of concern!

Next morning we were due to leave at 8am for a pretty straightforward drive to Florence so I woke at 4am thinking it was 6am…. bloody watches! We left and bid a fond farewell to our great friends at the Molino Rosso and headed for a time control in a small town called Scarperia which is just a short hop from Ferrari’s second circuit Mugello. From here we would drive following our road books to an area of Florence called Michelangiolo to meet our chums from the Florence Mini club. The car park at Michelangiolo affords a stunning view over the whole of the city of Florence and is therefore particularly busy.

I arrived first at the Micheangiolo first and I couldn’t quite believe how mad crazy busy it bloody was. There were tons and tons of people all wandering around without a care in the world, oblivious to the traffic of cars, tourist buses which stopped anywhere they liked, horse drawn carriages with dreadfully sad looking horses pulling tourists, demonic devils driving taxis, lunatics riding bicycles, scooters and big fat tyred motorbikes which weaved perilously across all lanes in what I can only think was an attempt to cover every square inch of road. In short, it was bloody chaotic and me being me I began to fret for my poor teams who were about to enter this idiocy.

Our teams steadily started arriving and I waved my red IJ baseball cap as frantically as I could as high as I could in the hope of catching their eyes. Once caught I could thus direct them through the swathes of people to our reserved ‘parc ferme’ where we were joined by around 40 Italian Minis/MINIS. All our teams are colourful and eye catching, elaborately stickered with IJ logos and sponsors messages, so wherever we go we turn heads. Stephen and Lusan turned a few more heads than normal with their arrival, for the literally exploded as the arrived! They’d only overheated but it was a bloody spectacular overheat! There was steam (which looked like thick white bonfire smoke) billowing out from under the bonnet and what looked like thousands of gallons of water gushing out from everywhere….. It was such a sight that tourists on an open topped bus started taking snaps of the Mini and a frantic sounding lady was heard shouting ‘fuoco’ (fire!!!) and even the inconsiderate bikers gave it a wider berth than I’d seen before. I strode up to the passenger door and fighting the effect of the steam I opened it expecting to see Lusan in tears and a state of advanced shock. But no…. the Li’s were having none of that nonsense. I was greeted with a customary smile and nonchalant shake of the head, you know, the kind that says ‘wow…. wasn’t that a lot of fun!’ We got some of our Italian friends to push them through to where Gareth and Roger and Jono were and whoopee….. they were back up and running by the time the convoy left!

The 90 assembled Minis/MINIS left for a convoy through the heart of the city and I must doff my cap here to the Florence Mini Club who achieved the feat without losing one single car. They were awesome and deserved the standing ovation we gave them later at dinner. We arrived in the heart of the city and were heralded in by a fanfare of trumpets and the famous flag throwing, medieval costumed troupe who lead the way to the cathedral with us all in tow. When someone asked which way? I’d simply say, see those flags being chucked about 50 feet into the air?…. follow them.

That evening back at the hotel we held our traditional Italian Job auction, with funds raised destined to the Meyer Children’s hospital of Florence. We raised what I think is a massively impressive £3,250 from a table of bits and pieces which our teams had brought with them. I am massively impressed by the generosity of everyone involved for we are far smaller in numbers this year and yet we managed to raised a still significant amount. Well done everyone.

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