Right, here we go. Had to sort out a bit of a problem with my workstation/RAW software - all sorted now and pics processed. So grab yourselves a coffee, tea, glass of wine or beer as it's a big 'un!!
Where do I start? - at the beginning would be probably a good place!
The GSis came down on the Thursday evening and we set off at 5am on Friday morning to head to Dover. The drive was nice as there wasn't much traffic on the road so we took advanatge of that! As we got into Kent it got a bit misty/foggy - progessively more so as we got near Dover to meet up with everyone at the hotel that some people had stayed at. Grabbed a cup of a coffee and a croissant which was basically breakfast for me and met up with everyone else.
The polo shirts that I'd designed and had been made up were duly distributed and it was a relief to see that they all fitted as expected. Thanks to Big Phil for collecting them and bringing them down with him. So, we then set off for the ferry terminal and here we came across the first hitch of the journey. I'd expected we'd encounter a few, but not quite so soon in the journey!! Basically there was a bit of a glitch with their computer systems and it wasnt letting them issue the boarding cards. It had all been paid for (honest folks! - I did it myself! ) and was showing up as paid, but it wasn't letting them issue the boarding cards. So there we were, four lanes of cars at four kiosks with a huuuge queue behind us!! To say the booth people were getting a bit anxious would have been an understatement. Eventually we were all sent off to a different building to get it all sorted out, which it was fairly quickly, and then we were soon boarding the ferry.
So, after arriving in Calais we headed off. We'd arranged to stop at the first services enroute to get fuel - Dean in particular as I think he was on red when he boarded the ferry!! What hadn't been made clear was that the route that was being talked about to go via Adinkerke was a different route to the one Andyvec and AJA took when they took Andy's car over to Irmscher, so a bunch of us pulled off onto this route that our TomToms were programmed for - so the majority of us (about nine of us) ended up on the route that Andy and AJA took and pulled into the first services there, whilst the others went on the other route. Couple of phone calls later we realised what had happened, and we were too far apart to correct it, so we just carried on our different routes - we all ultimately had the same destination. In our group we had me and Mrs Duncan, Andyvec, Plasma, Harry, Ian C, Pacarcher, Big Phil and Spikey, The Spoons' and Rob the Scot.
We had a nice run down to Stuttgart with a few stops, some speed runs and getting used to the way the Belgiums drove!! One of the memorable moments was seeing Harry pull alongside Spoons at around 100mph and yell at him to pull over onto the hard shoulder. Part of the undertray/sound proofing had come loose - due to not having all the screws put in when the front end was repainted - and had got caught by the air when doing a speed run and turned back on itself, dragging on the ground. Couple of cable ties later they were sorted and we were off again.
Another memorable moment was as we neared Stuttgart. A number of us were using TomTom, but different versions - mine was Pocket PC, others were the GO variety. As we pulled off onto an exit, mine told me to take a further exit. I saw Ian C and Andyvec frantically flashing behind me but it was too late, I was committed so I carried on - alone! What was funny, as I found out later, was that at the next junction the same thing happened to Ian C and he pulled off away from the rest. The rest of the remaining convoy, from what I understand, were in danger of crashing due to them laughing so much! Anyway, the end result was that my TomTo got me to the hotel before the others!!
So, we all duly arrived at the hotel, tired and all just wanting to eat and go to bed. We were told of a nice Italian down the road so most of us headed there for a bit of food and a few beers. Most of us then ended up at the bar opposite the hotel for a few more beers - this being the one where Plasma and others didn't crawl into bed until 3am and him being unable to drive the following morning!
So, next morning we met up and headed off to Irmscher nice and early to get the cars washed and lined up. Once we were lined up this is where I started my picture taking, as up until then I'd either been driving or sorting out my car.
Pudsey made it - and we had his passport stamped by Irmscher.
Dean recovering from the night before!
Time for a bit of a chat now that the cars were all cleaned and lined up.
Mark the Cabby
Rob the Scot
Whilst we were sorting out the cars, Andy went off and had a sneak preview of his re-trim - along with a few others - and he came back with a smile from ear to ear. I can understand why as when we all finally saw it, it looked superb - really, really nice!!
So we spent the day looking around the other cars etc., the museum and the shop (much money was spent by people!!). Contrary to what was said before we left, the shop did have discounted prices whcih made them very attractive and cheaper then in the UK.
A few pics of the event.......
Our line up, and us with the new club banner I'd designed and got printed in time for the trip.
How low?!! I wasn't surprised he's still got the rubber lip on!
Cabby was dying to have a go on this!
People in the UK put on Opel/badges, so it was amusing to see them doing the opposite.
My makeshift showplates. We'll be offering this design as part of the club merchandise, obviously on proper plates.
Gunter Irmscher and Ian C.
The story behind that is rather funny. Gunter was looking at Ian's car and was asking Ian a bunch of questions. Ian saw the Irmscher logo on his shirt and eventually asked who he was (just out of curiosity). When he found out it was Gunter (the main man) it was as if he'd just met royalty!! All the guys behind Gunter saw his reaction and all obviously thought of that scene in Wayne's World - and all ended up doing the bit!
Cabby with Gunter
Me and Mrs Duncan. Thanks to Spoons for taking the pic.
In the afternoon we had our own personal tour for the group of the factory, and got to see all different areas of R&D, production etc. This was by Jurgen who was very helpful and informative.
Several line of Pug 107's waiting for the Irmscher treatment. Irmscher have recently started to make a whole lot of products for Peugeot.
Err, an 'arty' shot of some skirts!
The scallys beat us to it! A stripped out 407SW getting the Irmscher treatment.
The machine used to precisely cut out the roof to fit a sunroof!
This machine was amazing!!
It used layers of paper, cut out accurately by laser...
...into any shape....
....which was then bonded to make mock-ups of anything they wanted to physically fit to a car to see how it looked in real life.
Yep, that is a 'paper' wheel - basically with the density of wood, and paintable to make it look very realistic.
The engine rig, for long-term testing.
This is ripe for a caption competition - what exactly is Mark thinking! lol
Couple of pics from the museum......
I just loved this!
And this was nice too!
They even do an Irmscher kiddie's pedal car!!
All too soon the day was drawing to an end and we were heading back to the hotel. As we had been impressed with the Italian the night before, we all decided to descend on it. Cara booked ahead but they must have still wondered what had hit them as we practically filled the place with 25 odd of us!
Before we left for the restaurant, I thought I'd pay the hotel bill so that I didn't have to faff about in the morning doing it. All I can say is that I'm glad I did, otherwise we'd have been seriously delayed getting away in the morning given what happened next. For those who were sat in the restaurant wondering where the hell we were, here it is in a nutshell. Four guys were sharing two twins and this was what Cabby booked along with the other rooms. When the guys arrived they were told they had single rooms, and not twins. What they thought that meant was that there weren't any twin rooms, but that they were being given four singles in total for the price of two twins. Not so as we found out, as they wanted to charge for these four single rooms at that rate. Trying to explain to the owner that it wasn't right was like pulling teeth, and we just went round and round in circles. With him saying that there were twin rooms available when we arrived, but the singles were what had been booked. They couldn't find the original booking details and unfortunately Cabby didn't have a copy on him - so we were in limbo. Eventually the woman who Cabby had done the booking through was called in and she spoke very good English so she was able to understand what we were saying. Before I left the UK I had spent several hours doing a huge spreadsheet to lay out all the costs of the hotels, ferry, shirts etc. and the money coming in and give an overall view of everything. I grabbed the laptop to show what we were talking about and very quickly they saw where we were coming from. The fact that all the room allocations/costs were on that spread sheet showed that those guys had always been down for twins, and not singles, so that finally resolved it - only an hour plus after we'd started!!! So we finally went off to the restaurant where I made sure I had a very large beer! lol
The evening ended with basically all of us at the bar across the road again, drinking lots of beer!
Next morning saw us driving back to Irmscher for the second day of the open weekend. We got lined up again and proceeded to walk around again. This day was much busier - more people visiting - so there were more cars to see etc. Gunter had been asked if he could sign some caps for us to auction off for Children in Need. He came up with something even better.....
This is the bumper off one of the Irmscher rally cars, scars to prove it, which he gave to us and which will be getting auctioned off for Children in Need in due course.
Around 12pm the group that had decided they were going to The Ring headed off, with the rest of us heading off around 1pm.
This saw us driving to Brussells. Originally, the hotel booking by Cabby had been for three nights in Germany, but during one of many phone calls with Cabby during the planning, I persuaded him that getting up at very silly o'clock on Monday morning to drive 8 hours to Calais to catch a 2pm ferry, and then for folks to drive what they had to do once in Britain, wasn't going to go down awfully well as people would be dangerously tired. So I suggested we break the journey by driving into Belgium on the Sunday. So Cabby went and hunted out and sorted a hotel - and what a nice hotel he sorted out!!
The drive back across Germany and Belgium was great, helped by the continuing scorching weather! I tried to get a decent speed run on the autobahn this time, as I hadn't managed one on the way over, but things seemed to be working against me. Any stretches that were unrestricted had traffic on them, and when I finally got a clear bit and got up to around 125mph (with plenty more to go) some driver pulled right out of the middle lane into mine doing something like 70mph! The big brake upgrade worked rather well with Mrs Duncan turning a rather pale shade of white!
We stopped at some services where we heard from Dean (on his way to the Ring) that he was having problems with his car - injector connections/loom - which was restricting him to 70mph flat-out and 40mph up hills. Harry, also on his way to the Ring, stayed with Dean to make sure he was okay - which I think was a fantastic gesture as he could have missed his opportunity to get on the Ring. Dean kept making temporary repairs and they finally got to the Ring to met up with the others.
We arrived in Brussels to be met by Andrew's Sri (and Mrs) outside the hotel as they had arrived earlier in the day. We got the cars parked in a secure car cark nearby and got checked in. I paid for the rooms at the same time and it was a relief to see that the bill was for exactly what I was expecting - a nice start to the evening. Everyone else, bar Dean, Harry and Bryan arrived and checked in. Dean was still not going at full speed so Harry and Bryan stuck with him to make sure he was okay - again a fantastic gesture.
We headed off to get something to eat and turned up at the hotel at 10pm asking for a 'table' for 20!! The waitress' face was a treat, but there was plenty of space inside so we were duly seated. It didn't take long, but when we came to order another round of drinks they told us they'd run out of draught - we'd drank them dry!! So we proceeded to continue with bottled bear!! After the meal we met up with Dean and the others who had finally made it.
I took the opportunity to make a little 'speech' to everyone and to present Cabby with a little thank you pressie from Grame and myself for his part in arranging the trip. We were trying to decide what could you buy for the man who has everything Irmscher? - he even has the brolley so that wasn't an option. Finally, we came up with this.......
I must be due a pressie for all my behind the scenes work for this trip! It's a thankless task being an admin!
Some folks then went off to a bar for a few drinks. This time I decided to take a raincheck and head back to the rather nice hotel for a bit of kip.
Next morning saw us check out and head off for Calais. We'd all arranged to meet at the first services on the main road/motorway heading out of Brussels to then sort out the plan for the convoy and for me to do the car-to-car tracking shots. We managed to lose a few even by then, namely Matt, Ian C and Rob the Scot - hence why no pics of their cars.
The convoy back was a blast, with me hanging out of the window of my car whilst Mark drove it, with me directing each car one by one into position and ultimately causing a bit of a bunching up of traffic behind us! One Belgium coach driver wasn't very happy and let me know as he drove past us!
The first lot of pics were taken with the light behind the cars, due to the time of day and direction we were travelling in, so not as good a result (lighting wise) as they could be.....
I had to laugh at this (zoomed in from above) as Mrs Duncan despairs at seeing me hanging out of my rear window to take the pics. Ask Mrs Gsi!
We changed direction a bit after we'd stopped at Adinkerke and had much better light, so I got this lot. I jumped in with Andrew's SRi so that I could get shots of my car being driven my Mark.
We got ourselves a convoy!!
Mrs GSi (with Mrs Duncan at least not covering her eyes this time! )
Mark taking my car on a detour via the hard shoulder!!
Then we headed to Calais for the crossing back to Dover. Most people were heading Northwards so a last stop was planned at some services on the M20. We were heading off in a different direction down the coast so I said my goobyes on the ferry and went our separate ways off the ferry.
That's the lot folks! Phew!, you wouldn't believe how long this post took!
Thanks to everyone who made it on the trip and made it what it was - a truly memorable occasion. We can be very proud by the fact that we are the first UK club to have been invited over by Irmscher - and to be invited back again due to leaving such an impression with them.