Go!

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Well, here we are on Wednesday 10th July and as soon as I post this I’ll be down the A1 to pick up Andrew.

Inevitably, there was a last minute hitch. On Monday in the blistering heat I discovered that the air conditioning was not up to par. “No problem”, said I, “It probably just needs re-gassing”. So off I toddle to HiQ just round the corner and leave it with John. The bad news comes in the subsequent ‘phone call – the condenser is leaking so the refrigerant has disappeared.

It didn’t take much persuasion from Andrew for me to realise that the south of France without aircon would be A Bad Thing. A few frantic calls this morning and I had sourced a new condenser locally and arranged to have it fitted. A quick sprint down the A19 to pick it up from the supplier and an even quicker sprint back to deliver it to Branch Manager Stephen. A few hours later and everything is hunky dory, and off we jolly well go.

I’ve been going to HiQ since 2005 and cannot recommend them highly enough. Thanks, lads!

HiQ

Get set … (8)

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The last week has been spent in finalising our preparations. All accommodation has been booked, paperwork sorted out (new passport for Stuart and EHIC cards, car documents etc), hard copy road atlases (to supplement the satnav), headlamp beam deflectors, warning triangle, hi-vis jackets and French breathalysers (a legal requirement since this time last year).

Much of the stuff has been sourced from eBay, and here is a particularly fine purchase – a pilot’s coverall, complete with the obligatory map holders on the lower thighs. Yes, we’ve decided to travel in style. The pictures were taken within minutes of picking up the item so the multitude of badges have not yet been applied. Look out for them in future piccies.

It’s less than a week to go now, and we’re still hoping to pick up late sponsors. If anyone reading this would like to be a sponsor please use the contact page.

Get Set … (7)

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Sara has been spending time with those maestros at Springfield in Gateshead, one of our sponsors. Paul Shield and his team in the Service Department have lavished care and attention on her, and here’s Stuart collecting her this morning:

Springfield handover

Paul reckons she’s in very good shape and as fit as she can be for the forthcoming adventure.

One thing not evident in the picture is out of sight under the bonnet: a powerful klaxon that emits the classic sound of a very early motorcar’s horn – or a diving U-boat.

Team 8bit Pair thanks Paul and his team, not only for their professionalism and hard work, but also for their warmth and enthusiasm in taking us on. When other Citroën agents turned us down, Springfield stepped up to the mark. They’re well worth your consideration if you’re thinking of changing your car or if your existing car needs a service. Thanks, guys!

Get Set … (6) – New Presentation!

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Andrew has been busy and knocked up a video presentation. It’s on YouTube as well as here. Enjoy!

Here’s a still from the presentation:

Team 8bit Pair

Click the image to view the original.

Get set … (5)

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We are now looking for donors and sponsors.

Donors can simply donate any amount to either the Marfan Association or the Ménière’s Society. Just click the link to the third-party collection page and mention Team 8bit Pair as you complete the on-line from.

Sponsors are larger organisations who want publicity in return for a larger donation. We will carry the sponsor’s self-adhesive decal on the car so that it will be seen in England, France, Switzerland, Italy and Monaco! We will also make the decal-bedecked car and driver(s) available for photo-shoots and publicity shots at the sponsor’s invitation. Prospective sponsors can download our flyer with more details.

In both cases, you’ll also get a mention on this blog.

Get set … (4)

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We have a team name – “8bit Pair” – and we have car number 88. That’s because the two of us (“Pair”), computer geeks to the max, cut our computing teeth on the old BBC Model B computer (which, though bought in November 1982, I still have) that had the venerable 6502C 8-bit microprocessor at its heart. A “bit” is a Binary digIT, either 0 or 1. So, for example, the letter A is represented by the 8 bits 01000001. Which allows me to trot out that hoary old chestnut “The world is divided into 10 – those who understand binary and those who don’t”.

We’re also fans of the film trilogy “Back to the Future” in which 88 is significant, as in “88 miles an hour!!!” (which we won’t be doing, since we don’t have a flux capacitor). In our case, though, it’s the young one that’s the Doc and the old one that behaves like an adolescent.

We are now on Facebook.

We are now also on Twitter.

Get set … (3) – It’s Official!

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Yes, I have paid the necessary entry fee and we are go for launch.

I have a bit of time this week which I intend to use finding sponsors. Co-driver No. 2 Son Andrew is also officially on the team sheet along with me (Stuart) and we are getting down to the detailed planning. The broad sweeps are in place – car, entry fee, cross-channel ferry, outline itinerary, enthusiasm – so now we need to pin down such things as a detailed route (M25 – here we come!), meal breaks and overnight accommodation.

Now that we’re officially “in”, this blog will be made known to the other teams and I’m hoping they’ll find time to toddle across here and make themselves known.

Get set … (2)

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Well, this particular mission has been accomplished. After finding the vehicle on eBay and speaking to the vendor, Steve Talbot, arrangements were made for it to be collected today, Saturday 25th May. So, on a fine and very pleasant spring morning I made the ‘bus trip from home to the centre of Blyth, then from Blyth to the ‘bus station in Newcastle (Haymarket), then from the adjacent ‘bus station (Eldon Square) to the train station, then from Newcastle to Birmingham, then from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, then finally from Wolverhampton to Telford – by ‘bus! Yes, the train service to Telford was “off” and the large number of passengers, including yours truly, had to troop to the not-so-adjacent ‘bus station. Here’s where the ‘buses (actually coaches) deposited us, and you can see one of the fleet reflected in the station façade.

A quick call to Steve and he arrived very promptly to pick me up and take me back to his home:

… and without any hesitation the deal was sealed:

… which means the team now has a rally car to prep!

The 250-mile drive back to Blyth gave an opportunity for a bit of performance testing. First, I took her to ASDA Telford to fill the tank to the brim with petrol. BIG mistake – I should have gone to another supermarket instead! The designer of the layout was obviously a direct descendant of the designer of Hampton Court Palace maze. There’s nothing more annoying than to be able to see your destination – indeed, to drive past it within biscuit-toss – but be completely unable to get there. Eventually, I made it, filled the tank and adjusted the tyre pressures. The odometer read 156562 and off I set at 17:51.

She turned out to be a pleasure to drive with a really willing engine. I tried to keep her on the top side of an indicated 70mph on the motorway, and as fast as conditions and speed limits allowed elsewhere. Even at 70mph in 5th gear there was a noticeable surge and poke in the back when putting the foot further down. The route was a mixture of urban driving getting out of Telford and into Blyth and A-road driving to and from the M6/M62/M60/M1/A1(M) motorway combination. She ate the miles magnificently and I did not feel at all fatigued after arriving home.

The first port of call in Blyth was the local ASDA for another fill-up. This time the odometer reading was 156809, giving an elapsed mileage of 156809 – 156562 = 247 miles. It took 25.19 litres to fill her up again, which is 25.19/4.546 = 5.54 gallons. Thus the fuel consumption for the trip was 247 miles/5.54 gallons = 44.6mpg which I reckon is quite respectable. Possibly we could nudge 50mpg with less “press on” driving.

As for average speed, it took 4 hours and 19 minutes to do the trip, not counting a couple of rest stops to exercise the limbs, take on calories and undertake other necessities related to fluid balance. This gives an on-the-road average speed of 57.2mph. Despite maintaining a healthy near-limit speed on the motorways there were other roads to bring the average down, and indeed an extensive 50mph speed limit due to road works on the M62.

All in all, very favourable first impressions. Coupled with the safety and comfort features already mentioned (PAS, ABS, air con etc etc) and the incredible price of just £249 (right at the limit laid down in the rules) this seems to be an ideal car for the rally. If she lasts the course (and at 150,000+ miles I have to say in all honesty she’s seen her best days) she’ll do us proud. Steve, my boy – you done good!

Get set …

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Today I was able to complete the insurance formalities on the car, so it’s “go” for the retrieval on Saturday. I’ve also arranged the cross-Channel car ferry booking. Progress is being made!

I’m hoping No. 2 Son, Andrew, will join me as co-driver and I’m awaiting a decision on that front imminently. Piccies to follow at the earliest opportunity.

On your marks …

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Half a century ago, when I was in my early teens, the winter news bulletins were replete with reports of the Monte Carlo Rally. This annual event took cars and drivers from several starting points all over Europe through snow, ice, fog, hail and gale so that they eventually arrived in Monte Carlo. There were also many “special stages” which tested cars and drivers to the limit along the way. Names like Erik Carlsson, Pat Moss (sister of Stirling Moss), Paddy Hopkirk, Saab and Mini Cooper became household words.

Later, in the 60’s (1969, to be precise), the Rally inspired a motion picture with an all-star cast – Monte Carlo or Bust!. You can still find copies on a certain auction site …

Later still, in the 10’s (and I can’t be more precise), Cuthbert Ware-Armitage (probably not his real name) was inspired by the motion picture to stage his own version of the Monte Carlo Rally entitled (believe it or not) Monte Carlo or Bust and subtitled the ultimate European banger rally adventure.

Now I always entertained visions of doing the Monte Carlo, not as a serious competitor, mark you, but just for the challenge of it. As the years slipped by I realised it just wasn’t going to happen. But now here, totally unexpectedly, is an opportunity to do the Monte Carlo Rally (of sorts) and I intend to seize it with both hands. We’re into bucket list territory, folks, so let’s be about it.

The adventure starts for me this coming Saturday, when I travel down to Telford in Shropshire to retrieve the car I just bought via that well-known auction Website. She’s a 1998 Citroën Xsara VTR 1.8i coupé in green, with all the bells and whistles necessary for a comfortable and safe journey in early summer – ABS, PAS, air bags and air conditioning to name but a few. Some “banger”!

Piccies and more news to follow.

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