Just a small group of Eric's took this trip Roland - BRM200 with France, and Russ - Porsche SC with Robin. Our outward route, going on the overnight Harwich - Hook boat, was very pleasant, a quiet beer followed by bed. In comparison to the channel ferries the boat we travelled on was certainly in a class above, the passenger areas and cabins being comfortable and spacious.
Perhaps the only downside is being turfed off at about 07:00 local time, but as our first host had recommended a cousins eatery just 15 mins from the port, that is what we did and had a great breakfast which took over an hour to demolish!
And so at a suitably reasonable time we found our way another 15mins drive to Joop Stolze (Pronounciation Guide Yoap, like soap with a Y like yes) Classic Cars. Joop used to be an Orchid grower so has a greenhouse on industrial scale packed with classics with virtually no room to squeeze between. You want '64 911 targa? Yes there are 10 in a row over there, How about Jag120? OK see that row of 5 of them here? What about an Alfa Zagato, please? Oh yes there are two over here. Errr, perhaps something american? How about 8 Studebaker Champions, or that line of Mustangs or, or....and so it went on, whatever you think of, he trumps you with at least a row of theml.......Triumph TR3, 4, 5, 6, E types, Maserati's. A mass of stock which he claims he only moves round on Mondays!
So after several hours looking we moved on to the Louwmann Collection - the National collection of the Netherlands. This is in The Haag, only about a half hour from the Hook. Here we had plans to view a particular car, but when we got to its place the spot was empty! Shipped to Goodwood. Damn, but the museum assistants were very helpful and certainly went out of their way to find out where the car was (they hadn't realised it was not on display amongst the grid of race cars still in place, however they gave us some useful information which was not immediately to hand. This is certainly a museum to put on the list of car places to visit at least once, many cars grouped into period settings and diorama's. France insisted on sitting at Mr Toyoda's old desk donated to the museum just a few years ago. If you are into Gordon Crosby sketches and paintings I've never seen so many originals in one place before.
So after a full day we turned the cars south to a good friends place just outside Antwerp where we were greeted with beer, wine and a good solid meal. Bed in a dorm and breakfast the next morning with the invitation and directions to our next destination.
Guy Moerenhout's Abarth Museum. Guy was a works driver for Porsche, Fiat, Abarth, Lada amongst others in the 70's and 80's. This is a wharehouse with cars being worked on in one corner and many standing about which you are welcome to inspect in minute detail. In fact Russ' can see out of a 565 Abarth ( Fiat 500) through the sunroof. Again we were surprised by the number of super rare cars, and found Guy had 4 out of six built Fiat 2300special coupe's and others which were unique competition cars. He builds Race and Rally works replica's to order, so has lots of very interesting components to inspect and paw over. Guy is now an honorary ERIC and has stickers for some of his competition cars and a big ERIC on the showroom entrance! Another full morning well spent!
Our next destination, Tyne Cot Cemetery an hour along our route is one of the larger First War memorials to the tens of thousands who dissapeared into Flanders Fields. It is chilling to realise that the cemetery stands across the higher land controlled by the opposing forces for much of the war, and absolutely noting visible from there other than the general topography was left after the conflict, no buildings, no trees, just a shell pocked wasteland. I found it intriguing to note the number of coaches full of school kids visiting from locations across Europe.
And so to the 6 hour drive to Le Mans, avoiding Payage we arrived in the evening to our plots on Maison Blanche close to the Porsche curve end, cornered by a Swiss Porsche, a bunch from Kent with Westminster/Alvis TC, and a tranch of Marcos which included two (yes Two!) Mantis, we set up camp. A small beer, bit of night practice and bed!
Friday dawned with the pilgrimage to the supermarket, and a bit of a drive about, but there was little to be honest going on, and the weather was a bit British Summertime. Saturday, we started the long walk! Again the weather was mixed, so a wander about the village, paddock, then to the Bugatti circuit where all the clubs were lining up for their 'pay and display' laps. But the auction caught our attention with several Astons amongst the lots, a V8 Volante originally for a middle eastern potentate, a Towns Lagonda and a DB7 all attracted, Quick docs check, and a bidding card saw us inside and seated when the heavens opened properly - a real bank holiday downpour which lasted some time so by the time we had not even bid as each car surpassed the 'bargain' price we were prepared to stump up, it was drying again outside, and somehow we had managed to miss the start of the first race. Further wandering and we found ourselves back at camp for a refreshing bbq and into the cars to scoot off to Arnage and Mulsanne for a bit of night watching - and several greasy road incidents seen close to hand. Followed by a late libation and off to bed.
Sunday dawned mizzly and damp, but Russ was keen to decamp, so provided entertainment for a while with bundling a huge damp tent into a hopelessly impractical camping car (although this is point is contested by Russ)<ed>. Maybe a Cayenne would be better suited? So about noon, France and I were left to our own devices while Russ and Robin returned to the hotel owned by the ex Porsche works LM team member - where we all stayed 'n' years ago. Then they made their way to Blighty the next day by fast ferry.
Back at LM France and I went walkabout for the last time, going down to Tetre Rouge to see the final epoque's battle, and then collect our pictures from Francois Bruere - the official Le Mans artist, where the Erics are well known and welcomed.
Finally, at camp, another bbq with begged coals, a little more beer/wine, a small scavenge hunt late on assisted the official tidy up with removing another few hundred yards of garage lining material, and then long chats with our neighbours on subject as diverse as politics religion and relationships until finally a soporific sleep fell on all.
Monday a cheery good morning was back to perfect weather, no queues at the showers and Frances final Big Poo went well. All packed and ready by 9:00 for a cross country scoot through Park du Perche and we zipped into Calais at 14:00, to join a short queue to check in where bizarrely was another BRM200, snaps taken and off we went on the 16;00 boat for 'White Cliffs'. Pitched out my faithful co-driver on the M25 and onwards to Daventry for 20:00. a small beer and a bit of a rest!
Whats the plan for next year???