For the 18th time in succession we had our famous CTH nachtrit. As last year we had guests over from the UK to do the run. This time we had 6 cars entering which shows the popularity of such events. Thanks to Doug, Katie, Don, Sarah, Dave, Hayley, Colin, Michelle, Michael, Gillian, Tim and James for coming over! Special thanks to Andy and Jutta for joining us on sunday. Much appreciated!
Leaving early saturday afternoon together with my co driver Paul, followed by Rob and Rodi in their Escort mk1 RS2000. For them (or actually the car) this would be the big shake down. Exciting stuff! We arrived at the hotel around 14.00, ready to welcome our UK entries. Not much later Theo arrived at the hotel too. Then there was Michael and Gillian in their TR6. They had a different crossing and managed to be there in time. The other crews had some problems at the tunnel and had a huge delay. They arrived at exactly 16.00. We were very short in time now as the rally would start at 17.00. So a quick check in at the hotel followed by a slice of vlaai and off we went. We arrived at the start of the rally exactly at 17.00. Not good as we all had early starttimes. Nachtritmeister René decided to start 30mins later, which gave us some time to relax. As we had no. 1 we had to start first at 17.31. It's actually quite nice to start first, the empty roads and no slow cars in front makes it possible to drive your own speed etc. It was all going really well as Paul is an excellent co driver. But René is famous for finding the narrowest roads in Belgium and so it happened we missed a rh turn into one of these narrow roads. As we turned round we saw Doug and Katie passing by, also missing that road. The road was as wide as one Triumph, going up very steep and ofcourse very bumpy! We had to take it easy on this one. As we cathed up speed again it all went very well again. We managed to find a good pace, which is essential for driving such events. Then we missed another turn on a fast section as the distance wasn't always accurate. That road came a bit early and we missed it. Coming from the other side there where big road signs which made the road more visible now. Ahhh yes, we're in Belgium!! They must have the worst road layouts in the world.. Arriving at the half way stop we had not seen any other car. We were first to have spaghetti! After 5 minutes Rob and Rodi arrived as second at the stop. The Escort was going really well and they really enjoyed the event so far. It took another 5-10 minutes for other crews to drop in. Some of them didn't realise they would have to pass the restaurant twice on the run. There was a 20 minutes loop to do before you could stop for a rest. Always good to see those confused faces! After a 45 mins stop we left for the second section. This turned out te have longer stretches on faster roads, also a lot easier on the navigating side of things. We drove faultless through this last section. The only concern was the fuel gauge. It was pointing to the lower side of the scale which wasn't very promising. Getting fuel on a saturdaynight in Belgium is a real problem. There are loads of petrolstations but they are all closed. Only with a Belgium bankaccount you can get petrol by using a cashmachine. Not very usefull for us foreigners. Luckily we managed to find a Q8 petrolstation just outside of Chaudfontain that had a machine that accepted banknotes. Filled the car up for €20,- of RON 98 and off we went again! I felt much more happy now with the fuelgauge pointing halfway the scale. We arrived back at the finish at 22.35 ish. Still being the first, wich surprised me. I wasn't pushing it that hard and expected to be overtaken by several other cars. It was a very quiet Nachtrit for us, not seeing any other participants. At the finish we met up with Andy and Jutta, they couldn't make it in time for the start but came down to cheer us up at the finish! It took another 5-10 minutes for the RS2000 to arrive not much later followed by Herald, 2.5PI and TR7 16V. The other UK crews needed some more time but I think they all managed to get back before midnight. They all enjoyed it very much I guess! Time for a good sleep at the hotel.
The next day we all got up around 9.00 to have breakfast at the hotel. The TR6 crew left first as they had to catch the 14.00 ferry. The others joined us for the rest of the day. After the usual CT spannering session we were all ready to hit the road again. I thought it would be nice to drive down to the Spa-Francorchamps racetrack. I sort of planned an interesting route which turned out to have some unpleasant features in it. The first section of this route we had to cross a crowded area which I expected to be a pain to drive through with so many cars. It became even worse as we bumped into a fair, some WW memorial and a huge international mountainbike event. And one road was closed due to roadworks. It all slowed us down on our way to Stavelot. We had to wait several times to catch up with the other cars again. All very annoying, have to do better preparation on this next time. Once we hit the wide and open roads through the "high Ardens" we went on very well. Crossing the Baraque Michel (2nd highest top in Belgium) it welcomed us with it's typical weather, cold and foggy! From there a twisty downhill section leads into Malmedy. From there it's only a couple of minutes to Stavelot. The road between both towns used to be a part of the 60's GP track. Just before Stavelot a banked rh turn is still visible. In Stavelot we parked up at the old market where we enjoyed a decent lunch. Don and Sarah left us here as they had plans for visiting Brugge. After lunch we visited the small Circuit Museum which has some interesting cars on display. After that it was time to say goodbye to our UK guests as they had a train to catch, but a quick stop at the amazing Eau Rouge corner had to be done first. You can't imagine how steep it is if you've never seen it before! Luckily there were some guys trashing their E30 M3's, so we had some "on track" action as well. Well, that was it..... the end of another fantastic weekend. Unfortunately on the way back we ended up in a huge traffic jam on the motorway. It was caused by a nasty accident. Then another one caused by roadworks. As we lost the others in traffic we decided to take a diverted route avoiding the busy motorway. Luckily the CT crews managed to catch their train in time! I was a bit worried they would be in trouble because of all delays.