Saturday, 17 September 2011

10 Countries Run 2011

Last Thursday, the 8th of September, saw the start of the 5th edition of Club Triumphs 10 Countries Run. As four years ago I chose the DHC to do the event, although I did have some doubts when I was preparing the car for the event. As in earlier editions we started from Steenvoorde in the north-west of France. This again being the continental start for the event. We arrived there fairly early, so we had a few hours to relax and have a coffee or two, while we waited for the rest of the pack. After an hour and a half the serene quite of the place was shattered when the rest of the entrants arrived from Calais.


After saying hello to some of the more familiar faces, and collecting the starters pack from Ellis, we also hit the road. First bit of the route through northern France wasn’t to interesting with mainly motorways to get a decent amount of miles under the wheels quickly. The ”official” route would take us from Steenvoorde via Lille, Valenciennes and Hirson to our first control stop at Charleville-Mézières. Turned out to be rather crowded with Triumphs there. In the end we managed to find a parking space just outside the centre, in front of a Turkish kebab shop. Needless to say we didn’t bother to walk back into the city centre to collect a signature for the road book! And the meal was good.

After the meal we headed further east towards Sedan and Carignan, but after that we decided to take a “shortcut”. So instead of heading into Belgium (which we had done already) and Luxembourg at Thonelle, we headed south-east towards Montmédy, following the D643 through Longuyon and Briey towards Metz, were we would pick up the official route again. It turned out to be a very nice and relaxing road to drive with little traffic. And during this stretch I again was reminded of the wonderful world of Lucas - Prince Of Darkness. The dashboard lights were working perfectly, great! Not so great was the fact that by this time the clutch had developed a tendency to stick rather randomly. This meant that quick gear changes were out of order, which definitely hampered progress on the rest of the run. A sign of things to come !?

But after some 100 kilometres we rejoined the official route just south of Metz, taking the A31 towards Nancy. This gave us also the opportunity to fill up the fuel tank just south of Pont-à-Mousson. Was again a pleasant surprise to see that the car easily managed well over 10 km/litre. (±30 mpg) on the Route Nationals.


With both fuel tank and ourselves replenished we hit the road again, following the A31 motorway till Nancy, where we joined the A33 towards Lunéville and after that the N59 towards Baccarat. We actually followed the N59 all the way to Sainte-Dié-des-Vosges, where we left it to enter the Vosges Mountains This turned out to be (again) a great and challenging drive over passes with interesting names like the Col du Calvaire, Col du Wettstein or Col du Platzerwasel.
But the most challenging of them all was the Collet du Linge which was covered in dense fog. At some places visibility was less than 10 metres. It will come as no surprise that our average speed suffered a bit more here. And to add to the fun the wipers decided to go on strike. Luckily it happened just when we came out of the mist. With the weather turning dry at that moment, I decided to keep going for a while till we’d find a parking space with a street lantern in one of the villages we’d pass through. This we found in Sondernach in deepest darkest France.


My initial thought was either a blown fuse, which would be easy to get sorted, or a knackered motor, which wouldn’t. I checked all the fuses, but they all turned out to be OK, bugger! As I couldn’t find any loose connection and don’t carry spare windscreen wiper motors around Europe, there was not much else to do than carry on and hope for the best. But while setting of again there was some doubt in the back of my mind, so I stopped again to check something else. The wiper motor was still hot, but it hadn’t been working for more than half an hour, weird. I switched them on again, nothing happened, but when I gave them a little push, they moved to their parking position under their own steam, the joys of Lucas. Clearly the motor is to gutless to move the wipers over an (almost) dry windscreen! But we could carry on enjoying the roads till we hit the N66 just west of Cernay. From there it was a short trip through Mulhouse towards the next control stop.

When we arrived at the 4th control stop in Bartenheim at around 03:20 hrs we were reminded of the fact that our chosen route might have been shorter in distance, but clearly not in time. The parking lot was filled with Triumphs, and after switching of the engine the only sounds that could be heard was some light spannering going on and lots of snoring!
We tried to get some sleep here, but that was a rather futile exercise. In the end we left just over an hour after we arrived, heading for Switzerland. Aim was to be on top of one of the first passes at sun rise.

The First stretch through Switzerland was fairly easy so my navigator decided it was now time to sleep a bit. Needless to say I promptly missed the exit for the A8 towards the Brünigpass. As I only found out my error when we were halfway the southern shore of the Vierwaldstätter See, we decided to carry on from there straight to the St. Gotthard Pass. Needles to say that there was still no one there to sign the road book! Added bonus was that we reached one of the, in my opinion, most beautiful passes in the Alps just before sunrise.


Especially the old Tremolo road with its small cobblestones is an absolute brilliant drive. And because it was so gorgeous and completely free of traffic at that early hour, we did it twice just for the fun of it!


And with the sun coming up, it was time to put down the roof and start enjoying the roads, the scenery and the weather. Some pictures taken near or on top of the San Bernardino Pass ...






The last really enjoyable pass was the Splügen Pass, an old border crossing between the Swiss Rheinwald and the Italian San Giacomo Valley. This still is a very nice pass, but sadly here (as many other passes in the area) time didn’t stand still and the best bits, the narrow tunnels and very sharp hairpins, have been widened to accommodate the ever larger mouse grey Euro boxes …

After the Splügen Pass traffic slowly but surely became more and more dense. Especially the Passo del Maloja, between Chiavenna and Sankt Moritz was a bit of a disappointment, with long traffic cues due to roadworks, lorries and Ultra slow Camper vans (mostly “Grey Wave”). Luckily the Bernina again was much quieter, giving me a chance to have little fun with an Aston Martin Vantage (the modern one). It won’t come as a surprise that as soon as the road was wide enough and with no oncoming traffic, the Aston whooshed past and quickly vanished out of sight. Wished I had ‘t Kreng with me. After that everything seemed to go very quickly, and after lunch on top of the Ofen Pass we were over the gorgeous, and partially unsurfaced, Umbrail Pass and on top of the Stilfserjoch before we knew it. Even got caught by one of the webcams on top ...


And although the views from the top of this pass are still as impressive as ever ...


it has lost much of its old time charm. Only one reason for that, it’s much too crowded with stupid people who don’t know how to drive properly. Nicely illustrated by this mouse grey Euro box on the descent of the northern slope ...


But in the end we managed to get off the mountain at around half past three, time for a, by now rather traditional stop in Sponding, and a well deserved beer ...


So far so good with no real problems, although the clutch still had a tendency to stick a little so now and then. But on the positive side the engines’ temperature remained rock steady irrelevant of the load and the conditions. Clearly the new viscous coupling I fitted two weeks ago is paying off. Even the fuel consumption remained very good, still averaging at around 10 km/lt or just over 30 mpg. And not unimportant, the brakes, although pretty hot on some occasions, remained very effective so far. We also used the stop to make some plans for the rest of the day. My GPS calculated an estimated time of arrival at our hotel near Sankt Ulrich of 18:20 hrs. And that was via the quickest route. As it had been a long day, we decided to go for this option.

Sadly just before we reached our hotel I managed to misjudge the last corner of the day, clipping it too tight. As a result I got into the grass verge, were a hefty piece of rock had been waiting just for that to happen ...


The damage; one shredded tyre, a bent wheel, a damaged front spoiler and some minor damage to the RH front suspension. Nothing I could do but walk to the hotel to get some transport for the luggage and navigator, and start phoning around for some emergency repairs and a new tyre (yes, I don’t carry a spare wheel). Didn’t go to plan, so I went for a few beers and a good meal.

Luckily next morning turned out much better, the tow truck that had been promised for the previous evening turned up nice and early. The damage to the suspension was negligible (some parts need to be re-coated) and the bearing seemed OK. Only the rim was bent a bit, but nothing a few well aimed blows with a hefty hammer couldn’t sorted. Not good for the coating, but that was damaged already by the rock. Biggest problem was the tyre, 185/70x13” isn’t what you call a current size. In the end I had to go for a compromise (165/70x13”) just to get us home half decently, but the car was road worthy again.

And just before 10 o’clock I was back at the hotel, to have a cup of coffee and to say goodbye to the friends. So by the time the first Triumphs appeared in the Val Gardena, we set off for the second day. But instead of taking the main road to the west and the A22 Brenner Motorway, we took the old road which was more north ward bound. Turned out as an advantage as it gave us some views off the A22 before joining it. It was jammed with traffic. So instead of taking the A22 we took the old road again, the SS12 heading parallel to the motorway. Glad we did it, as the traffic jam stretched as far as Sterzing, where we should have left the A22 for the Jauffenpass.

By the time we reached the foot of the Jauffenpass the tourists and day-trippers were starting to emerge, so the run up the pass was at a fairly sedate pace. We decided to have lunch at the Alpenrose, in Walten, just because we passed it around lunch time. They have a lovely nice balcony overlooking the pass road, so while having lunch we could enjoy the sight of the first few Triumphs coming past, heading for the last proper pass of the day, the Timmelsjoch.
With our lunch finished we also headed in that direction. Despite the very fine weather the road wasn’t too crowded, and we could maintain a nice pace. The car was still behaving quite nicely, although just under the top of the Timmesjoch it developed a slight rumbling noise from the left hand rear when turning sharp to the right. But as we came over the top of the pass at around 3 o’clock, while changing down a gear, to drive into the parking area, there was a dull crack from somewhere and all drive was lost. With the ‘box still in gear I stopped the car and released the clutch, nothing happened. Could either be a broken clutch, gearbox or snapped half shaft. But when I looked underneath the car the prop shaft wasn’t spinning. So definitely the problem must be in the transmission. Exit 10CR finish.

And in between several phone calls for a recovery truck, there was not much else we could do but wait and enjoy the views and the other cars, most of whom still had to pass the Timmelsjoch by that time...




By half past five I had another phone call, just to check what was keeping the recovery truck from showing up. They told me someone had been up there over an hour ago and that there had been no one there. As I had been outside all the time, with a sharp eye on the road from the Austrian side I couldn’t agree with them. The long wait went on. Luckily out of the fog the last Triumphs to come over the top of the Timmesljoch that day, appeared to keep us a little company and to liven up the wait ...


But at a quarter past seven in the evening we were all on our own on top of an ever foggier, darker and lonelier Timmelsjoch. Or a rather typical case of "it's lonely at the top" ...


Half an hour later the recovery truck emerged from the foggy darkness at last ...


After that it was down the mountain to the nearest larger village, Sölden, and find ourselves a hotel for the night which we did, thanks to the driver of the recovery truck. And after a very nice meal I spent the rest of the evening on the phone to get us home, all very frustrating. Always nice to see that in such cases no one from the insurance companies gives a damn. They screw up the first recovery, leaving us for 5 hours on top of a mountain and then refuse point blank to get things sorted properly (“sorry we can’t reach any one this late”). In the end I managed to find a hire car through the driver from the recovery truck the next morning. 
And at 10 o’clock on the Sunday morning we were in a taxi and heading for Innsbruck, to pick up a nice Ford Focus estate. We left Innsbruck and headed north towards Rolduc by 11:30 hr. The drive was rather eventful too, with lots of traffic jams due to just too much traffic on the Fernpass, a broken down car in the fast lane near Ulm, and a burning car on the hard shoulder near Frankfurt. The fact that the last holidays ended in Germany that day didn’t help either, as did the downpour on the A61. In between the Focus managed a very decent pace though. We even managed to overtake some 5 teams in the last few hours before the finish. And at around half past eight in the evening, we turned onto the drive of the Rolduc monastery. Time for a few well deserved beers ...

At the moment (Saturday evening 17th of September) the car’s still not back, but I have started on the repairs already. I ordered a new (now uprated) clutch kit from AP Racing. I also sourced a useable gearbox from my spare parts collection and started dismantling it in preparation for a rebuild.

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