Order! Order!

So having expressed an interest in buying an Abarth 124 Spider, I signed up to see if I could attend a proper test drive session: not just a quick trip around the block, especially as my local Abarth dealer is based in central London!

I put £1,000 down as a deposit and was told initially that I might be able to get one at the end of September 2016 in my chosen specification: San Marino 1972 Black and not in the Heritage trim (i.e. no matt black bonnet or boot like you see in the promo videos) as I don’t think that metallic and matt blacks would go well together. The option pack that was coming with was the Bose speaker upgrade so I was pleased with that.  A few days later, I was told Abarth UK would be in touch about a proper drive: a track session at Silverstone. That was the good news. The bad news was that they’d also accepted an order for the same car at the same time. The better news was they had another San Marino 1972 Black non-Heritage coming in sometime around the end of October/November with the Bose pack but also with the Visibility pack (rain sensors for wipers, and lights, rear parking sensors, automatic LED headlights and daytime running LEDs), so the price went up but at least I had one lined up, subject to a satisfactory hoon as I was worried about such a little 1,4L engine after the (officially-rated) 2.6L engine in my RX-8 R3.

I was going to be at some friends’ wedding over the weekend of 6/7 August and they managed to fit me on Sunday 7th in the afternoon on their weekend at Silverstone.

After a lap in the LHD version driven by the instructor, we swapped seats and off I went. Within a couple of laps I was drifting the Spider: really controllable and sounding lovely with the Monza exhaust!

Image courtesy of Abarth UK Abarth 124 Spiders in Pitlane Abarth Badge Vintage Abarth 124 Spider Image courtesy of Abarth UK Abarth 124 Prototype Test Drive at Silverstone Me Chasing Down a Competizione at Silverstone Vintage Abarth 124 Spider

This made up my mind so the next question was finalising the finances, including the part-exchange of the RX-8 and transfer of its personalised numberplate, 2000 RM.  I’d also been told that they’d had an updated delivery date of the end of September again for mine as well.

So I went into the dealer, Motor Village Marylebone, to sign the papers and drink their coffee and the deal was done!

Eurothrash 2016: Normandy, Brittany and the Pays de la Loire

So with another girls’ weekend in Newquay ahead of Alison and none of my riding mates able to come with me if I went anywhere, I decided I’d head to a part of France I’d never visited before, so I thought I’d head to Le Mont-Saint-Michel.

I looked at the “Ride” magazine guide to France and some of their suggested routes around there and the Atlantic coast and booked a couple of other overnight stops at the end of a couple of routes, sight unseen.

I booked a Eurotunnel crossing with their Flexiplus fare so that I could be as pressure-free as possible on my way back with the longest leg of the tour. After a 4.30am start, I turned up in plenty of time and was waved straight through and onto a train waiting to leave. They even gave me my own personal carriage 🙂

The Sprint GT and an empty carriage

The Sprint GT and an empty carriage

After around 560km I arrived at my hotel, having had to talk my way around one of the barriers stopping entry to the town without a code – which I had, thinking it was the code to the hotel’s own carpark (which they don’t have). Thanks to Accor’s loyalty plan, I’d been able to check in early so I spent the afternoon wandering around the actual Mont-Saint-Michel with its narrow streets and steps. Perfect for pushchairs, apparently…

I decided to walk back to the hotel as the queue for the bus was very long and after dinner came back out to take some more photos as night fell. Here are some photos:

2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1106 2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1120 2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1092 2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1112 2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1095 2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1138

My next stop was at Quimper. I’d found what was supposed to be a four star place to stay without really realising it was a campsite and that there weren’t really hotel-type rooms in the accepted sense in the Chateau itself. Worse than that was the 5.00pm check-in. I messaged them to see if I could check in earlier but hadn’t heard back before I set off so I enjoyed the lovely roads and stopped at Guingamp for coffee and lunch:

2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1146 2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1144

I checked my emails to find I could check in earlier after all, so off I went. I arrived around 4.00pm and checked-in at Reception, rode around to the chateau and couldn’t find any way to get in. After 45 minutes, i was lucky enough to find someone who could point me in the right direction, by which point I was a sodden, sweaty lump thanks to the hot day and a full set of leathers.

Still it was nice and ‘authentic’ and I did enjoy my time there:

Parked-up for the night

Parked-up for the night

L'Orangerie de Lanniron

L’Orangerie de Lanniron

L'Orangerie de Lanniron

L’Orangerie de Lanniron

Check-out time was 10.00am so after breakfast I set out for St Nazaire on some more lovely roads, going via Quiberon, which meant filtering along through the traffic queues onto the peninsula. A nice stop for moules and a wave to America and I was back on the road.

Hello America!

Hello America!

Moules Mariniere

Moules Mariniere

I arrived at the Hotel Majestic La Baule and wandered off to take some photos and get a coffee and Coke … and a Cuba Libre.

2048-RHMP-Eurothrash-1153

The next morning after a lovely breakfast I waved goodbye and set off for home: a small matter of 770km.

The sun's up and it's time to leave

The sun’s up and it’s time to leave

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

I made it to Calais in plenty of time and despite the “helpful” UK Border Agency making me remove my helmet – even though he could clearly see my face – which slowed things up, I got on to an earlier train back (see my earlier comment about Flexiplus).

Home and a shower and a coffee and I was almost human after 2002km. I do like the Triumph Sprint GT 1050 and I also like my new leathers: Triumph “Taloc” leather jacket and jeans which are heat-reflective with zipped ventilation to help you keep cool and they’re also weather-resistant/waterproof supposedly. I only had a couple of light showers so no chance to really test that out, but there are inner liners to let the rain run out if it makes it through the leather.

2002km

2002 kilometres

1244 miles

1244 miles

Switzerland 2016

So the plan was for us to take the Triumph Sprint GT for a two-up trip to the Alps with a couple of our friends this summer. But for various work-related reasons, that all fell through which just left Alison and me going alone. I found a lovely-looking hotel in Gstaad that looked the part, booked it and asked them to reserve a place for the bike in their garage.

And then Alison said, “Why don’t we take the MX-5? We could then even chat whilst we’re driving!” And so we changed plans and booked a Eurotunnel fare that was “Flexiplus” coming back for the MX-5. We’d have packed the Sprint’s top box and panniers relatively lightly, but the MX-5’s boot space gave us a little more space to play with; this is our luggage for a week away, comprising two holdalls, one wheeled bag and two running rucksacks with our running gear in:

Gstaad Luggage

Gstaad Luggage

London to Gstaad is quite a schlep so I found somewhere near Dijon to stay on the way down and the way back and booked those too and on the appointed day off we went with the roof up as it was an ‘oh-dark-hundred’ start.  Once we got to Folkestone, the roof came down and for the rest of the day’s drive it stayed down until we got to Gevrey-Chambertain and the Hotel Arts et Terroirs.  The hotel was quaint and comfortable but didn’t serve Dinner on a Sunday, so we walked into the town centre for a lovely meal at Chez Guy.

Monday morning after a lovely breakfast, we packed and set off towards Gstaad, making full use of the Sanef Tolling “Liber-t” tag e’d ordered in the UK and which allowed us to approach some péage toll booths at up to 30kph (the rest having to slow right down) and just drive through with no need to collect tickets or fumble for cards or cash.  Use this link to receive €5 off yours!

On arrival at the Hotel Gstaaderhof we drove into their underground car park and made our way to our lovely room with a hell of a view!

Hotel Gstaaderhof Balcony View

Hotel Gstaaderhof Balcony View

Tuesday saw us heading up the other side of the valley for a BBQ lunch laid on for us by the hotel which was a lovely gesture, followed by a rest day wandering around Gstaad. The plan was to go for a run in the late afternoon – I’d plotted out a couple of routes before we left – but a thunderstorm put paid to that.

Wednesday’s afternoon weather forecast was looking a little dodgy so after breakfast we borrowed a couple of mountain bikes from the hotel – at no charge! – and headed off for a shortish 20km ride:

Great fun!

Thursday was to be our drive up into the Alps with a plan to drive for a couple of hours to Innertkirchen and then start a figure of eight drive through the Five Passes. We hadn’t really left enough time for this and by the time we’d been stuck in some roadworks leading towards one of them, we decided that time wasn’t on our side, so we made do with just the Susken Pass, Furka Pass and Grimsel Pass.  Great fun, although the smell from the MX-5’s brakes showed we’d been pushing it quite hard…

Wave!

Wave!

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

Twisties

Twisties

Friday was another rest day. Well … if you count riding 42½km on mountain bikes as rest! But the day started with an invitation up to the top of the Höhi Wispily for breakfast cooked by our hotel’s owners. Fabulous views and a lovely breakfast.

Cheese!

Cheese!

Berghaus Wispile

Berghaus Wispile

After breakfast, we walked back to the hotel, changed and then hired mountain bikes from the hotel. We ended up doing some laps of Gstaad and out towards Saanen, stopping on each lap for a drink and a rest at one of the town’s restaurants. Sadly my Garmin fenix 3 has a habit of resetting itself when it’s paused for longer than 25 minutes (originally 5 minutes) and that’s just about as long as it takes to lock up a bike, find a table, order and drink a coke, a water and an espresso and then get the bill. So this ride got logged as four separate rides:

Saturday and we headed away from Gstaad. We’d decided to change our plans and rather than returning via Gevrey-Chambertain as originally booked, we’d earlier cancelled the booking and instead decided to go home via Strasbourg and the rather nice Château de l’Ile & Spa which had a pool. Very useful as temperatures had hit 33°C on the autobahns in Germany (where the MX-5 had hit 125mph and rising (with the roof down) before traffic built up and slowed us down).

 

First Beer of the Day

First Beer of the Day

After breakfast on the Sunday, we headed off for Calais and the Eurotunnel, still with the roof down. We almost managed a full continental trip with the roof down until an hour or so off our destination there was a torrential downpour. In the MX-5 we can keep above 80mph in rain and only get flicked with drops off the side window, but this rain was so heavy we couldn’t see far enough ahead to keep speed up and once we’d backed off sufficiently to be safe, we were getting very wet! Still, after half an hour or so, the sky lightened up and we dropped the roof for our return into Calais.

Having paid extra for Flexiplus, we were relatively quick through Border Agency and onto the next train, so well worth the extra money.

So, how did we fair? The MX-5 was lovely but – even with our 2.0 litre engine – it could have down with a little more oomph and possibly more fanfare? Ours puts out 160hp but that’s less than my RX-8 R3 at 230hp. The RX-8 has roughly the same power to  weight ratio as the new 170hp Abarth 124 Spider which is based on the Fiat 124 Spider which is in turn based on the Mazda MX-5…

So that got me thinking: I’d loved the open-top motoring of the MX-5 but wanted more pace and noise and we’d managed quite well with the limited luggage space in the MX-5, so as my RX-8 R3 is getting long in the tooth – 87,000 miles and 6½ years old – maybe it’s time to make the switch? So I’ve placed an order for one subject to a test drive on Sunday at Silverstone race circuit. Maybe next year, we’ll take the Abarth to the Pyrenees?

Mazda MX-5 RF

So the other night Mazda unveiled its new MX-5 RF at the 2016 New York Motor Show.

3Mazda_MX-5RF_showmodel_Side_open_white-1140x400

Wow! I love the look of this. And it actually looks great with the roof up as well.

MX-5-RF-GIF

So, a two seater fastback that looks great but this one looks like a Targa top as well. So do we trade-in the MX5 Sport Venture later this year when this RF becomes available or do we trade in the RX-8 R3 on the basis that the RX-Vision may not be released for a while yet, and then only as a two-seater?

Berlin Marathon – Photos and Video

So I ran my first marathon on 27 September 2015: the 42nd Berlin Marathon. Despite having done very little real preparation – you can see my running diary in earlier entries – I finished it in 5 hrs 27 minutes and 23 seconds. This time was engraved on the back of my medal which also shows the world record time set last year, just to rub it in! Anyway, here’s some video of me finishing as well as some of the photos on the course:

Relieved Happy finisher Richard and Alison Crossing the line Approaching the finish Approaching the finish 347374_206011965_XLarge En route Keep on running

Berlin Marathon – Photos and Video

So I ran my first marathon on 27 September 2015: the 42nd Berlin Marathon. Despite having done very little real preparation – you can see my running diary in earlier entries – I finished it in 5 hrs 27 minutes and 23 seconds. This time was engraved on the back of my medal which also shows the world record time set last year, just to rub it in! Anyway, here’s some video of me finishing as well as some of the photos on the course:

Relieved Happy finisher Richard and Alison Crossing the line Approaching the finish Approaching the finish 347374_206011965_XLarge En route Keep on running