Bucket List Entry #3: Spa Francorchamps

I’ve never been a racing driver, nor wanted to be one. However, I do like driving sports cars hard, ever since a buddy let me cane his Alfa Romeo Montreal over a newly-opened freeway outside Johannesburg. I haven’t had much opportunity, however, so on my bucket list here’s a simple entry: drive a sports car around a race track — and the track of choice would be Spa Francorchamps, in the Ardennes Mountains in Belgium.

…and I have to tell you, a large part of my desire for Spa is that the countryside surrounding it is just gorgeous. Ditto the Circuit Paul Ricard, because it’s in Provence, fer goshsakes (but Spa still wins it every time, for me).

 

The car? I don’t really care, as long as it doesn’t break down in mid-circuit. Modern sports cars are too clinical, too perfect with all the mechanical and electronic doodads they bring to the party — not that I’d say “no” to a flip around Spa in a Ferrari California, though:

But I’m an old fashioned kinda guy, and I’d prefer to drive something a little more… elemental, something which captures the spirit of a bygone era. Something like a Caterham Seven 360, which is based on the old Lotus Seven of the 1960s:

Six-speed manual gearbox, 2.0-liter Duratec engine (yeah, from a Ford Mondeo) which puts out 180hp — on a chassis that weighs less than I do — all in a car that seats my ass but six inches off the ground and can out-drag a Kawasaki.

Sounds like fun, dunnit? Which is why it’s on the old Bucket List.

 

Bucket List Entry #2: High Birds

I get this letter from the foul Mr. Free Market, who torments me with visions of shotgunning Over There:

So tomorrow afternoon I will be driving down to Exmoor – it’s a 3 to 4 hour drive depending on traffic & we will be staying at Morebath Manor near Tiverton. “Set in 21 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland in a sporting area renowned for its highflying birds, the grand, nine-bedroom manor house dates from Domesday, but was rebuilt between 1892 and 1894 for Charles Digby Harrod, founder of the landmark Knightsbridge store, following his retirement in 1891”

& then on Tuesday & Wednesday we have two big days at Haddeo, which is generally regarded as one of the best game shoots in the country – stick it into Google & see what pops up. So, double gunning with loaders it is ! My Berettas will be glowing…

Here’s what Haddeo is all about:

HADDEO & LOYTON 
Entry in the Field’s Top 50 Shoots, 2012
In perfect partnership, the Loyton shoot joined with the prestigious Haddeo ground. Entering its fourth united season and covering some 6,000 acres, the pairing offers an outstanding spectrum of high-bird drives situated around the magnificent Exe Valley. Haddeo has for many years been cited as an epitome of Exe Valley shooting, alongside its near neighbour Milton’s. Brought to fame by the legendary Ned Goschen in the days when it was shot as ‘Pixton’, with an interim period in syndicated hands, Angus was thrilled to be given the opportunity to take the shoot on in 2011.
The Loyton shoot was set up by the late Alick Barnes in the 1960s as a low-key family affair and, over the years, developed into an impressive and competitive Exmoor ‘great’. Its proximity to the more famous Haddeo made it the natural partner and has been successfully managed as one for the past four years.
Covering some truly beautiful terrain, it is easy to feel the essence of old Exmoor uniting these two shoots, enriched by a distinguished heritage and family presence. Many of the drives are set along the Haddeo River – you cross the ford at the old village of Bury – and the Exe, a setting which is both spectacular and daunting at once! Famous drives such as St Paul’s will stay in memory for a lifetime, presenting a ‘leisurely’ flow of incredibly high, soaring birds, to be seen way over the treetops – an unforgettable sight for spectator and participating sportsman alike!
There are many key drives between Haddeo & Loyton but be prepared for Brookside, Lloyd’s, Swine’s Cleave, Beech Cover, Buckley’s, Woodcock Corner etc. Predominantly pheasant, they also release partridge on five of the drives.
Quarry: Pheasant and partridge from early October to the end of January.
NOURISHMENT
Lunch is most usually served in the Shoot Tent, set in the grounds of Loyton Lodge. This is a large and hugely comfortable safari-style affair, views of the surrounding countryside and offering the best of both worlds: Bask in the sunshine early on in the season or warm yourself sitting by the log burner on the colder, later days. Whatever the weather, this is a highly enjoyable experience and something a little bit different. In keeping with years of family tradition, expect an irresistible interpretation of the more traditional shooting lunch: delectable pies, roast chicken or our famous curry. A converted Land Rover Series 90 is used to serve celebrated mid-morning breaks with home-reared pork sausages, soups and pies from a luxurious purpose-built bar.

Are you getting the idea yet? No? Then spend a little time with ace shotgunner Dave Carrie at another beautiful shoot, Warter Priory (about 15 minutes — don’t bother trying to understand what he’s saying, even other Yorkshiremen have trouble — just enjoy the atmosphere and marvel at the difficulty of the sport). Happy dogs, good shooters, Range- and Land Rovers… the list goes on and on. Note too that the shooters are wearing ties and waistcoats — my kind of dress altogether. Yeah, it’s all a bit old-fashioned… like me.

All jokes aside, I want to do this so badly, it makes my trigger finger itch like it’s been bitten by a mosquito. And then there’s Mulgrave, which makes me want to hitch-hike across the Atlantic.

And here’s the gun I want to use: an AyA No.4 (Bournbrook) in 20ga but to be honest, I’d take just about any old shotgun in any chambering, as long as it has side-by-side barrels — because as any fule kno, shotguns barrels belong side-by-side, like a man and his dog; not over-and-under, like a man and his mistress. And double triggers, please.

Mr. Free Market’s original letter was entitled: “This Is Why You Hate Me”, and it is. One day, Rodders… [obscure British reference].

Bucket List Entry #1: Mille Miglia

I have alluded to my Bucket List before — those things I’d like to do before I kick the bucket — and I was going to put up the entire list, but that’s too much to digest in one gulp, I think. So rather than that, I’ll do one item at a time. Here’s the first.

From Wikipedia:

The Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles) was an open-road endurance race which took place in Italy twenty-four times from 1927 to 1957 (thirteen before the war, eleven from 1947).
Like the older Targa Florio and later the Carrera Panamericana, the MM made Gran Turismo (Grand Touring) sports cars like Alfa Romeo, BMW, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes Benz and Porsche famous. The race brought out an estimated five million spectators.
From 1953 until 1957, the Mille Miglia was also a round of the World Sports Car Championship.
Since 1977, the “Mille Miglia” has been reborn as a regulated race for classic and vintage cars. Participation is limited to cars, produced no later than 1957, which had attended (or were registered) to the original race. The route (Brescia-Rome round trip) is similar to that of the original race, maintaining the point of departure / arrival in Viale Venezia in Brescia.

And here’s the course:

Remember that the course uses only public roads, and in the old days, it was one of the most dangerous races in the world… for spectators. (That’s why the actual race was suspended, by the way. Cars were getting so fast that they were becoming uncontrollable, and because people are stupid, they weren’t backing off from the cars whizzing past; they were trying to get closer to the track — with the inevitable results.) Nowadays, it’s more like a moving Concours D’Elegance, more’s the pity.

Now let me be perfectly clear: I don’t want anything to do with the race. What I do want to do is drive the circuit, but in a gentlemanly, leisurely fashion, with a companion in a small but quick car which can navigate some of the tiny, ultra-narrow village streets through which the course runs when it’s not barreling through the northern Italian countryside.

I also don’t care what vintage car I use, as long as it’s a convertible. It could be an actual Stirling Moss-type Mercedes 300 Gullwing in powder blue:

Lovely, except that the color is really gay. How gay?

Or the car could be modern, so that we don’t spend  a week or two marooned in some tiny dago village while the car’s getting fixed, with nothing to do but drink and… okay, let’s leave that part in abeyance for the moment, until we get to the discussion of Kim’s Partner.

So, a more modern conveyance, there’s the Fiat 124 Spider Lusso:

…which fits the bill best in terms of beauty and the ability to make it through some really narrow streets:

But enough about cars. Let’s talk about my companion. There are two options, male and female. Leaving aside the obvious attractions of a comely wench for the trip:

…I think I’d rather make the trip with a buddy than with a broad. Why? Let me count the reasons:

There aren’t many public restrooms along the Mille Miglia. This means I’d have to stop at several intervals along the way — i.e every time we saw a public WC — so that Milady would not be caught short in the middle of the countryside. Also, I’d probably want to stop often because romantic countryside plus miniskirt in the passenger seat… well, you get my drift, ’nuff said. Finally, most women are not capable of consuming large quantities of Italian plonk en route — something which cannot be said about any of my rowdy friends.

I’ll let you know if this part of my dream comes true.