Time flies when you’re having fun so the old adage goes, and in the case of this year’s Bangers4BEN adventure, that doesn’t ring more true.
It’s just over a month since this year’s Bangers4BEN came to an end on the docks of Dover ferry port. Amongst the competing teams it’s fair to say that even though the weeks have passed by, it’s proving hard to shake the Bangers4BEN blues. That feeling alone is testament to the incredible journey we and the other participants experienced in our drive across Europe with our ultimate goal of ending up in the Italian town of Maranello, the spiritual home of Ferrari.
What is Bangers4BEN? Bangers4BEN, (B4B), in essence is a banger rally with the sole purpose of raising money for charity. It is organised every year by automotive industry publication, CarDealer magazine and at the end of the trip all competing cars are auctioned. The key beneficiary is the rally’s namesake, BEN, the Motor & Allied Trades Benevolent Fund. BEN exists to support anyone who works directly in or is associated to the automotive industry. They offer tailored and holistic care and support services which focus on the main pillars of a person’s well being; financial, physical, mental and social. All money raised throughout B4B and the end auction gets donated directly back to the charity.
The B4B event has now become a firm fixture on the automotive events calendar and has taken place for a number of years. Each year has a different theme and route and each competitor must take part in a car that has been sourced for £750 or less. This year the theme was ‘Ferrari Frolics’ and saw us tackle some of the finest tarmac and views Europe has to offer. Making our way from Dover down through France, through the heart of Switzerland and into Northern Italy, the aim was to end up in the northern Italian town of Maranello for the ultimate Ferrari pilgrimage! This wasn’t a one way ticket however, to complete the rally we had to return back to Dover where the rally crosses the finish line.
To take us on our adventure, we were very generously donated a 2004 Hyundai Getz, by one of our customers, Orchard Garage Ltd. Presented with South Korea’s finest, this 1.1 litre wonder was perfect for our trip. Originally black in colour, we settled on a Pokemon Go theme for our banger to ensure we really stood out! Enlisting the very generous services of WrapUK who are based in Chichester, for the vinyl wrap, our car was completely transformed.
Banger obtained, theme implemented and donned in fancy dress, we were ready and raring to go. Assembling on the docks at Dover we met up with our competitors and admired the sheer number of themes. There were cars decorated as the Mystery Machine and Batman, right through to cars fully wrapped in fur material in a nod to the van from Dumb and Dumber!
Day 1: Saturday 8th October – Dover to Colmar, France
After getting odd glances and being hounded for selfies by Pokemon loving school children on the ferry it was time to disembark and hit the motorways for a blast down to Colmar, in south eastern France. An 8 hour drive of just over 400 miles saw us arrive under the cover of darkness. 3 full tanks of fuel down and many toll booths passed through, much needed food and sleep was in order ready to tackle day 2!
Day 2: Sunday 9th October – Colmar to Maranello, Italy
Day two and this was the big one, a little bit of France remained but we would drive through the whole of central Switzerland today and across the border into an absolutely rain soaked northern Italy. Neither of us had visited Switzerland before and we were stunned by the scenery we saw. Over lakes and through valleys, the views never got tiresome. There was also tunnel after tunnel, one of which was over 10 km long! Into Italy it was next a detour around Milan and straight down to Maranello, the home of Ferrari! A visit to the Ferrari factory museum complete, which is home to many of the manufacturer’s Formula 1 championship winning cars, it was time to visit the Ferrari test track and get a picture of ourselves and our banger in front of as many Ferrari landmarks as possible! An amazing day was completed by enjoying dinner in a restaurant adorned with Ferrari memorabilia across the road from the main Ferrari factory gates.
Day 3: Monday 10th October – Maranello to Strasbourg, France
Just when we thought the trip couldn’t get any better, day 3 dawned (still raining!). Waking up in a hotel which overlooked the Ferrari factory, it was time to head back to France. It was to be the same route, but with some very special on route detours thrown in. In the morning we made a stop at the Italian Grand Prix circuit, Monza. The circuit was open for a test session and the guards were more than happy for us to go inside. Parked up, we had the circuit virtually to ourselves and spent some time soaking up the atmosphere from the grandstands and watching the track action. Back in the car, from Monza we then headed for Switzerland passing by the stunning Lake Como and onto the Swiss Alps. The afternoon was spent taking hairpin bend after hairpin bend in proper TopGear style over an alpine pass called the Furka Pass. This pass was used in the car chase sequence in Goldfinger and we were sure to make a stop and replicate the Sean Connery scene where he looks down on Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce! The end of the pass greeted us with a snow topped plateau with endless views of the alps into the distance. A drive back down the pass in snow and ice and it was destination Strasbourg for the final night!
Day 4: Tuesday 11th October – Strasbourg to Dover
After our final supper with our fellow B4B competitors the night before, it was time to set our course back to the UK. The motorways of central and northern France were no match for the scenery of the previous couple of days, however a pitstop at the now abandoned 1920’s Reims Grand Prix circuit, the original birth place of Grand Prix racing, more than made up for it. Another of couple of hundred miles down and it was back to Calais to meet up with the rest of the B4B contingent. Sailing into the sunset on the P&O ferry, it was time for the final goodbyes with the rest of the group and a reflection back on what was an incredible and unforgettable trip.
Wheels back on the tarmac in Dover, and we had done it! We and our trusty Hyundai Getz had made it! Door to door a trip of just over 2000 miles in 4 days!
All that remained was for our car to be auctioned. On October 28th all participating cars were auctioned at British Car Auctions at Blackbushe, Surrey, with the sale of the cars alone bringing in over £14,000 for the charity. With other donations taken into account, the final total for the Bangers4BEN 2016 event raised over £56,000!
A huge thank you to everyone for their support and our sincerest thanks must go to Orchard Garage Ltd and WrapUK for the very generous donation of the car and for the vinyl wrap of our Pokemon theme.