Reims - Zurich - 6 Hours 48 Minutes - 529 Kms
Adopting our newly found military precision and approach, we gathered in our vehicles in the underground car park bright and early. We were heady on petrol fumes with the sound of engines revving and orders being barked as to who should leave when.
Surfacing into the day’s sunlight, heated radio discussions ensued about which direction to take, with all believing they were travelling in the correct direction even if it was opposite to our Team Leader who we were supposed to follow.
We had been issued with Satnavs by the organisers which understandably didn’t pick up a signal in the underground carparks. These were to be the main stay of the rally, so morning starts were sometimes a little chaotic.
We were given our hotel addresses and basic road directions with our journey only being mapped out in any detail on the previously mentioned Satnavs using rally weigh points.
It appeared these Satnavs came in three groups –
1 Worked perfectly and totally reliable
2 Eventually worked after a few minutes of talking nicely to it whilst playing soothing driving music and offering a boiled sweetie. However, it could well stop co-operating at any point and usually when you were about to take an exit
3 The Aladdin special edition which simply showed your vehicle flying across the landscape without identifying any roads whatsoever whilst assuring you it was ‘Recalculating’ and counting from 0 – 100% in rotation.
We were lucky enough to have the latter version and were told by a particularly helpful gentleman on our team to just ‘just don't worry, follow us to Bosnia and stop asking questions about the route’… marvellous!
The BMW professional navigation system is operated from the center console and again I followed the SOS rule of avoid the instruction manual whenever possible. You can enter data by either writing on the touch controller or twisting the large dial. There is a large 8.8 inch screen on the central screen on the dash and a smaller heads up display next to the speedo which is projected on to the windscreen. Sadly we only had an address for the hotel at the end of every day which didn’t take in the full rally route but thankfully we were in safe BMW hands to navigate us to our pillows every night.
We eventually regrouped at a Peage, but quite an amount of time had been lost with a long day on the road ahead, so we pressed on through the Champagne Region into the green French countryside and stunning Wildlife parks therein.
After 4 hours of non-stop driving, we reached the gem that is the town of Gerardmer. Nestled around a stunning and huge lake, the town enjoys first class water sports in the summer months and welcomes skiers throughout the winter.
With our steeds parked, cold drinks in hand and surrounded by colourful flowers and the sun glistening on the lake we began to feel dangerously relaxed and dare we say it, like we were on holiday.
That would simply not do on our Rally For Heroes Mission, so we finished our drinks, posed for photographs and waved Gerardmer goodbye with the firm intention of one day returning to enjoy all it had to offer.
We knuckled down to completing the remaining 150 miles of our journey to Zurich.
There is simply nothing better than the Harman Kardon sound system used by the BMW M2. You can literally fire up a concert hall in the cab of the car and introduce anything from Nickleback to the Royal Philharmonic in glorious surround sound.
We made our way to our hotel of the day, music pumping, ears nearly bleeding with a fabulous sunset sprawled out before us. This car and this rally were awesome.
Staying at an out of town hotel to accommodate our parking requirements (cars come first) we boarded a tram into town to find a restaurant. Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, yet somehow maintains its charm and the crooked back streets that run alongside the river.
A variety of colourful shops greeted us most of which were sadly closed. It took some time to find a restaurant that catered for the needs and requirements of the wider team. Frankly I would have been happy with a cold beer and cheese sandwich after such a long day which I guess is one slight disadvantage to travelling in a group...
Eventually a window front table in a quaint Italian restaurant was found and bowls of steaming pasta and ice-cold wine and water pounced upon. I can’t tell fibs and must warn you that in my opinion, the food in Zurich generally seemed very expensive indeed but the destination compensates.
The trams stop at 2230hrs so we marched back to the pick up point and enjoyed a coffee in our hotel garden whilst large passenger planes came into land over our heads with ear splitting enthusiasm.
We were shown how to re-programme our special Satnav by others that had experienced the same challenge and asked if we could have some more detail on the route in case it failed again.
Day 2 had genuinely left our heads spinning regarding what had happened in a mere 48 hours and left us looking ahead to the rally with excitement and a small dollop of dread regarding some of the challenges that we were going to have to be navigated through… excuse the pun!