As some of you might remember from Part 1 of my elaborate report, Day 1 and the preparation for the Meet went outstanding. If you havent read it yet, please, feel free to do so:
Now, to start the story where we left off..
Day 1, Saturday, March 25:
08:45 in the morning.......08:45. In my usual mood, I’d be cursing myself for drinking so much and waking up at this ungodly hour. I did curse while waking up, but it was more of a ‘damnit Niko, get yourself out of bed’ type of cursing.
It was happening. Day 1 of the EurOppoMeet had officially started. I had quickly gotten to my senses, jumped out of bed, grabbed my clothes and raced to the shower. No time to slouch, it was time for EUROPPOMEET!
The group had, with the help of our dear Duurtlang, a very good (albeit saltless, right MultiPla?) breakfast. The whole group gathered in the wooden chalet and was (slowly) getting ready for a nice drive out to Coo.
Now, if it wasn’t clear from my first part that this trip was full of epic, spirited drives, it will be after this one. The drive to the Coo waterfalls was certainly no exception to the rule. Sweeping, long corners through thick, dense forrests, tight backroads that could set the stage in any proper Rally, hard turns, banked turns, crests, you name it, the EurOppo trip had it.
I can’t even remember the last time I had so much fun in the Integra. The car was feeling very much at home, with the long straights being mixed in for some VTEC action. I followed the grey Espace in our group nearly the whole way to Coo. Our pack leader, ZZW30, kept the pace quick enough for me to properly enjoy the roads. Not too fast, not too slow either, just perfect.
I was initially afraid that with an 11-car group, we might not have enough space to ‘stretch our legs’, to do some proper sporty driving, but boy was I wrong. The roads were so fantastic, the pace was so good that it never really felt like being in an 11-car convoy. Sure, I knew that I had to keep my eye on that Espace’s tail, but it never felt like we got stuck somewhere because our group was too large.
After about 45 minutes of back road driving, we entered a small town in the middle of the Ardennes, where the back end of one French dame, the Espace, got switched for another French dame, this one a bit less.....bulky...the 406 Coupe. During the whole drive, I just couldn’t stop smiling, couldn’t stop thinking how happy I was. Smiling all the way, like a dog with his favourite bone.
We arrived after what seemed like an hour’s drive, which felt way too short, at Coo. Now, as much as I love and enjoy proper, spirited driving, I enjoy nature and its natural beauty as well. Coo Waterfalls was an amazing place in the middle of all the driving heaven. The waterfalls brought some sort of calmth and peace with them, combined with an urgency to pee if you stared at them too long. Or maybe that was the beer from last night...?
Either way, we met up with another, smaller portion of our EurOppoMeet group. We were joined by two awesome, may I say, hot-hatch driving Frenchmen (Yes Clems, your Clio has been awarded the ‘Hot Hatch’ title since this weekend!) and two equally awesome Dutchies. As the newly acquired EurOppo friends parked their cars, the rest of the EurOppo group decided it was a good idea to sit down and have a drink at the park.
The now 15-heads strong group had another moment to get to know each other better and as I sat there, I witnessed a proper bonding come along. As an outsider, it’s worth remembering that this is a group of people that had never met before (apart from the few from Holland). Sure, we all had that one thing in common, which is ‘Cars’ (not the movie, or maybe, the movie too, never actually bothered to ask the group..), but even without that common trait, the group got along so well. There was a tremendous sense of mutual respect for each others cars, interest in each other which proceeded the cars we drove. It was bro-bonding at its best, without the Subaru’s and vaping, instead, think of the Top Gear trio during one of their Specials. Even though they prank the hell out of each other and leave each other stranded by the side of the road (for the sake of funny television), they sit down at the same table and share car stories until the camera fades out.
When all of us had our drinks finished at Coo, the group of 15 cars fired up their engines and drove down some more beautiful, twisty mountain roads. Our next destination? A place where legends are born, where, unfortunately, legends have also died. A place that houses world famous corners like the ‘Eau Rouge’ and ‘Busstop’. I am, of course, talking about the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps!
I had a sense of being extra proud and extra happy with our next destination. Partly because I took the responsibillity of organizing some activities around Spa, but also because it was my first time ever on the track. Mind you, we had no plans of doing a proper track day at Spa, but the fact that we could, at least, do Parade Laps and get a private tour of the track made me incredibly excited.
We arrived around midday and would meet another fellow Honda driver at the track. Yay, VTEC x 2! The S2000 stood proudly at the parking lot, waiting for our convoy to arrive, however, the owner was nowhere to be found and the track organizer was trying to rush us on track. The more we waited, the more the Belgian tour guide started waving his arms and directing us into the nearby track entrance. We tried to postpone it as much as we could, but since the track was rented out to a high-dollar supercar club, we had absolutely no leg to stand on and entered the inner parking lot of the track compound. We waited in front of the fence to go on track as I desperately looked around to see if a certain S2000, a BMW 5-series, a blue Skoda wagon and a black Twingo would appear. No sight of any of the cars.
We waited for what felt like forever, until I saw at least one of the cars I was looking out for: the s2000! Woohoo! 16 cars and counting! As if by a miracle, our pace car completed his lap, the tour guide opened the fence and we were off. I had a mixed feeling of being excited to finally hit Spa, but at the same time felt guilty for not being able to stall the activity long enough to complete our group (We still missed the Skoda, the BMW and another Twingo).
My feeling of guilt got pushed out of the way really quickly as soon as we were climbing, literally climbing the Eau Rouge corner. Man, those elevation changes! It looks ballsy enough to see a racer drive an F1 car at full throttle through that corner, but actually feeling and sensing the elevation changes on that track...incredible! Barrelling down the old start/finish towards Eau Rouge, you are greeted by a mixture of grass, red/white apex and twisty pavement, all coming at you like a multi-coloured wall, right before you go up, across the hill.
After our 2 laps of fury, we parked our cars near the track and were greeted by our Belgian tour guide. We opted to wait a bit with the tour and stretch out as much time as we can so that our last portion of the group, the Skingomw (Skoda, Twingo, BMW) could join us before starting. Unfortnately the tour guide had some other duties after our group and by 13:30, had decided the wait was over and started our tour. We had some insights in the track’s history, gotten some great footage from behind the scenes, visited the press room, the podium, the press conference room, by the time we arrived at the pit lane, a bloke came walking towards the group, looking like he had found the holy grail. It was our very own Muddyfeet! Tagging along were two fellow Opponauts in their Twingo and BMW 5'er.
Our group, our common goal, our EurOppoMeet crew was finally assembled. We had finally arrived at the moment which we were all waiting for. The EurOppoMeet, as it was planned from the beginning, was happening right at this moment. I had not fully realized it until the moment everyone parked their cars in a line to take pictures. Holy sh*t! 19 cars!
After the gloriousness of the moment was immortalized by the pictures taken, we set out into Stavelot, some 30 minutes away from the track. Yet again, I found myself grinnin ear to ear, buzzing behind a topless MG on backroads in the Ardennes, creeping in a 19-car convoy through picturesk Belgian villages. I really hadnt a worry on my mind.
As a concluding activity for the day, we visited the Stavelot Abbey Museum (it is really housed in an Abbey!), which contained a lot of Spa history, including some of the cars that had gone through its paces on the legendary track.
We closed the day off with, what started off as a 19-car roadtrip back to the campgrounds, however luck had its own way with our group. As 5 of us managed to get out of the village and onto one of the many back roads, the larger portion of the group lost us out of sight and took a different road to the campground. Sorry guys, your loss! The five of us had the most amazing time chasing eachother towards the campground. I hung on to the bumper of a bright-blue Skoda Octavia Wagon, spewing black smoke like an angry bear with each push of the accelerator, followed closely (and sometimes not so closely) by 2 French hatches. I kid in my story that these two cars at the back had trouble at times, chasing the three of us in the lead, but do not be mistaken: these french little cars kept quite a pace in the corners and I never lost them out of my rear view mirror. At a certain point, it started to feel like the Jeepers Creepers van chasing me, they don’t seem fast, but jesus, I can’t shake them off either!
We arrived at the campground in the evening, decided to eat at a McDonalds type of fastfood restaurant and ended up having a blast with some proper beers and chips at the chalet. This day had gone, for me personally, in the history books as one of the most satisfying days, when it came to driving fun and socializing with like-minded people.
The roads were great, the people were even better, I had visited one of the Car Guy meccahs, what more could a car-guy want? Well, if you want to find that out, read Part 3! ;)