This time I’m off to Mugello. The hillclimb is barely a mile from the paddock and we’re going to be based there. We arrive on Friday morning and witness the final stages of a big international regularity run/rally event which makes us all feel like peasants. After seeing four Ferrari 250SWBs in a row, several E-Type lightweights and more 911 RSs than you can shake a stick at we get on with scrutineering.
Saturday dawns cloudy and generally shite. We take a drive up the climb in our support car (which for this race is a late eighties Range Rover, wallowy doesn’t cover it), the road is awful, some of the pot holes can swallow a Mini whole. This is not promising. The time comes for us to start, the course car (a box fresh Audi R8 V10, kindly loaned by the local dealer) sets off in a flurry of V10 and tyres and we make our way to get belted up in our cars. After five minutes nobody starts, it transpires that said brand new 180 grand supercar determined that entering a 180 degree first gear hairpin at 100km/h is beyond its remit and in protest decided to hump a hillside. Hilarity ensues, delays are announced and much piss is ripped out of the poor bastard who will have to fess up his whoopsie to the Audi brass.
After a 30 minute delay to extricate the Audi from the shrubbery we’re off! I make it about a minute into the climb when I strike a particularly stout hole and something comes adrift. I can hear a metallic knocking and dragging under the car, but it’s running straight, it works fine and doesn’t seem to be in too much distress so I make it to the top, catching and passing the guy who set off 1 minute ahead of me in the process.
I dive under the car and my central exhaust mount has snapped clean in half. Oh bother. In other news I’m first in class a good 35 seconds ahead of second, although it must be said that the fast guys aren’t at this race so that’s no significant achievement. I manage to beg a pair of pliers and some lockwire at the from the bar at the finish line, I tie the exhaust to a bracket and make my way back to the paddock. Two hours of swearing, sweating and general annoyance later I’ve managed to repair the mount, re-fit the exhaust in its entirety and I set off around the paddock for a swift check ride...
First, second, armageddon. I’ve done such a fine job of re-fitting the exhaust that I’ve tightened the bastard thing too much and it’s slipped out of the manifold, broken the mount AGAIN and is now dragging on the ground. Can I fix it again? Nope. Nothing for it this time, several miles of lockwire are expended re-mounting the exhaust at the back end, the pipe is inserted in the manifold and a lockwire ‘sling’ is made by threading the wire through the handbrake cable holes so that if it slips out again it won’t dig into the ground and rip the shit out of the bottom of my poor car. Then it starts raining. Oh sweaty fuckballs.
Sunday dawns cloudy and a bit wet, but that’s the least of my worries. I’ve had no sleep, tormented by visions of my only chance of a class victory being ruined by a prolapsed exhaust system. I make the drive from the paddock to the start line as gingerly as humanly possible. I then find myself doing something incredibly stupid, I start talking to the car. Did you ever watch Days of Thunder? That scene where Robert Duvall starts talking to Tom Cruise’s Nascar? Fucking nonsense right? Who in their right mind talks to an inanimate object? I did on Sunday. Please just hold together, if you make it to the top I’ll buy you a nice RC40, it’s against the rules but you deserve it. Please please please just make it to the top, when you cross the line you can shit the entire system out as far as I’m concerned, but please, I’m begging you, we’ve got to do this. I don’t need you to go fast, we’re 30 seconds ahead of second place, just get there.
I make the slowest start ever seen in competitive motorsport and through luck, no judgement and the collective strength of most of central Italy’s lockwire I only bloody make the summit! Two seconds faster than Saturday’s run to boot! I have won my class, my poor, battered Innocenti Mini hasn’t shat itself andmy relief is so tangible I could soil myself.