THIS JOB IS BIG...
Tanya and Jason Field share memories from The Italian Job charity tour.
The Italian Job’s motto is ‘raising money for children in a fun way’ and in short, it really is as simple as that! This year was the second time that we have taken part on the event, and it proved to be just as much fun as the first time in 2014. Our vehicle of choice this time was Paddy, our 1971 Mk3 Cooper S, partly due to his threequarter-length Webasto sunroof, which gets little use in the UK!
The concept is simple. The official meeting point is in Italy – at a different location every time – followed by a week’s worth of carefully planned routes past spectacular scenery and over mountain passes, visiting movie locations and vibrant towns and cities along the way. Anyone can enter as long as they drive a vehicle with a connection with the original 1969 Michael Caine caper. Part of the cost of The Italian Job covers the service van, which is filled full of parts supplied by Mini Spares and has two volunteer mechanics. They follow the same route as the cars, fixing any broken Minis (or other cars if they can help) along the way. You can also call the mechanics if you have an urgent problem with your car, or catch up with them at one of the stops where they will do their best to fix it. They have an excellent record in keeping the cars going and take real pride in getting everyone back home.
The first time we did the ‘Job’, we decided to pay extra and follow the service van from Dover to Italy and back for extra reassurance. This year we felt brave (or foolish?) enough to go it alone for the trip down to Italy, although we did enlist fellow Mini owners, Roger and Yvonne Hunt, to join us. This not only gave us an extra pair of hands or two to assist with Mini problems, the company made the journey down all the more enjoyable.
We decided to leave the UK six days before we needed to be in Italy for the start, and planned a route which involved staying with Chateau de Bois Giraud (one of our sponsors) for the night, as well as visits to the Magny Cours Circuit and both the Simplon Pass and the Stelvio Pass. We were very fortunate with the weather at Stelvio, with snow only on the very top, though we did slip and slide around a bit! We also woke to beautiful sunshine, giving us fantastic views for the route back down.
ON THE JOB
We arrived at the Molino Rosso hotel on the Thursday evening, which was our base for the following five nights. Friday morning
was the start of the navigational rally with sign-on and scrutineering, followed by the briefing, then lunch. For the rally, each team is given their start time, with cars separated by 30 seconds. For every 100th of a second that you are either too early or too late over the line, you accrue a penalty point – it didn’t take us long to acquire quite a few! Each team is also given a very detailed route book, which although very simple to follow, we managed to get wrong on a number of occasions. I was mostly the navigator, but having a short attention span, I would quickly get distracted by the other cars, scenery or anything...
Our first stop was the lovely town of Dozza, where Paddy formed part of an impromptu three-car IJ (red, white and blue) photo shoot! We then headed to Castel del Rio with a short stop for refreshments at Panificio Ghini, an Italian Mini enthusiast’s bakery where each team was presented with
“I would quickly get distracted by the other cars, scenery or anything...”
a small gift and the chance to admire Enrico’s lovely Innocenti. We also sampled our first gelato of the trip before completing the first of the special stages – driving between two timing lines in exactly seven seconds, which is not as easy as it sounds! The last stage of the day saw us drive over the Ponte Alidosi, a beautiful single-span
arched bridge. It was quite a challenge to cross, but slow and steady saw us successfully over it.
The second day started with a short burst up the autostrada, which took us to the Panini Car museum. Located on a cattle farm, it houses a fantastic collection of Maseratis, and they still make Parmesan cheese there. We were warmly welcomed by local enthusiasts from Mini Emilia Romagna Club. We then headed into Modena and were given a police escort into the city, where we had some free time to stroll around. A second police escort saw us leave the city for the short trip to Villa Casino Riva for a well earned lunch, followed by a leisurely afternoon at the Lamborghini museum.
Day three was spent exploring the fantastic hills surrounding Rimini. The first stop was the lovely town of Forlimpopoli, where we parked up in the Piazza for the locals to admire our cars while we toured around Casa Artusi, the first centre of gastronomic culture. Here we had a Piadena (a flat bread) cookery demonstration with plenty of samples afterwards!
Following lunch we headed to Borghetto di Brola in the Modigliana hills, which provided some fantastic scenery. After our evening meal back at the hotel, we were ‘treated’ to karaoke from Renzo. Now this isn’t karaoke as you or I or anyone else might know it, it’s karaoke with words translated from English to Italian, then back again to English, which is a little like Chinese Whispers!
The fourth day gave as a chance to try our hand at karting, or for those like me who aren’t big fans, to cheer the Jobbers on from the sidelines. In the afternoon, the teams all headed out to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola. After driving half a lap behind the Thames Dormobile, we decided to ignore the ‘no overtaking’ rule and found ourselves in clear air, allowing us to push Paddy a bit harder and have some real fun. We caught up with the back of the pack just as they stopped near the Ayrton Senna memorial. Two more flying laps were enjoyed and then it was out into the car park to complete the serious business of not one, but three special stages. First up was a chicane challenge, then ‘squash the cups’ followed by a final chicane and reversing course, all needing to be completed in exactly 40 seconds. Some took it more seriously than others with
spectators all enjoying the banter between rival teams.
The following morning saw us head off to Monza. As we approached the circuit, it dawned on us that we weren’t the only ones heading there. Amongst the many high end performance cars, we spotted a pair of Fiat 500s, one an Abarth. Once at the meeting point, we were set three more special stages by organiser Freddie St George and the red hatters, with each one providing much entertainment for those waiting for their turn. While this was going on, Giulia St George was working her magic and after much discussion (apparently she shouts loudest in Italian!), she managed to arrange three laps of the circuit for everyone. What an experience!
UP ON THE ROOF
A leisurely drive to Turin which was made even better by a cracking sunset, with the final day’s highlight a trip up on to the Lingotto rooftop (the old FIAT test track) for three more special stages and the chance for some photos on the iconic banking.
After yet another fantastic lunch in the hotel, all the cars gathered together awaiting the police to escort us around Turin. First up was the Gran Madre do Dio, the church where the Minis drive down the steps in the film. Then it was on to Piazza SanCarlo, where we parked the cars up for the public to admire the them and chat to the owners, language barriers allowing. Finally, we made our way to Castello del Valentino for yet more great pics and a guided tour. We decided to split from the main group at this point in order to take Paddy to the famous weir for a quick photo before fading light got the better of us. What a great way to finish the Italian Job!
Of course, there was still the return trip, during which we had some problems with Paddy not running well and misfiring. We stopped at the services and called the
“The final day’s highlight was a trip up on to the Lingotto rooftop...”
service van mechanics, who gave Paddy a full check over, carried out some diagnostics, and replaced the rotor arm and condenser – all while being accosted by some Jehovahs Witnesses! Maybe they thought we could benefit from divine intervention!
To top off our excellent Italian Job, Paddy was voted as ‘Best Dressed Mini’ against some tough competition. We would like to thank our sponsors Somerford Mini, Newton Commercial, MINI Clubs International Office, MINI Plant Oxford, Lancaster Insurance Services and Villars Hayward. We’re hoping to take part in our third Italian Job within the next few years – we recommend everyone should do it least once, but once the bug bites...
No Italian Job is complete without a drive on the iconic Lingotto roof track banking.
An impromptu blue, white and red photoshoot in Dozza. Brother and sister team, John Thew and Annie White, drove the blue car, while the red RSP was driven by Martin and Sue Lawson. They’ve had it since new!
With the fellow white Mk3 S of Huw and Aled Evans in Modena.
Parked up at the Imola circuit.
Paddy and Roger’s RSP at Magny Cours.
Snow at the top of the Stelvio Pass.
Bobby the Dormobile!
Roger and Yvonne head up the Stelvio.
The Jobbers gather for a photo at the karting circuit.
Awesome machinery at the Lambo Museum. Roger Hunt with Tanya and Jason in persuit. Sue Lawson attempts a balancing act.
Cheese aplenty at the Panini Museum.
Paddy at the famous Monza circuit.
Minis and football - both loved by the Italians!
All lined up in sunny Turin.
Jason on the old Fiat test track. Been to Lingotto, got the T-shirt...
With a police officer at the Castello del Valentino.
Driving on the famous Lingotto banking.