Italy 2014 Report
Mugello & Imola in the same week? It'll never happen!
After the inaugural BaT Italia trip last year, it was such hard work to organise we said we wouldn't be doing another trip unless we could get Imola in the same week as Mugello - Imola being one of those bucket list circuits that's been on the radar since well before we started organising track days.
Early conversations weren't going well and it seemed unlikely that we'd secure a date - after all they only have 60 unsilenced days per year at the town-centre circuit and each day must get special 'derogation' from the local council to run - such is the proximity of the 3 primary schools to the venue.
Thankfully, the very helpful (and quite frankly, very hot) circuit manager at Mugello was keen to get BaT to return this year and she offered to pick up the phone to the circuit management at Imola to explain the importance of the dates aligning. Low and behold less than 20 minutes later we had an offer on the table for a date in the same week that Mugello were offering us!
Michael O'Leary can f**k right off!
At that point it seemed rude not to go ahead, so we began the process of trying to find hotels, transport, flights and staff. Thankfully, Sarah has a special knack of finding 5-star hotels with ample parking and plenty of rooms so that first task was despatched fairly swiftly. The process of sourcing transport was less straight forward and the fiasco around the cancelled RyanAir flights to Bologna doesn't even need mentioning - suffice to say they seem to be able to cause significant head-aches both on-and-off their planes.
I was so excited about returning to Mugello ('Spa in the Sun' as I refer to it) that I almost hadn't allowed myself get too excited about visiting Imola for the first time. Mugello didn't disappoint second time around - the circuit was every bit as good as I remembered. Unlike last year I had my P&J with me this time so I even got the opportunity to take the F355 out for a few laps (very steady ones, in case Sarah is reading). As nice as the Ferrari feels that close to home, it wasn't a patch on the Caterham R300 which just seemed to be geared perfectly for Mugello. The icing on the cake for me was the showers just after lunch - reminiscent of driving Spa in the wet but in the high 20°C's - Mugello in the wet is now my favourite track day experience yet.
A few logistical issues meant unfortunately we couldn't enjoy the day off as much as we'd have hoped but the BaT staff still managed a couple of hours by the pool at the beautiful Palazzo di Varignana resort - definitely a place to stay again if we do return to Imola.
Imola - another tick on the bucket-list
Arriving at Imola on the Thursday morning was both exhilarating and stressful in pretty much equal measure. A few 'lost in translation' issues with race control gave us all a heart-attack for a while but thankfully all got resolved to everyone's satisfaction in the end. I managed a few laps in the F355 again (strictly for photo purposes Sarah, honestly!) and despite going very steady I still managed to boil the brake fluid - so decided I should stick to the Caterham instead.
The Caterham felt amazing around Imola - the circuit was much MUCH faster than any of us had imagined it would be. It took several laps to build up to some of the quick corners and even by the end of the day I wasn't anywhere near the limit of the car or the edge of the circuit (unlike some people who will remain nameless **COUGH** GILES ROADNIGHT **COUGH **- THE EVIDENCE is pretty damning as to just how much kerb you were using last week)
Packing up at Imola everyone was buzzing about how great the circuit was and how we've got to do the trip again next year and with my petrolhead hat on it's easy to get drawn into the excitement and get started on the 2015 trip right away. Sadly, the heart of business cannot function without the head of the business and despite being successful in every other way; the trip was not successful financially. We've sent out a questionnaire to see how many of the drivers would be willing to pay more for a similar trip next and we'll post another blog once the results of the survey are compiled.
In the meantime, regardless of whether we never go to an Italian race track again, I am eternally grateful to the 40-somethng clients who funded this trip and helped me tick off another of my bucket-list tracks. Special thanks must go to the two guys who between them travelled the circumference of the globe (Mark from Singapore and Steve from Vegas) in order to be there with us. If anyone has an Antanov sat around, we've been offered provisional dates again at Laguna Seca next year?
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23 September 2014
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