I finished my post-race work in Austria at about three in the morning and a little shut-eye, I left at six, with a merry “nächstes Jahr!” for the gasthof owner’s wife, who has been kind enough (or perhaps) old nice enough to be happy to be up to make me a coffee. Then I was on the road, and I was soon belting up the Palten valley and then under the mountains to Wels. The roads were clear so we were all travelling at speeds that would cause Jean Todt to hide behind his couch. The road crossed the mighty Danube just before Schading and we were in Germany, where obeying the speed limit must be some of a crime. The road crossed the Danube no fewer than six times, before the river turned lazily to the south at Regensberg and I set my target for Nuremberg, which is famous for rallies and trials that have nothing to do with motorsport. At the same time this weekend it will host the biggest beer festival disguised as a motor race at the Norisring. One of the largest races of the German calendar.
I had decided to go by a route a little further north than the usual Salzburg-Munich-Stuttgart autobahn, on the basis that it seemed to be being dug up in its entirety on the journey down to the land of red bulls. Besides who wants to do the same thing twice? I pondered diverting for a quick tour of the Norising, but the policeman in my head insisted on going onwards, passing occasional GP2 trucks and a solitary Red Bull F1 unit, which I spotted going up to Wurzburg and Frankfurt, just as I turned off towards Heilbronn. I guess the other F1 trucks had flown Austria during the night, leaving only the stragglers behind. I was leap-frogging an Arden GP2 truck for most of the day, depending on our coffee breaks, as we charged across Germany and into France.
The vineyards increased in number as we approached Heilbronn, but the weather was still miserable and I stopped only briefly for a burger kind of lunch at the splendidly-named Bad Rappenau. The next town up the road is Sinsheim, which is kind of apt given that it’s close to Bad Rappenau. Too many sins and you get a bad rap.
Sinsheim is not really a Sodom or a Gomorrah but there is an odd museum where you can find Concorde and Concordski, not to mention all manner of other exotic machines, including a gaggle of old F1 cars, the loveliest of which (when I last visited) was a Jordan 191, one of the most beautiful F1 cars ever.
One passes by the two of Walldorf and I wondered if perhaps there is a small town nearby called Stadler… It is a little known fact that the celebrated Walldorf hotels are named after this funny little town, on the basis that it was the birthplace of one John Jacob Astor, the world’s very first multimillionaire, who was born there. Hence the name Walldorf Astoria… The next town is Hockenheim and I was reminded that we have no German Grand Prix this year on account of the lack of strategic thinking and overweening greed of the people who own F1. The fact there is no German GP is a shocking indictment (perhaps an emotive word where F1 and Germany are concerned) of the current system. I mean, logically, we have a German manufacturer dominating F1 and a German as the top driver at Ferrari – and we don’t have a German GP. How logical is that?
I crossed the Rhine at Speyer and passed the second bonkers museum en route where they put a Boeing 747 on stilts to make sure you don’t miss it. I then belted across the flood plains of the Rhein to the vineyards of the Palatinate and the town of Landau, where they invented the horse-drawn landau carriage, which passed on into the lexicon of automobiles as the word for convertible. This is the start of the Pfalz forest, and a shortcut through to France, which will be brilliant when they finish building a new motorway. You end up in Zweibrucken (two bridges). I have sometimes pondered nipping down the road to the French town of Bitche, but I fear it might live up to its name.
I was in for a rainy afternoon from Saarbrucken to Metz, to Verdun, to Reims (no time to stop for a drink, nor to visit the old F1 track) but soon I was back in Paris as dinner time approached. It’s a long haul to Austria!