Euro Meet 2009 Revisited – Part Three
Euro Meet 2009 Revisited Continues from Part Two.
leftfootbraking on EuroMeet 2009: Arriving at a T-junction we turned out on to the SS 45 and towards the San Severino parking area in Trento. Fast smooth roads guided us into the city centre. San Severino parking area was filled with S2000s all forming neat orderly lines. Its hard to describe what 230 S2000s all parked together looks like, but considering Honda’s Suzuka Factory was producing 15 S2000s a day the people of Trento witnessed over 2 weeks production arrive within 10 minutes. This actually led to some very funny situations as several times I witness people go to retrieve coats etc from their cars, pop the boot, removed the item close the boot take 2 steps and realise that it wasn’t their car. The dreaded keys in the ignition warning alarm also had several owners continuously slamming doors until they noticed the sound was from a neighbouring S2000.
We had a couple of hours available to us to explore Trento and that we did. This historical city dates back to the turn of the first century and its historical architecture is immaculately preserved for all to enjoy. We made our way along the cobbled streets and soon arrived into a large square adjoining Trento cathedral. Finding some empty seats in one of the many cafes we decided to try some proper Italian Ice cream, while being over looked by a fountain of Neptune. The side streets from this main square were buzzing with shoppers and tourists as they went from one fashion boutique to the next. On a few occasions I spotted couples participating in Euromeet purely by their body language. The ladies pointing at the latest fashions in the boutique windows, as the men yet again used hand signals to illustrate the amount of available space in their boot. After stocking up on some fruit at a market stall we made out way back to the cars, just in time to see Furio getting interviewed by a local news channel about the weekends events.
The last stage of the day was out along the SS12 and across the SS349 to the hotels. Quite short drive compared to the others that day, but still driven at a purposeful pace, as we had another nights partying to get ready for. Saturday night was a charity auction and raffle after dinner. With the car tucked up in its tennis court for the night and sudden realisation that I was sunburnt in an extremely bad way, we got changed and made our way to the Campo Sportivo Comunale. Entering the dinning area the noise was twice the volume as the night before. New friends exchanged greetings and the stories flowed. The words of each interspersed with the imitating of revving engines and tyres screeching, quickly followed inner wrists getting slapped off each other, this being the internationally recognisable sign for opposite locking of a steering wheel. Dinner was served with the same military precision as the night before and its arrival was announced by the wave of silence sweeping the room, as hunger took priority over story telling.
The atmosphere was amazing, uniquely relaxed yet still carrying the excitement of a sunset beach party, as we moved from our tables to theatre style seating in front of the stage. The list of donated items to the auction and raffle was simply staggering everything from replacement soft-top roofs to discounts on Rotrex supercharging systems and Tarox brake kits were going under the hammer. The bidding began and items were flying off the stage and the money being collect for the chosen Euromeet charities Medecins Sans Frontieres and la Protezione Civile Nazionale (L’Aquila earthquake fund). One of the more unusual items that was donated was some Norwegian Brown Cheese, this had caused quite a stir when it had been mentioned on S2KI a few weeks previous. When it was announced on stage a cheer came from a small group just behind us. Sitting behind us was the 4 Norwegians that had brought it. This started off a great conversation between us and one of the Norwegians Robert, who spoken perfect English with a distinct Californian accent. Elaine and Jonathan were hoping to be able to win the now famous brown cheese and when they didn’t Robert came to sit with us to console them. This Guy was crazy and incredible fun, as over the while he finished off 4 bottles of wine and won just as many in the raffle.
A drive in the worlds most powerful S2000 went under the hammer, something that was going to be mine regardless and a few minutes later the deal was done. While browsing over the items earlier in the night Jonathan noticed that there was a set of Tarox up rated brake discs and pads. The timing of these items arriving for auction was timed perfectly with Elaine’s departure with the ladies room and she returned to find a neat stack of Tarox boxes keeping her seat warm. This led to very entertaining conversation regarding the failing state of Jonathan’s brakes earlier that day. The rest of the night maintained its jovial tone and again the party raged on as we left. As we left we realised the flaw in Jonathans plan as we had to carry 4 heavy boxes of brake parts back to the hotel. This long walk also led to a plan of an early morning brake fitting session. We all retired to our rooms for the night, well all except for Robert. Who after seeing Jonathan and Elaine’s disappointment over the Brown Cheese decided to resolve the issue. He spent the next few hours searching all the hotels until he found the its new owners room and managed to swap it for several bottles of wine and a mankini. He then returned to our hotel and gave it Jonathan and Elaine sometime around daybreak.
7am brought a knocking on the door that jolted me back life after a very disturbed nights sleep. Adam not being exactly sober going to bed managed to bring the art of snoring to a championship level. I can recall several items being thrown at him to no avail during the night. Another knock on the door made me stagger across the clothes strewn floor and open the door. Jonathan was standing there bright eyed and bushy tailed, “You ready?” he laughed. “What? oh right yea” I replied remembering our plan to swap his brakes before the we went driving for the day. Throwing the nearest clothes to hand on I found my keys and left Adam to rock the hotel for another few hours. Out at the cars the beautiful Italian sunshine was warming the Alpine nicely. We parked Jonathan’s car beside mine and in less than an hour we had replaced the pads on all 4 wheels and she was ready for the day’s adventures. Sunday was a free day with regards to planned driving routes, so after a shower and some breakfast it was time to consult the maps. We decided to drive south and follow the roads counter-clockwise around Lake Garda. Jonathan took the lead allowing him to set the pace as the new brakes bedded in.
Travelling into Trento and south along the SS45 at our most relaxed pace all weekend the scenery was incredible. Stopping in a small town to use a banks ATM we could hear the unmistakeable noise of approaching S2000s. Like a scene from the film Mad Max we were surrounded by Greek registered S2000s each with a little Greek flag on its aerial. It appeared that they also thought Lake Garda was a suitable location for the days adventures. ” How are the brakes?” I shouted to Jonathan over the sound of the Greeks leaving in a hurry. “Perfect” he said with a smile and with that, we took off after them. Not knowing allot about Lake Garda before we got there, the one thing that was instantly recognisable was the many tunnels through the mountains over hanging the lake. These tunnels were used in the opening scenes of the James Bond movie “Quantum of Solace”, if 007 was having a tough time escaping from a pair of Alfa Romeos in his Aston Martin, he can thank his lucky stars that he didn’t have to content with this particular group of crazy Greeks in Vtec powered roadsters.
The sun was blazing down as we reached the northern tip of the lake. The traffic was light and with the tops down, music up and shades on it was a moment in my life I’d like to be replay on a daily basis. One very unusual thing that I wasn’t expecting was the immediate blindness that happened as my eyes struggled to adjust to the complete darkness of each tunnel. In some sections along the tunnels are only a few metres apart and at speed these blasts of sunlight meant I was entering the next tunnel blind. I was praying to hear the exhaust of the cars ahead of me as silence would have meant they were all braking, or worse stopped. But after following these guys for awhile I firmly believe they left their brakes at the hotels to save weight. The further south we travelled the more the traffic increased and coaches filled with tourists became impassable objects. With no parking to be found anywhere we continued tracking the lakeside roads until we came to the entrance of Gardaland amusement park. We pulled over on the long tree lined drive way and had ourselves a little picnic for an hour or so while watching the world go by. By the time lunch was over the minor roads were completely solid with traffic so we made our way back onto the main Auto route into Trento the A22. Nearing the town of Villa Lagarina Jonathan turned off onto the SS12, we followed for a few kilometres until he turned right onto a smaller road and stopped. We pulled along side and with a large smile on her face Elaine stated ” This is the road you guys missed yesterday morning. Enjoy!!!” I quickly scanned my eyes across my fuel and temp gauges as the words “Prepare to qualify” ran through my mind. From the corner of my eye I could see Adam tiding away all loose items and double-checking his seat belt. I looked over towards Jonathan and smiled as I side stepped the clutch and threw Adam back in his seat.
This road was allot different to the ones we’d driven before. Its perfect surface tucked tightly into the cliff face as giant daggers of ice dripped melt water down upon us. A drop of several hundred metres awaited only the thickness of a stone wall away and for every half dozen open bends that you could take a straight line through, came a completely blind hairpin that cut your speed by 80%. Even I was impressed at the sound of my cars Kakimoto exhaust as it ricocheted off the tight valley walls. Up ahead in the distance I could see a tunnel. “This is going to sound epic!!!” I thought as my eyes struggled to refocus in the darkness. I threw my sunglass at Adam as the tiny white dot of day light at the other end came into view. Suddenly I saw something flash across the ground about 5 metres from the tunnels end. I lifted off the throttle just as I heard a loud cracking noise. Carrying more speed than is legally allowed in the majority of European countries I’d hit a sheet of Ice, and lifting off was not a wise decision. Exiting the tunnel on opposite lock, my eyes struggling to cope with the direct beam of sunlight warming our faces. The first thing I could focus on was the wall that was now less than a metre from my front registration plate. I looked left in the direction of travel to find Adam with his head between legs and the white line in the middle of the road gliding under his backside. I started to squeeze in throttle just as the wall turned right giving way to road again. I took a deep breath. ” F**K me that was close” I remarked as Adam lifted his head. He looked at me and replied, “What was Ted?” I stared at him in amazement when I discovered that he had spent the longest 2 seconds of my life with his head between his legs looking for my sunglasses and was blissfully unaware of what had just happened. Luckily for me this was the last tunnel that we would encounter on this road.
Over the next few kilometres this unforgiving narrow section of road gradually open into more Alpine wood lands. Our new woodland route allowed for far better visibility, but noticing that we were low on fuel and that the others were not behind us anymore my driving style had turned from rally driver to more recreational driver. Cruising along the lakeside towards the hotels we could see that the area was a complete hive of activaty. Groups arriving back from all directions and new friends test driving and comparing cars. Outside our hotel the veranda was packed with happy faces attached to relaxing bodies. Returning from the bar to were Adam and several others have perched in the Sunshine, I received a tap on the shoulder. Standing behind me was Steve Mason, the creator of what was the worlds most powerful S2000. ” Its time for your drive Tom, are you ready?” He said, ” I was born ready!!” I laughed starting to wonder what I was in for. While we walked towards were this beast lay in wait, Steve filled me in on some of its crazy numbers. 616bhp and 420lb/ft of torque filled the bonnet of this unassuming looking Silverstone S2000. Under the bonnet things were far less subtle, everything from the specially designed turbo manifold and inter cooler set up to the differential was modified.
The owner of this monster, Phil was standing beside his pride and joy waiting to see my face upon our return. On idle and when driving at low speed carving our way through the lines of returning S2000s, everything seemed strangely normal. Glancing across at the dash I spotted that ever familiar sight the low fuel warning light, ” I guess we need gas” Steve laughed. We slowly made our way to the nearest filling station letting all the fluids get up to temperature and after filling up it was game on. Steve pulled back onto the main road and once the steering was pointing straight ahead he sank the throttle to the floor. The wallop of acceleration was insane and it caught me off guard for several reasons. Firstly As Steve explained the engine management mapping meant the boost increased as you went through the gears and secondly how both car and driver had no fear of the red line on the rev counter. First gear was gone in the blink on an eye and the force that pressed you back in the seat stayed there into second, third, fourth and fifth gear. This wave of relentless power was only halted by a long tightening left hand bend. With minimal braking Steve lined us up for the corner, I knew by our road position we were going to be using all the road. I strained my neck to see if there was anything coming towards us and was quite relieved to see a clear road. We rocketed through the corner and towards the next as if being pulled by a massive magnetic force. This next bend was allot tighter than the last and Steve really had to lean on the brakes to scrub off our huge speed. The rear of a Lancia Ypsilon came into view exiting the corner and pottering along the next short straight. I braced myself for another burst of acceleration that indicated an overtaking maneuver, but as we exited the corner a line of on coming traffic signaled the end of our fun. The Ypsilon seemed intend on escorting us to the hotel car park and with the traffic growing, Steve decided to let everything cool down. The next half hour of conversation with Phil and Steve back at the hotel was an onslaught of questions about everything from build time to cam timing. A text from Adam reminded me that it was time to party and as usual I was running late.
I was still getting dressed running up the road towards Campo Sportivo Comunale. We burst through the doors to find the largest bottle of Champagne I’d ever seen, sitting in the lobby. Standing waist height it must have held 20 litres, but the sound of cutlery being called into action meant dinner was served and I never got time to find out its exact capacity. We took our seats and dinner arrived within seconds, along with something very strange. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something flying past about 3 metres off the ground, then a second later another. I looked around to see a couple of small paper planes hopping from table to table. Within minutes this number grew to easily 50 paper planes of various sizes traversing the dining room. Cheers went up every time one had directly hit someone or landed on a persons plate. The men hunted for more paper or repaired downed aircraft as the women swatted anything within range. This most random of events had every nation involved and as with all events of that weekend Uehara-san was keeping up with the best. He stood at his seat and launched his plane to a roof raising cheer it traveled a short distance before coming to rest, but Uehara-san was to busy laughing at the crowds reaction to notice. Dinner was concluded to a great version of Jarvis Cockers Disco 2000, superbly adapted by Sazzy to capture the essence of the weekend with a chorus of ” let’s all meet up in our S2000s”.
Over the next while special awards were presented by Uehara-san to several S2000 owners for their hard work and contributions to the S2000 community. As the army of catering staff began to clear the tables away for the last time, we took our drinks to new seats centre stage. The highlight of the weekend was about to begin with Uehara-san making a speech to the assembled crowd. You could almost hear the water rippling on the lake across the road as he approached the microphone. Hundreds of people that collectively travelled hundreds of thousands of miles to attend this event waited with bated breath. Images from the weekends adventures flashed through my mind as the following words sank in one at a time.
“GOOD EVENING EVERYBODY
Thank you for inviting me to this very special event.
Today I’m so excited and pleased to be here because this is the first chance for me to actually meet and speak to S2000 owners in Europe.
I can see that you all love your S2000 very much and as the person who created the car I am really happy and feel very much honoured about that
The target for the S2000 was to realise both the dynamic performance of a ‘REAL-SPORTS’ and the relief of an ‘OPEN CAR’.
It has its roots in S600 and S800.
38 years ago – at that time I had just started at Honda – I admired the S800 and drove one myself. The high revving engine, the secure handling, the sense of freedom of an open car, all this gave to me and my late wife great fun and pleasure.
Time has passed and for Honda’s 50th annniversary we began a project to revive the ‘S’. Of course, this was meant to be the new ‘S’, not the old ‘S’, but the legendary heritage was still present.
The concept of the S2000 was ‘Real-Open-Sports’ and we decided to refine the car under European environments. We built the ‘S’ and tested it on a different kind of roads in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and the UK under various conditions.
I even do remember to have been close to here, Trento, on early research stage during a test drive.
Now this is how the one and only S2000 was born.
This means, the place where you can drive an S2000 really like an S2000, rev the engine up to 9000 rpm and take full advantage of its potential, is Europe.
So in that respect you are all very lucky.
This year it is the 10th anniversary of the S2000 and it will also be its final year of production. In those ten years, 110,000 customers around the world bought an S2000 and have shown their appreciation for ‘Real-Open-Sports’.
For these people man and machine become unified and with the high revving engine, the accurate shifting they take the challenge of winding roads with the freedom of an open roof.
Please take good care of your S2000, keep it by your side for long and enjoy it from the bottom of your heart. And share the quality and legacy of the S2000 with many friends so that the legend of the S2000 will continue for long
Today, I sincerely want to thank all of you to have gone all the way with your S2000
Ladies and gentleman thank you very much!”
It goes without saying that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as everyone took to their feet with a rapturous applause. I can only imagine how hard it is to design the worlds finest sports cars, but to be able to capture the hearts and emotions of everyone with an honestly written speech makes this man truly exceptional and moments like this one of the most special of my life. The remainder of the evening can only be described as a party befitting the occasion, with celebrations continuing on into the small hours. Even when we decided to head to bed, our exit took over an hour as we said our goodbyes to our new friends.
The next morning was an extremely slow start and barely awake we made our way into our hotels restaurant on the hunt for breakfast. while we tucked into the best breakfast I’d eaten in a week, others started to float in. Having not really decided our route home or time scale we were debating our options, when Brian and Phil from the Isle of Mann invited us to join them at the Nurburgring. The mention of this gave Adam a smile a Ronald Macdonald would be proud of. So our decision was made and we were heading for the Ring.
We began to load the car as Richard from TTS performance stopped by to continue a chat from the night before. Richard supplies and installs Rotrex Superchargers, and his steed for the weekend was over 330bhp. Standing their chatting away in the glorious sunshine Richard uttered the magic words “Would you like to drive it”. I looked over to Adam, handed him some money and the keys to my car and gave him directions to the petrol station, as I shut the door giggling like a child. Once out on the main road and with all the fluids warmed up, I started to squeeze in some throttle. The hugely increased torque was instantly noticeable, but yet incredibly controllable. I suppose the best way to describe it was at 2000rpm in 4th gear, this S2000 had the same rate of acceleration as my standard S2000 has at 7000rpm in 2nd gear. Unlike Phil’s turbo monster this supercharged S2000 was unbelievably civilised. For a bolt on kit the results really impressed me and over the next 10km or so, it found its way firmly onto my Lotto wish list. Arriving back to the hotel I noticed that my car was still missing, but figuring that Adam was still getting fuel I thought nothing of it. As I stood there peering under the bonnet at Richards creation we could hear the sound of an S2000 at full tilt along the road above the hotels. We both laughed at the idea of someone taking the opportunity of a last minute mountain run, as my car turned the corner with Adam laughing as the sweat ran off his brow. He managed to find an 11km detour from the filling station 1km away.
By midday with everything loaded and our final farewells made, we rolled up behind Brian and headed towards the Nurburging. Having not driven with Brian before I wasn’t sure what his pace would be like, but before long I found out. He has one position for the throttle pedal and thats flat on the floor. Within an hour we were into Austria and half an hour after that we were into Germany and onto Autobahns. The Autobahns allowed us to really stretch our legs and make some great headway. We made 2 stops for fuel and we pulled into Adenau just after dinner time. Being Monday evening after a bank holiday this little village was a quite place, but after a quick search we found our beds for the night. The appropriately named Hotel An Der Nordschleife gave us a great deal on 2 of their newly build apartments for the night. Having only read about this magical place I was in for a major surprise at what we found the next morning. As the Sun broke through the curtains and filled our room we could hear the screeching of tyres echoing as a dark coloured flash passed through Adenau bridge. This sound jolted us to life and propelled us towards the windows, but like most of these things once you’ve heard to your to late to see it.
After breakfast we made our way along the winding Eifel mountains roads to the Nordschleife’s entrance. Turning on to the main road that runs parallel with the main straight, not one but three Nissan R35 GTR Spec V’s passed us. We later found out that this was a shake down for Nissans attempt to break Porsches Ring record, which they managed to do 3 weeks later. We arrived to an empty car park and discovered that the Nordschleife was not open to the public until 1pm. After purchasing a Ring card for 2 laps we made our way to the Devils Diner to grab a coffee and kill some time. Sitting by the window over looking the car park we could see more cars arriving as 1pm approached. When the barriers were finally opened the car park had a grand total of 35 cars in it, this was a long way off the stories I’d heard of hundred of cars on track at the same time. I checked the oil level and tyre pressures for the last time and made our way to the barriers. Not having a clue what we were doing it was all very much a guessing game. This completely empty track seems miles wide when there’s not another car to be seen. Over our entire lap we encountered 2 cars, one an Audi R8 that appeared to have a problem as was only doing 50kmph and the other a fully caged Mini Cooper S.
I’d imagine that my lap of the Nordschleife could be titled the most mundane in the tracks history, even though I felt I was pushing hard in places. Parking up beside Brians car, we noticed that he was chatting to another guy from the UK. Will introduced himself and asked how I got on, “The Satnav wasn’t much use” I replied. “Did you use the dots?” he enquired and began to laugh at my reply “What dots?”. “I’ll show you” he said as he walked towards his BMW E46 M3, in a flash I was sitting in the passenger seat with the belt securely tightened. I asked Will about his BMW as we entered the circuit, quizing him on its uprated brake set up. ” I only brought this because I had everything booked when I found out the GT3 wouldn’t be serviced in time” he stated casually stated as we passed under the bridge. As that sentence sank in Will began pointing out the basketball sized white painted dots on the entrance and apex of each corner. Being honest I wasn’t really listening as at these much higher speeds this track was 100% difference to what I’d just driven . Returning to the car park I asked Will would he mind bringing Adam out with him next time and 10 minutes later Adam was smiling broadly as he entered the track.
By the time they returned Adam had convinced Will to be his co-pilot for his first lap of the Ring. After I watched my own car drive off into the Green Hell, I took the chance to have a look into several of the latest Porsches that had arrived. The relaxed attitude of everyone amazed me and after a short while I heard a familiar sound rumbling down the main straight. The look on Adams face said it all and Will was the same colour as when he left so everyone was happy. While Adam thanked Will, Brian and Phil arrived back and parked beside us. It was now 2:30pm and lunch was on the agenda, so we made our way to the Devils Diner and tracked down another fine steak. As with all conversations petrol orientated we lost track of time and suddenly realised that it was 3:30 and our boat set sail in Dunkirk at 7pm.
We topped up the tank and hit the road with a bad case of ferry fever. We pulled into the port at Dunkirk well in time for our sailing to find out that all crossings had been cancelled due to French fishermen having a strike and blocking all ports. After several minutes discussion with the check in staff we decided to head for the Euro Tunnel and try keep on time. We left Dunkirk and while I made haste towards Calais to stay ahead of all the other ferry passengers, Adam rang anyone we knew that was heading our way and informed them of the cancelled ferries. This was going to be my first time on a train in perhaps 20 years and to bring my car onto it was the best of both worlds. After waiting for 2 hours for the next available departure, it took several long minutes for the anyone to realise that there was no way my S2000 would make it up the very steep ramps onto the upper level. Once parked on the lower deck it was time to relax and not sure what to expect I was surprised at how boring the journey was.
We emerged into the UK to find exactly the same weather as when we left. The roads were flooding and it took a little while to get used to being on the right side of the road again. I dropped Adam back home just after midnight and when pushed on towards Holyhead. After several fuel and coffee stops en-route I managed to squeeze onto an earlier sailing and I arrived into Dublin port just after 9am. Homeward bound stuck in the cities traffic jams, I began thinking about the previous 7 days and the months leading up to it. I’d never imagined that something like purchasing a car, a decision normally based on practicalities like MPG, boot space and resale values could have completely changed my life. The decision I made to purchase my S2000 was based on my interest in its design, little did I know that 6 months later I would be driving 4872km across Europe on a blind adventure that resulted in meeting its creator and some of the most crazy and greatest friends anyone could ask for.
The memories from all this are unmeasurable and for that I’ve allot of people to thank.
Andy and the German way down group, who allowed us to join their group as late arrivals. Sir you are a gent
Erik, Francis and all the German S2000 owners who both translated for us and educated me with their baptism of fire driving styles. I’m still learning and I will be back.
Jonathan and Elaine, Brian and Phil and everyone from every country that attended, it was a massive pleasure!!
Adam for putting up with 5000km of “Mind my car” you’ve some patience mate!!
Shigeru Uehara-san and Kotaro Yamamoto-san and all at Honda, thank you for the landslide of changes and adventures this little car has brought into my life!!!
Special thank you to LTB, AquilaEagle and Sazzy from S2KUK who along with Furio, Beppe and Simone from S2kItalia brought this whole amazing event to life. I’m not sure any of the attendees really can understand the months of hard work that went into this event. So thank you guys so so so much!!!!!!