Banger Run 2012

 A license to thrill driving adventure around Europe!

The 2012 Help for Heroes Banger Run followed a James Bond theme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MI6, car loving spy. All 20 teams followed a route through some of the most challenging and scenic roads in Europe in a car bought for the standard £250.

Day 1

All the teams met bright and early at Halton House, now an RAF Officers’ mess in Buckinghamshire. The grand house, built in the 1880s, was used in “The World is not Enough” and was awoken, literally, by the sound of an Aston Martin kindly supplied for a photo opportunity by James Wood, bringing music to the runners’ ears. Once all the teams had arrived and received their goody bags, there was a short speech and introduction to the run from the organisers and a prize giving for those teams raising the most money for Help for Heroes. As well as this there was a prize given against the very random scoring criteria that has reigned since 2010, this time going to team “James Bondeo”.  Hayley Pinner from Help for Heroes also turned up to provide some last minute merchandise for the participating teams.

Once all the teams had eaten their bacon sandwiches exquisitely laid on by Halton Officers’ mess staff, and had a stroll around the stunning mansion with a cup of coffee in the last of the summer sun it was time for them to depart for the port.

Some teams decided they knew a better way to the port than the route guides provided and quickly found themselves in the wrong place or in heavy traffic and pushed for time to get onto the ferry. Teams arrived in small groups at Dover and, as always, DFDS had dedicated a lane for the teams and provided the usual hospitality. The excitement grew as the teams waited for the ferry and the group of bangers got bigger and bigger as more teams joined the back. Before we knew it, it was time to board the ferry and continue our adventure onto the continent, unfortunately having to leave some bangers behind as they missed the cut off time. All part of the adventure I suppose!

When aboard the ship there was much fundraising to be done, thanks to the organisation skills of DFDS team. The H4H bear met the captain whilst visiting the bridge and the teams started to get to know each other.

Getting off the ferry into France proved troublesome for one team in particular (not wanting to name and shame) as their car didn’t want to start. All the teams muscled in though and successfully bump started it along the loading bay of the ship. The adventure continues.

Once clear of Dunkirk the teams put the pedal to the metal to get to the second filming location, chateau Chantilly. With a road closure putting pain to the planned route, some talented map reading kicked in and the journey continued closer to Paris. Once at the chateau, used in “A View to a Kill”, the teams took advantage of the gorgeous photo opportunity in the summer evening sun and tried their cars out on the cobbled roads in the surrounding area before pushing onto the first campsite. Some of the teams that missed the ferry had to skip this stage, but that is the way of the Banger Run!

Campsite one was a nice welcome for the team, although lacking a much desired bar and restaurant. The teams set up their tents and took some much needed rest whilst sharing stories of the day’s adventures late into the night.

End of Day 1: 20 teams remain

Day 2

All teams awoke at different times, some wanting to leave before first light and see a bit more than those wanting a lie in. After a small amount of mechanical work to the cars and a raid of the on-site bakery, the teams set off east towards Zurich. This was the longest day with hours of driving along open road through the French countryside. Some teams had mechanical problems that were thankfully fixed by the amazingly well stocked french supermarkets and the bodging skills of some of the other runners.

Once passing through the Swiss border though the terrain changed as we honed in on Zurich and the Swiss Alps. A quick drive through Zurich and the teams headed for the second campsite in a small town called Engelberg, a dead-end town at the top of a valley, nestled in the foot of the mountains. The campsite had excellent facilities (although this was the most expensive campsite that also charged for showers, thieves!) and a much appreciated bar serving chilled premium lager. The teams all took the opportunity to share the days’ stories whilst waiting for the stragglers. With a few breakdowns and niggles through the day the teams went to bed with much apprehension about the mountain passes that awaited their bangers.

End of Day 2: 18 teams at the campsite, 2 running late thanks to the grand ascent up to the campsite

Day 3

The teams stirred to admire the mountainous surroundings that were in darkness when they went to bed a few beers heavier the night before. After taking down the tents in the dew filled field they re-mortgaged their houses, paid for their nights camping, took some photos and began on their way. Neither team had any idea of what the day ahead had in store for them.

There was little flat road involved in day 3, as teams transited the hairpins, ascents and sheer drops of the Furka Pass, used in “Goldeneye”. The mountain passes challenged the cars to the edge of destruction, with gearboxes pushed to breaking point and many pauses en-route to let radiators and brakes cool. Sadly, it was whilst team ‘James Bondeo’ were on this route that they became the first fatality of the run. The breakdown recovery services were called and the car was condemned to the big scrap heap in the sky.

The route this day was so scenic, with roads over 2500m high and sights over Mont Blanc, snow capped mountains, lush green meadows and glaciers at every turn. The hairpins were fun and the drops breathtaking…what a place for a car to end its life!

The other teams limped on south towards Como with the temperature rising and the mountains dropping away from view. They then made their way to the Contra Dam, also used in “Goldeneye”. The 220m drop tested over the dam tested the stomachs of even the toughest team members and the view to the Italian border was a beautiful sight to see. With time pressing it was then just a short drive to the lakeside campsite on Lugano for night 3. All the teams settled down into “tent city” and broke out BBQs and beer to share the day’s adventures in the mountains. Team ‘James Bondeo’ turned up but sadly without a car. They still planned on completing the run, just squeezed into other teams’ cars. In the true spirit of the run, all the teams obliged and made room for their fallen comrades on day 4.

End of Day 3: 19 cars (all in different states of disrepair)

Day 4

The morning sun woke the teams from their tents and they all made their way south through the Italian border and into Como, the filming location for “Casino Royale”. With the sun beaming down and the end nearly in sight, the teams enjoyed the excitement that driving in Italy brings (they all drive like lunatics) and headed towards the finale in Monaco. Some teams took a detour past Monza (and may or may not have got a photo of their car on the circuit) as well as other locations which is the luxury of the Banger Run, you make it what you want it to be.

The final campsite was in Menton, 10 minutes east of Monaco, so teams took the opportunity to drive along the prestigious harbour front and through the principality, trying to drive on as much of the F1 route as possible.

All the teams made it to the campsite in the hills above Menton and set up camp for the last time on the run. It followed the traditional South France campsite facilities standard which were…character building.

With a few stragglers yet to arrive (mainly due to an alcohol induced delay from the night before) a final prize of a tour of Pinewood Studios was given to the team that made it “against all odds”. This obviously had to go to team ‘James Bondeo’ who battled on with a fragile car until it died, and still made it to the end. They accepted it with great appreciation for the other teams that helped them out. The organisers decided it would have been too easy for them to call it a day and fly home but they persevered. A second prize, a tour of the Aston Martin factory, was then to be given out to the best photograph from the run.  This prize was won by team Shaken, not Stirred!  with this photo.

Aston Martin factory Tour Competition Winner.

The usual meal at the end of the run was unfortunately scuppered by a combination of disorganisation from the campsite and lack of hospitality from the local restaurants but the teams made the most of the situation. With some taking the time to see Monaco at night in all its splendour and other teams making their way into Menton for a social drink together and to talk about their journey home. This wasn’t the ideal end to the run but reflected the true spirit of it, make the most every second.

End of Day 4: 19 cars (all in a worse state than the day before)

The 2012 Help for Heroes Banger Run was a great success with the grandest start yet, a beautiful route, greatly accommodating campsites and amazing weather. The teams that participated were also brilliant ambassadors to the run by spreading the word and taking every opportunity to fund raise along the route, including a traffic jam at the Dartford Tunnel. The run would not have been possible without the teams having to sacrifice their time, money and (in some cases) lives to the run and fundraising. It also would not have been possible without the sponsors. DFDS, The AA, Silver FX, Thistle Dubh, HIC and all the other companies that sponsored individual teams. Together we all raised almost £30 000 for Help for Heroes and had a great time doing it.