Experience-report concerning an unforgettable weekend – attention, long text.
This trip started more than six months ago with a so called “Terry” commenting a car picture in a BMW fan-group. “I would be very happy to see your car in England at the BMW Show”, he actually wrote. After reading this sentence curiously, I also decided to comment the picture and a few minutes later, we had a nice conversation.
“BMW Show UK” may first sound very exciting, however, every second reunion in Germany is nowadays called “Show”, “Event” or is even presented as the absolutely highlight of the year. For this reason, the expectations were not that high – especially as we had already seen a lot of great things concerning shows or events like that. Nonetheless, I took the time necessary for researching the most important information on the event on the Internet and finally found some interesting points – the event obviously is the biggest BMW-reunion on the isle with an awesome show program and very cool cars. Furthermore, I discovered a nice video on the website. After thinking about the show for one more night, I decided to personally find out what might be true about the facts mentioned above, even if I would have to travel 1000km (one-way!) to the UK. And to be true – even if the event would not be that great or successful, you may have lost a little money on the one hand, but on the other hand, you will have gained a little more experience.
As I am not called a “spammer” without any reason, I published my decision on Facebook right away and after only a few minutes, I already received the first enquiry concerning the possibility to join me on my trip. Of course, I had not thought about such things at this time, but I started to check hotel prices immediately and also thought about the best route to get to the UK. As soon as I got all the information needed, I tried to answer all the enquiries on Facebook. In the end, about ten cars wanted to travel together, however, some of them had to cancel their participation short-term.
In the meantime, I befriended Terry, so that he actually had to take over the job of a local agent. In Principle, we had planned the trip perfectly – pickup at the port, transfer to the hotel, ride to the event; everything was save…..and the day to start arrived.
On Friday, 25th of September 2015, I got up at around 5am, brushed my teeth and jumped into the “Safety car” I had already packed the evening before.
The first part of “team Germany” arrived at Burger King in Bruchsal at 6:30am from where we started to travel in the direction of Saarbrücken with three further cars. We purposefully decided to take a non-German route without road charges as we wanted to avoid any traffic jams. Arriving in Saarbrücken, another three cars of the Bavarian BMW Team Tauber joined us, so our group was completed. With all six cars, we continued our trip in the direction of Calais – our time frame has not been exceeded so far, so we were looking forward to join our ferry in time. As my car is equipped with a LPG gas tank, a transfer through the Channel Tunnel has been forbidden due to the present safety reasons. Only a few kilometers after we had passed the German border, we directly drove into a traffic jam which has rather been a complete still standing! Thus, we enjoyed the beautiful weather while standing on the parking lane.
When the traffic jam dissolved, we first had to stop at a filling station where we took a little snack and refueled our cars with some Super-Plus fuel for less than 1, 20€! After we passed Belgium, we arrived at the port in Calais much too early. The ships seemed to be really big, but they were actually quite huge when standing in front of them! Due to the fact that we arrived at the port that early, the friendly ladies at the check-in point suggested taking another ferry which would leave Calais soon. Of course, we checked-in immediately and waited for the actual boarding in a separate row for “lowered cultural goods”.
We managed to park our cars on board of the ship without any damage and looked for a place to sit in the local restaurant in order to eat a big portion of Fish and Chips – at last, we tried to adapt ourselves to the “new conditions”. However, there seemed to be about 20 different coins we had to deal with – really very confusing!
Time lag – another aspect we obviously had to deal with. Regarding the timetable, the ferry ride to Dover would take about an hour, but referring to my watch, it has taken at least two hours – therefore, we quickly adjusted our clocks at the destination port. Arriving in Dover, leaving the ship turned out to be the first displeasing situation during our trip. The staff clothed in yellow clearly signalized that we should leave the ship without any further delay. The fact that we had to pass the ferry’s steep ramp very slowly and cautious due to our lowered cars as well as the demolished front apron of one of our team mates did not interest any of the employees. The staff also complained about me stopping to collect the damaged parts of the broken spoiler, so that I finally had to enter England’s royal ground with a big burnout.
Leaving the ship, we were confronted with another problem – left-hand traffic. None of us ever drove on “the wrong side” of the road, so we looked for a good place to wait for Terry who has unfortunately been in a traffic jam. As we were kicked off the port area by the British police, we had to have a try – we risked to drive along the English roads localizing a filling station in order to meet our native friend there. Arriving at the meeting point, we waited some time before the actual “Meet and Greet” with my V-man. However, there were another two hours to Stevenage where Terry’s and James’ BMW-Club members waited for us near our hotel. Driving on the other side of the road was really unfamiliar and I couldn’t discover any traffic rules at all. If you ask me, the person arriving at the vertex of the traffic circle first is allowed to drive first – but this is only my personal interpretation. Of course, this should not have been the last difference to discover.
When arriving at the hotel completely tired of driving, Terry informed us about a “Welcome German Meet” at the evening, so we had only about 30 minutes to check-in and freshen-up. A big part of the girls decided to go to bed, whereas the men ventured into the lion’s den because we did not know what to expect. Would the Englishmen accept the “Germans”? What would they think about our cars? What are their cars looking like? I thought about all those questions during our ride to the meeting point.
Arriving at MC Donalds, I was really surprised in a positive way. There were a lot more cars than I had expected; the hospitableness reached a new maximum. Everybody was very friendly and it seemed like they were also excited. They introduced themselves right away and soon started to show their cars. Some little groups were formed around the 20 cars standing on the parking. We quickly noticed that “Show and Shine” did not seem to be their passion. Fly-off handbrakes, body-contoured seats and NO interior tended to be hip. If your car is furthermore equipped with forced induction, you would probably be the “King of the Road”. Even if they were obviously excited about our show-cars, they were definitely keen on acting out how meetings like that are going on in England. So one of them sat down in his bucket seat, fastened the seat belt, put on the engine and left his parking space. I clearly heard the completely closed differential which leads to the wheels both moving with the same rotary speed while passing a bend in order to keep the rear axle in mood. The rubber’s tearing noise on the asphalt really sounds terrible when driving slowly. Nonetheless, I realized what all this was going to be as soon as the driver kicked down his gas pedal. A private drift show on the parking in front of the MC Donald’s at 11pm! We were really amazed because all you can see on a German parking in the evening are probably some rowdy burnouts and uncontrollable, dangerous drifts. However, this English driver made the impression of knowing very well what to do and he probably had a lot of experience in drifting.
After a few rounds around the trees, the police arrived – what a nightmare! Suddenly, we were in a bad mood, but only the Germans – the Englishmen knew very well that the police officers were not interested in what we actually did there, they were only going into MC Drive. In my opinion, their behavior could either be seen as disinterest or rather a complete loss of control. If you look at the cars with mixed tyres on their axles, chimney systems that have been cut off, “ Liberty-Walk style” self-made kits and headlights covered with tape, it is easy to guess what actually happens on the roads there and who rules them!
Two hours later, in the cold air of Stevenage in the middle of the kingdom, we said goodbye to our new friends and drove back to the hotel. Lying in a luxurious Boxspring bed with all these fantastic first impressions in my mind, I fell asleep already looking forward to the actual event.
Directly after the breakfast in the next morning, Santa Pod was calling – one of the most famous Drag Race courses all over the world. On the legendary race track, the “BMW Show UK” has been organized for the fifteenth time and, with its program mentioned in advance, probably presents the most exciting event on the isle regarding our “treasures” from Bavaria. One part of our group went for a sightseeing trip to London in the morning. My wife went for shopping and we started to clean our cars. Terry told us that we would be able to see some beautiful landscape during our ride, so we followed him without knowing what we would actually see. When we passed a sign showing the direction “straight on” for Santa Pod, we suddenly turned left. I was really wondering where Terry wanted to go. We now went on a curvy road you could ride fast on, which was leading us through the forests. Terry stepped on the gas and I closely followed him. Driving in the joy of speed, I totally forgot my overweight concerning the luggage inside my car and “flew” through the English forests with a flashback on my “M Driving Tour”. Now I realized what he meant with “seeing a beautiful landscape”. As we arrived at a crossroad seeing the sign of “Santa Pod Raceway”, the cars gathered behind me and we entered the event terrain as a group. The tension rose to infinity – what would we have to expect?
After our tickets had been checked at the entrance, we moved on to the campground being only two minutes away from the show. After we had built up our tents, we decided to make our own little party on the campground as the main event only took place on Sunday. Against this background, we firstly explored the terrain and then used the almost empty area for a spontaneous shooting with our cars as nobody knew how this would look like the next day.
Currently, there were seven cars (six German cars and Terry’s BMW) on the terrain, but on the day of the event, 30 more cars from “Herts BMW Owner Club” should arrive as well. After getting a closer view of the area, my wife and I went to the supermarket with Terry and Michael to buy some food and drinks for dinner – having a BBQ was an obligation here! Even if it has been pretty cold, we drove to the next supermarket in a cabriolet and bought all we needed before we went back to the campground and started to prepare meal and drinks as the night had been forecasted to be very frosty. Fortunately, there was no rain expected to come.
Like about 200 other campers, we started to get drunk senselessly. As we reached a particular level, we went to the small amusement park between the tents and the event area where bumper cars, goal-shooting contests, winning cuddly toys and a lot more things could have been done. If you ask me, this had been the perfect location for us to start a funny evening. We spend our British pounds at almost every attraction and eventually went into the “Fuelers Bar”, the race course pub. As soon as we had enough of overpriced drinks with only small dosages, we began to do a “1/4 mile contest”, but not with our cars – by foot! As a real quarter mile would have been much too long (I would probably still be running up to today), we decided to start a sprint race behind the bar. Everybody had to run – having Michael as opponent, I already lost at the start line, another participant fell down and the other ones were of course very amused. In Principle, all games turned out to be a contest between the English and the Germans, for example the goal-shooting contest, even if I can’t remember who had won.
Back at our tents, we started to make our own “private party”. The first people went to bed, whereas the hard core of the group continued to drink and went into the tents at around 3am. This has been the coldest night I ever spent in a tent, but everybody survived.
The next morning, we woke up by sounding engines and met under our pavilion for breakfast – Terry and Michael had already prepared everything, so we had some bread with bacon and ketchup. Soon, the first cars of thousands of visitors entered the terrain. The clubs looked for their areas and the DJ began to play different kinds of music. We packed the most important things and joined the visitor’s queue.
My place had been in the “Show and Shine” area. Thousands of cars were expected to come but only five awards were available. I really wanted to know it – if I would manage to persuade the jury of my car, this would be a fantastic completion of the season for me! I placed the safety car and cleaned it once again before mingling with the crowds. And to be honest – it would be hard to find something similar in Germany compared with what I had seen here. At this weekend, there had been a separate area for Streetlegals and Funnycars as they also drove the quarter mile a few times. The queue for the drag race was longer than hundreds of meters!!
One “M-type” after another, innumerable V8 engine remodeling’s and as if this had not been enough, some of the cars were introduced with forced induction by a compressor. The area we had used for our shooting the day before was now full of cars – no matter if an E39 Club with 50 cars, an E30 Club with more than 60 cars or a whole block full of BMW Z3.
There has surely been a suitable type of car for everybody’s demands. I had never seen so many M-types gathered on one single place before. No matter where you were going, you might have been flashed of almost everything! The numerous cars, the size of the clubs, the organization of the particular model series and even the food stands were definitely presented on a very high level. Personally, I really enjoyed the general program as it had been impossible to get bored! I am sure everybody knows the drift-trikes on Facebook where crazy teenagers try to drift along the roads. In Santa Pod, there has been a race track only made for those vehicles equipped with 50cc engines, thus we spent 10 pounds for only five minutes driving – pretty expensive, but very exciting, so we did not miss to drive again.
If you were keen on driving in a drift taxi on the race track, you had the chance to do so – and if you thought about yourself drifting much better, it had also been possible to drift with your own car. According to narrations, many cars “perish” every year when trying to get drifted on a high level. A team of stunt bikes also presented their skills. I had also been really fascinated in the handling course – two cars and two identical tracks. As soon as the light turned into green, you were able to show your best. After about 350 meters, you passed the finish line; some bends and drifts decided about winning or losing. There had also been some awards for the participants driving faster than the others.
The “Santa Pod Jet Funny Car” started to drive the quarter mile in regular intervals. This car is powered by a helicopter turbine and needs more than 100 liters of fuel for driving the quarter mile only one time. With a power of more than 10.000hp, the Jet car is catapulted to over 330km/h in 5.7 seconds – on a distance of only 402 meters! And believe me – sitting on the grandstand only 30meters away, this could be very thrilling!
After enjoying the Jet show, I curiously went to the dealer’s area where spare parts were sold very cheap. No matter if chrome strips or sills for BMW M3 – everything could be bought here. One of the neighboring stands was specialized in selling GFK aprons and widenings similar to Liberty Walk. If I could have done so, I probably would have bought a little bit of everything. Car Tuning, transparencies as well as performance parts could have been marveled at or bought certainly.
Nearby, another M-type engine boomed – I really believe that almost no car at Santa Pod still has its original power; probably most of them had already been “optimized” as a lot of engines were equipped with a modified air inlet system. Back in the “Show and Shine” area, I began to look at my competitors. The few cars which were not built up specialized in performance were very impressive, too – airbrush, air and static, transparencies and other popular trends, however in another dimension than in Germany. In Santa Pod, this is definitely suitable – for example, you could never see a Camper Car at a similar event in Germany, but here, it seemed to be normal.
Besides the “Show and Shine” area, there had been a stage where some rappers and dancers tried to amuse the viewers. Though, this had been the first event I had ever visited where really nobody was interested in what happened on the stage because all the other things to see were much more interesting. At least, this had also been the reason for me missing the award ceremony – I really had no chance to notice when the ceremony took place. Subsequently, I got the award directly at my car while I was talking with some natives who were very impressed by only six cars driving the long distance from Germany to Santa Pod. Not only brand clubs, but also “Herts BMW Owner Club” participated in the event – as they invited us to join them and provided some exhibition area for our cars, we really felt like being members of their team!
Masses of people could be found on the small terrain beside the race track, it was absolutely amazing that every single centimeter had been used reasonably. For this reason, the event depicted a real attraction not only for the visitor’s eyes, but also for all tuning fans. Another point is that all exhibitors and organizers are obviously very professional. I always got quick answers from the person in charge of the race track, the car’s quality is on a much higher level than in Germany, too – Power and performance is important here. Looking well is, of course, no disadvantage in Santa Pod, however, the cars appearance has no priority at all. Almost 90 degrees of steering angle and a lot of power is counting here. Furthermore, I saw some classics or even crazy car projects, principally there has been an eye-catcher for everybody. Since we have been walking around in groups of two to four, we sometimes met the others and talked about how great the event was. The “BMW Show UK” had just been awesome! Around 5pm, most of the visitors left the terrain, so we used the time to look at exotic cars or to do another Drift Trike again.
Driving back to the campground, I discovered the sundown above the quarter mile and took the chance to do another shooting on the race track with this amazing background. Removing our tents afterwards, we talked a lot about what we had seen so far, the only reason for leaving had been our hunger and tiredness. We agreed on eating together as we liked to invite Terry and Michael to the Pizza Hut before driving back to the hotel. We will surely never forget what these two guys had done to keep us in mood – everything had been organized perfectly, they had a solution for every problem. Even a broken generator could have been replaced with only one single call (but fortunately did not have to be used in the end).
After eating the amazing “Cheesy Crust”, we said goodbye to the guys and went back to our beautiful hotel in order to get a couple of sleep before driving back home. The next morning, we started our trip at 7am. We had planned to make the 1000km in about 14 hours. Up to Luxemburg, we drove together, than we were all going our separate ways. I decided to take 30 minutes of sleep on the next parking. After three hours of traffic jam, I tried to manage the last kilometers as fast as possible. Back home, I fell asleep immediately, looking forward to the next day when everyday life was meant to begin again.
Not only the steering wheel is on the other side.
All people and cars I had seen in Santa Pod are completely different than what you could usually see in Germany. Everybody is pulling together and happy about other people building up fantastic cars.
I have been part of the scene for more than seven years, I have already seen a lot and made some own events as well, but the experiences I made here could never be compared with anything else. If you ask me, the “BMW Show UK” definitely depicts an obligation for 2016. I did the trip as a test and would definitely go again next weekend if the BMW Show would take place then. That much program, numerous amazing things to be marveled at and very friendly people, no matter where you are – absolutely awesome!
“Team Germany” consisting out of “NWA”-Dom, our leading team Vanessa and Carboni, the witch Maren and the “mechanic” Peter, Strunzo, Oli and Zabrina as well as my wife and me would like to thank the “Herts BMW Owners Club”, especially Terry, Michael and James for the organization and admission in their club.
If somebody is interested in joining us on our trip to the “BMW Show UK” next year, you are welcome to contact me directly. Costs for hotel, ferry and entry would be about 350€ plus fuel and catering costs.
Pictures: Denis Phoenixx Marasciulo
Experience-Report: Denis Phoenixx Marasciulo