Gentles all, this was my plan. In my first serious road trip for a long time, I aimed to visit seven good friends (five of whom I haven't seen since before COVID) and to begin to enjoy life again after a miserable period of which I have already said more than enough.
The first day was all I hoped for. Speranza sang. I drove through France and Belgium to Luxembourg and had nothing but pleasure from the day.
I was warmly welcomed in Luxembourg and skilfully entertained. We then plotted a route that would maximise my time on unrestricted autobahn so I could try to max Speranza out. The prospect of this frivolous endeavour had already been cheering me up for weeks!
Next morning (yesterday) I said my farewells and went for it. I was 80km from my start when I opened her up and got to 150 mph. At this point, a VW pulled out and I had to brake hard. A July 4th of warning lights came on. ABS had failed. The CST (traction and stability control) had failed. Even the mannetino (the little switch that selects the drive mode) had failed.
The brakes worked and in driving terms all seemed well, but I decided I should pull over and check. In the two or three kilometres to the next parkplatz I noticed my left rear brake was making a weird clicking noise when applied.
I pulled in alongside the A1 autobahn. Restarting the engine reset the warning lights. Phew! That left the clicking noise, so I checked the left rear wheel and this is what I found.
I sent the photo to my service guys in London and they advised me, under no circumstances, to continue. The brake discs are carbon-ceramic. In everyday driving this provides no real benefit. They don't stop better or quicker than metal ones. But they can withstand greater heat and that prevents stressed brakes "fading".
They don't usually need replacing, which is a good job because they're ferociously expensive. They last for the lifetime of the car, which the industry assumes to be about 100,000 miles. Speranza has done 95,000 miles, so they've pretty much met specs. Like all carbon-fibre products, their integrity depends on an unbroken weave. Once a thread is broken, the whole thing can just fragment. It's one of the reasons we don't built carbon-fibre aeroplanes, an engineer once explained to me – though the weight/fuel economy advantage would be huge.
The usual roadside recovery comedy ensued. An impressive looking local company with a very professional website and an adept manner - involving WhatsApp – of gathering location and other data to organise a breakdown truck, turned out to be a guy with the phone numbers of other guys with trucks. I was offered recovery yesterday at €900 or today at €350. All this was strung out over a couple of hours, leaving me stranded in a lay-by with no facilities while he assessed how much he could milk me for. Eventually, he promised to send a truck by 4pm, which could get me to the nearest Ferrari dealer (back in Luxembourg) before they closed at 6pm.
While I waited, I confirmed my service booking with the dealer, pushed back my next two hotel reservations a day, checked with my friend I could stay for a second night and kept my fingers crossed. A recovery truck showed up. A personable young German explained that he had been booked by wily website guy (WWG) at €200 less than the guy who was coming, but he'd then cancelled as he said I'd found someone else. Was this true, he asked? No it bloody wasn't, I answered! Would I use him if he gave me €50 off for cash? Yes I would, I replied.
I called WWG but he hung up. He messaged me angrily to say I had to pay for "his" man who was 15 minutes away. I told him he could whistle as he'd cancelled a cheaper, quicker recovery for reasons about which it was best we didn't speculate.
It seems roadside recovery in Germany is just as dodgy as in England!
An hour later Speranza was in the hands of a maestro who confirmed what my guys in London had already told me. I left her in his safe Modena-certified hands and my new German "friends" dropped me back at my real friends' house. Before we headed out for a very pleasant evening, I booked a hire car to continue my journey.
So I will now return to the Eurotunnel via Luxembourg to drop off the hire car and pick up Speranza. I have yet to work out the details but will have plenty of time during my two stays in the South of France.
Today's journey in a humble Toyota (named "Yoko") was a joy. The pickup from the airport was easy and I fit well in the driver's seat. My iPhone connects to CarPlay, so I have my own music playlists and navigation tools.
I had a jolly run through France to the Swiss border, where I bought a second vignette (you can't detach them once affixed) so I could use the Swiss motorways. The policewoman who sold it to me was as dour as the stereotype would suggest and didn't laugh at my joke that – as I'd bought two – I should be able to drive twice as fast.
I am in a wonderful hotel overlooking Lake Lucerne. I brought the soon-to-be-ex Mrs P2 to this city on our honeymoon, but today I drove by the sights we saw that time and settled for the other side of the lake.
Tomorrow, I drive to Italy. If this sort of stuff is your thing, please watch this space.