I had been doing rallies for 40 years but had never done an FIM rally. They were never really my sort of event, too organised and too expensive. However, I had become a member of the Mayflower MCC and this was certainly what they did, and also it would help out with a logistics problem we had, moving a bike from Somerset to Yorkshire.
Heather MacGregor (now my wife) was in the process of moving up to Yorkshire to live with me but we needed to move 6 bikes, including a BMW outfit. It seemed a good excuse for a trip abroad so we booked to go Dover-Dunkirk, do the rally and return Rotterdam-Hull and that would get another bike up north.
We met up and had a night at Heather's sister's place near Brooklands. The next day we set off for the ferry, 9.15am sailing. Bright and early off we went, round the bottom of the M25 and onto the M26 when I started to smell petrol and then I saw Heather pulling off onto the hard shoulder.
I was on my R100RS but Heather was on Florence, her old Brough Superior SS80. The jet block had unscrewed from the bottom of the carburettor and as that holds the remote float chamber on, it explained why I could smell petrol!
We were fortunate that everything stayed together resting on the crankcase as all I had to do was nip it back up and on we went. That could so easily have been the end of this holiday.
We arrived at the rally with no more trouble. I had been primed with all the usual FIM gripes: queuing for meals, parking away from the tent, lack of toilet rolls etc etc but didn't actually find any of it a problem.
We put the tent up in the Brit part of the campsite, had a look around the bikes and met up with other Mayflowers, people we knew and people we didn't know until then. The weather was good and the atmosphere was very friendly
When you arrive at an FIM you register and receive your identity cards and tickets for meals etc. Without your ID you can't enter or leave the site, security is tight.
The first official part of the rally is the Parc Ferme where you 'officially' arrive, although most people, including us, arrive a couple of days before. Here you all have to ride up and hand in your entry to be counted for the awards.
At FIM rallies all your meals are provided but you can end up spending lots of time waiting in a queue. This can be avoided if you arrive early and hover around until servings commence or turn up late and grab what's left! I was told that food quality and quantity varies a lot but they always try to do their best.
Evening entertainment is provided and of course drinks are available in a large marquee or you could do your own thing on the campsite.
During the day there were optional trips out and a Parade of Nations on the final day where everybody gets flagged up and rides through the town waving to the locals, all good fun. We also went on the bike to a theme park and on a coach trip to Lier.
I have to admit that I parked next to a familiar HRD motorcycle to see what reaction I got from Jacqueline Bickerstaff when she saw my PUB registration bike. Her 'PUB' is a Vincent and I had my moment of fame when my BMW was pictured next to her HRD and described as an 'ersatz' PUB in her regular column in the next month's Real Classic magazine.
All too soon we had to pack up and make our way to Rotterdam to catch the boat to Hull. It may be more expensive but for us avoids a 300 mile motorway trip up country. Hull is nearly at home, I was leading and just before I got to the M62 H disappeared from my mirrors. After a lot of dashing about I got back to the filling station where she had stopped with almost the same problem as before. Its strange but Florence had never done it before and 10 years on has never done it since, but that may be something to do with a bit of lockwire!
So that was the tale of my first, but not my last, FIM.
- Ted Trett