Wankel Treffen
(and 10th Laverda Treffen)

16 July 2004 - Laverda Freunde Bad Orb

This year I had decided not to bother going to the Simmer Dim Rally in Shetland, so I was looking for a different, fairly long distance run. Luckily, as I was in the Rotary Owners Club, a chance came up to visit a Wankel Rally in Germany. It was not a wholly Wankel event, as it was run by the Laverda Owners Club down in Bad Orb, near Frankfurt in Bavaria. Their low membership was boosted by admitting the equally low number of rotaries into the club.

Most of us that were going met up in Folkestone, as we were going via the tunnel, and we all managed to park up in the spaces next to a Mazda RX8 - also a rotary - who obviously assumed the car park markings were meant for lesser beings than themselves. The ROC convoy consisted of two white Mk2 Commanders, a F1, (Street racer rep), and my Mk1 Commander.

The trip on Le Shuttle was uneventful, although we had to be electronically 'sniffed' for explosives before we drove on board. When we off-loaded in Calais and filled up the bikes, I was disappointed to find out, (after calculating it at home), that the petrol was less than one third of a penny cheaper per litre. I had been led to believe that the UK was paying way more than anybody else in Europe. At a fill-up in Belgium, it was a couple of pence more than UK prices, but in Luxembourg, it was twenty pence cheaper. They are one of the few European countries that don't over-tax their petrol. It was amusing to see that, down a street that follows the border, ALL the buildings on the Luxembourg side of the road are filling stations, and on the Belgian side, they are all houses.

We were going via Luxembourg as a club-member lived there, who would put us up for the night, due to the distances involved. I had been on the road for 11 hours by the time we got there. He owned several classic Brit bikes as well as a Norton 'Interplus', which was a modified and faired air-cooled rotary. Quite rare! I noticed that the porch of the house across the road had windows in the shape of the rotors in our bikes. Shortly after arriving, another member turned up, who had made his own way over by boat, on an ex-police Interpol 2, complete with BMW fairing and solo seat. After a relaxing evening, with bats flying about overhead, and our bikes safely stowed in the garage, we crashed out around the living room and woke refreshed, in a foreign country.

We didn't leave until about midday, as some of our group were riding up and down the road on our friend's Interplus, and it took us another six hours to get to Bad Orb. I noted that the petrol was now regularly 5p per litre more than in the UK. We only got lost twice, once in a small village somewhere near the border, (by luck I had brought along a quite old road map which just covered the area, and helped us locate ourselves), and then on the edge of Frankfurt, but we just drove around until we found a likely looking road. At one point on the trip, one of the White Mk2s turned off the Autobahn. We assumed he had made a mistake and slowed down to enable him to catch up. He didn't, so we resumed our speed, (we had been travelling at well into three figures almost the entire trip) It later transpired he had somewhere/someone to visit.

After we reached Bad Orb, we then had to locate the field, which took a while. We had to negotiate quite a long farm track up a bit of a hill. After we signed in I went to set up my tent. I was surprised when the others in our party all rode off into town for a B&B! I had wondered at their small amounts of luggage. I wandered about the field for a while, checking out the few bikes there, and located a couple of Brits to chat to. My O level German has almost left me completely, and never included motorcycling.

There was no badge for this event, so I made do with buying a t-shirt. There was beer, and water, in a trailer, and you were allowed to pick any bottle you wanted. I forget if there was a charge for this, or it was included in the ticket. You could also buy a ticket for the barbecue on the Saturday evening.

On Saturday morning, the other ROCers returned and the organisers presented an engine for us to stare at. Apparently it was a very interesting engine and several people enjoyed prodding it and twisting bits. It could have been a turbo-charged Rotary, for all I know. This was brought along by one of the organisers in a Mazda RX7. A little later quite a few more bikes had arrived, and the rotaries included almost an equal number of Nortons and DKWs. Quite a few Laverdas, obviously, but also some other Italian exotica.

A run to a country pub was next. This was when my bike showed a worrying tendency to refuse to take right-handers. I thought at first I may had hit a patch of mud or something, but when I went careering onto the wrong side of the road on quite a gentle bend, I knew something was up. Luckily there was nothing coming the other way that time. I spent the rest of the day sitting over one side of the bike as much as I could, to keep it going the direction I wanted. The first stop was a country pub and the run ended at a cafe in Bad Orb.

Back at the site, there were loads more bikes, as we were visited by what may have been a few other clubs. I am guessing there was a classic bike club, pretty much all BMW and MZ combos. as opposed to a bunch of heavies.

There was a prize giving and the organiser doing it was well into the beer by then. He tried to ride a bike across the field, but couldn't even start it. A local paper had sent a reporter and we were all photographed. Time went on and those who were so inclined, retired to their B&B and the rest of us did whatever people do while waiting for something to happen.

Later on after the barbecue, there was a massive thunderstorm not very far away. We, (well, me at least), were watching the lightning and feeling the thunder. There was a woman behind me talking, I assumed, to a friend. I had no idea as she was talking in German, (hardly a surprise). When I walked away, she said something directly to me. Apparently she had been trying to engage me in conversation. She did speak a little English as well, so we had a rather unedifying chat about the weather, before it started raining again and I went to my tent.

Sunday opened a bit damp and there was a huge amount of mist over the village below us. The village people came up to say their goodbyes to the organisers and we set off homewards. After a while we stopped at a cafe which appeared to be just temporary one but had been there some time. There was a motor-sport themed picture painted on the wall of the house next door. The only seating it had was outside and it was making an effort to rain. That was OK for a while but as soon as we finished we set off again, as the rain was getting heavier.

As the miles rolled away under us the rain increased on top of us. We rode straight past the entrance to the Nurburgring, where people were queuing to get in - do they still do timed runs in this weather? Hurtling around a corner we got flashed. But, as it was a front-facing camera, I didn't worry too much about picking up whatever penalty there was. More rain, and the inevitable happened. Phut Phut Bang Bang Phut as the engine faltered. First one side and then both. Liberal amounts of water dispersant got it running again and we limped into the nearest town to let it dry out, as the rain was lessening a bit.

We spent a good half hour in a cafe and set off under full power. As soon as we hit the autobahn - that was it - full throttle all the way between petrol stops. With our speed well into three figures, whichever numbering system you use, we were a little surprised, not to mention impressed, when a rather meaty-looking Porsche rolled past us on tick-over.

We breezed through Belgium with only a petrol stop to show we had been there. We arrived at Calais 11 hours after leaving the site, having covered 466 miles. (This was less than the trip down, as we didn't need to go via Luxembourg. We said goodbye to the one who was using the ferry and booked in at the tunnel terminal. We were able to get on the next train, with only a few minutes to spare, which enabled the sports rider to replace the oil that may have washed off his chain on the way there. The rest of us had totally enclosed oil-bath chains - leaks permitting. Allowing for the time-zone change, we were back in Folkestone 20 minutes later.

Back on British soil, well tarmac hopefully, we went our separate ways. I managed the almost exactly 100 miles home in a slightly illegal time.

- Phil the Spill