Elephant Rally

Nürburgring 1975

Hundreds of people there! No, thousands!

- Les Hobbs

We had talked about it for a couple of months, the four of us all BMW riders, and it all fell apart in a matter of weeks. Cliff Washington, R75/5, Brian Wall, R75/5, Les Anderson, R60/6, and myself R90/6. I'd had a wire chaffed by the petrol tank. It never blew a fuse it just melted the lot into mess. At first I thought that I'd had a close shave spotting the smoke coming from under the tank and putting half a roll of tape around it, but then I noticed that at night the more I revved the bike the more the indicator tell tale started to glow. Not being a hot shot with electrics I asked the sparky at work too look at it. He revealed the extent of the damage to the loom. That was my bike off the road for a few weeks. As it turned out there was not a loom to be had in the country. Cliff's bike had the gear box mess up and I can't remember what had happened to Les Anderson's.

Only Brian's bike was in running order - he ran the local Velocette dealership. He had a couple of months earlier bought a written off Marina and put a new shell on it. So he suggested that we ventured forth in that as there was a deal with the ferry that made it cheaper to take the car and 4 people than 4 of us taking 4 bikes.

Well there's a thing. That's myself and Lee Kinsley from south Wales in 1980 Saltzburg, my first trip across the channel on a a bike. Lee is on the left sat down, I am the one stood up leaning over him with the black and white leathers. If I remember there was only 16 or 26 Brits. Different today. Just I went to Nurburgring Elephant and met few Brits there. The year before, the Solas Elephant, lots of snow, few Brits.
David Cantrill

We set off Friday night and after a short while I had had enough of Les Anderson's boring chat so I pretended to fall asleep which I kept up most of the way there and back. Les was a member of the BMW Club, in fact we all were, and he wrote an article in the journal stating that "the knurled ring on an inner tube was in fact a locking ring to be screwed up against the dust cap to prevent the dust cap from coming off and not to be screwed against the rim as in the event that the tyre crept it would result in the valve being ripped out of the inner tube". For months you could meet up with other BMW riders at filling stations and tell by looking at their wheels if they were a club member.

Next thing you knew we had arrived at the rally site. Hundreds of people there! No, thousands! We parked up and went to sign in, quite a queue. With that done we found a spot to camp. Brian and Cliff shared a tent so I had to share with Les. He had a Blacks Good Companian and he threw his belongings into one corner and put his airbed diagonally across the other two which didn't give me a great deal of room. We then went for a meal and a walk around.

There was so much going on, so many different bikes and outfits to look at, too much to take in. We eventually had a few beers and went to bed. I slept for a couple of hours until the cold woke me up. My legs from the knees down were out of the tent and the tempreture was well below zero! Not a lot I could do about it so I just lay there and shivered waiting for the morning, listening to other people in cars and vans starting their engines to get the heaters going.

After what seemed like an eternity we got out of the sleeping bags and had breakfast cooked in the back of the Marina Estate and hot coffee. With every thing done and dusted, tents packed we wandered around sightseeing and came across some kind of auto jumble/impromtu market, where I found 90% of a twin disc kit for /6 BMW brand new! I didn't have cash on me to make the purchase but luckily Brian came to the rescue. I can't tell you how good it was to get back into the warmth for the return trip.

Salzburgring Elefantentreffen 1980

Well I just had to do it. I had had the piss ripped out of me rotten by Alan Giddens for going in the Marina 5 years earlier.

The summer of 1979 I'd popped over to England to get rid of that mobile disaster the Gold Wing and drop in to see Roger Halfyard and his wife Julie at their home in West Kingsdown, and seal the deal on a BMW R100RT from L&C in Tunbridge Wells. So now I had the bike all I needed was the sidecar which I fitted when I came over for the Antelope Rally at the end of October. Dave Millen one of the other Brits working with me in Germany showed an interest in coming down to Austria for the weekend to see what rallying was all about. He had no riding gear or camping equipment so we opted to go b&b. A helmet was borrowed along with a large greatcoat. We finished work 6.00pm on the Friday night, filled up at the local petrol station and had bratwurst mit pommes at the imbiss then onto the E34 and away into the rush hour traffic.

I'm not going to bore you with a long drawn out list of road numbers and place names but we skirted to the east of Frankfurt then to the east of Nuremberg and on to Munich. From there it's a clear run to Austria, all autobahn. We cruised steadily for mile after mile, hour after hour. It's a long long way. Each time we stopped for fuel we had a quick coffee into which Dave was pouring small bottles of spirits. It's cold driving the bike, it's even colder sat in a Monza in jeans.

Close to midnight we had only just passed a service station and the bike spluttered onto reserve. I turned one tap onto reserve and slowed to 60. After a while that ran out and I turned the other side of the tank to reserve, scanning all intersections for a petrol station on a side road. Still no sign saying petrol 25kms. I slowed to 40 and after what seemed to be half an hour we saw the sign we had been waiting for. We pulled in and I shook the bike - nothing. I doubt if it would have covered another 20yards. Close one.

We arrived at the Austrian border about 5.30am and stopped in the service area cafe for coffee and food. No point going any further. We had no shillings and we would probably have finished up hanging about outside waiting for the rally controle to open.

We got to the site around 9.30am, signed in and found a hotel within a 20 minute walk, booked in and had a shower. Then we walked back to the site in bright warm sunshine. There was snow around in the shadows and ditches. We had a look around and soon spotted a few English riders, a couple or three from the Stoke on Trent area that I knew from ages back.

The stage was set so bring on the ale! It sort of started with the Gluhwine around 11.00am, a hot spicy red wine with herbs served steaming and sweet, very moreish. As we sat drinking we stripped off, not all the way, but down to tee shirts. The mid-day sun was very warm, we had a great time, just chewing the fat until the sun went down and the frost started. Camp fires started to be lit and soon anything and everything was being burned. It was bloody cold. There were a load of old car tyres being burned and as we were in the bottom of a valley the air was still and the smoke just hung there.

I was getting really cold now I had to get indoors or I was going to die!

- Les Hobbs

We only had one key to the digs and Dave wanted to go back and get some sleep, so off he went with the key. I carried on drinking until about 11.00pm and then decided to go back. But I took a wrong turn and finished up in the next village so I had to retrace my steps and eventually found the hotel but I had no key. I tried calling Dave but he was well out of it. I pushed the bike under the balcony, climbed onto the seat and reached up but could not pull myself up onto the balcony. Again I called to Dave through the half opened door. No waking him.

There was this pile of crates, some with empty bottles in. I thought that if I piled them up I may just get up high enough to get onto the balcony. But alas there were not enough and I finished up falling off! The noise started a dog in the hotel barking and I thought that some one would come out to see what was going on, but no. I was getting really cold now I had to get indoors or I was going to die!

There was a barn type building almost adjoining the hotel. I tried the door but it was chained. I walked around to see if there was another door and found that the roof of the barn came almost down to the ground. With the crates I could get onto the roof, from which I could easily get onto the balcony and into a nice warm bed.

The morning came and I awoke with the expected headache. On reaching the sink I poured a glass of water, dropped a couple of solpadine in and waited a moment or two and then I tipped my head back and swollowed! Had I auditioned for the Black and White Minstrel Show? Seeing myself in the mirror, man I was Black. I looked at Dave. "Hello Dave" He looked like Papa Lazarus. The spotless white bedding was now looking like we had wiped our feet on it all night! PANIC!

I roused Dave and sent him to the shower. I took the bathroom. Twenty minutes later we were both clean of the remains of the evidence of last nights tyre burning, packing our few belongings. We overturned the pillows and adjusted the duvets to show no trace of blackness. We hastened down for breakfast, intent on makeing a rapid exit. During breakfast the hotel owners wife said something to me, which I thought at first was a bollocking for making a noise when we came back. Turned out to be a roasting for leaving the front door of the hotel open all night!

We left PDQ after eating and made good speed for the border. After a short distance we came up behind a Dutch outfit, a rider that I recognised from the Hague. We stopped to take on petrol at the services and had a chat then set off. After about 4-5 kms we were touring at 90mph and Piet turned, looked back at me and waved, then started to open up the distance between us. I opened up to maintain but was being left behind. I dropped a gear and screwed it. Still no better. I was now at a fraction over 100mph and being left. I found out later that his outfit was fitted with a R90s engine that would leave any R100 for dead!

After a long troubled (carburation) return trip we eventually got back to our digs around 21.30pm, both glad to be back home to nice warm beds.

- Les Hobbs

Start of quotation I only did the Elephant once - 1975

It was a bit of a struggle but we did it. Here is the postcard I sent my parents, found among the junk my mother saved. End of quotation

- Heather MacGregor