A few Polos

1999 GTI International

By Bernd Felsche

May 8th and 9th, 1999
at the Transport Research Laboratories
Crowthorne, England
A few Golfs
Copyright © 1999, 2000 Bernd Felsche, Perth, Western Australia
All Rights Reserved
This Document may not be copied without the author's written permission.

May 8th: Rain, rain, go away!

A good run from Coventry early in the day gets me as far as Bracknell, a stone's throw from Crowthorne, before 9 a.m.; time to pop into the local Safeway supermarket and pick up munchies for the long day ahead! Although there are food vendors on site at GTI-Internationals, they have a captive audience and make the most of it.

Arriving at the gate shortly after 9 a.m., I pay my 12 ($30 Australian) for the day and join the queue of happy GTI's and other assorted VAG products. It takes some time for the marshals to organise this next lot of cars as the first car park already holds well over one thousand sets of wheels.
Skoda Fun Ute
Skoda Felicia Fun at the Skoda stand
A little bit of blue sky is still visible but it looks like being drawn behind a curtain of ominous clouds. Ever-optimistic GTI Fans get out the sponges and start to wash away the road muck from their pride and joy. Cars from the continent don't seem as numerous as in past years, Dutch and Belgian clubs are making a bit of a showing, as have some French. A Dane, an Austrian and a few Germans are visible amongst the crowd of others.

Trade displays seem to be a focus of the event, although there are many private sellers of cars and bits. The commercial traders apparently pay quite a bit of money for the privilege. It does the tuning scene a lot of good as many of the more prominent traders are chiefly mail-order houses and this is an important event at which potential customers can get a first-hand look at the products before buying.

Big name displays, as well as those of clubs, are found in the main exhibition tent which is often crammed with people. Unfortunately, these people are just trying to stay dry as showers pass overhead. Still, they pick up or have thrust upon them the odd catalogue or leaflet while being jostled in the current of people flowing around the tent.
View inside trade tent
Wares of all kinds on offer
Another view inside the tent
in every corner
It would make more sense to be outside in the rain under an umbrella, looking at cars. And there are plenty to see.
Golf Caddy - Factory Ute
Golf Caddy - Factory Ute
VW Corrado
VW Corrado
Not gold-plated
Good as Gold
Squeeze me!
Looking for a squeeze?
There are also the drag races over the quarter mile. Interesting to see them fighting for traction on the wet surface. Much more a matter of skill (and sensible tyres) than raw power. For your 5 per run, you get a printout of acceleration data and a neat graph.

Yokohama are again allowing all comers to test their A520's on the slalom circuit. The idea is that you take a run around the slalom on your own rubber, then swap over to the Yoko's on alloy wheels and take another run. Oddly, it appears that people trust strange tyres much more than what they're used to, judging from the manner of driving. Unlike the quarter mile exercise, the tyre test is free.

Not a single car tries to make a run for it on the new rubber, so it's probably not worth it. :-)

Towards midday, the interval between showers diminishes and rain settles in and looks like washing away a heap of visitors.

Meanwhile, I enjoy the sandwiches purchased earlier at Safeways, catch up on some light reading followed by 40 winks while waiting for the worst to clear.

By 2 p.m., half the car park is empty. But the rain has also waned to a light drizzle. Just right to have a stroll around and to look at the survivors!

I met some of the crew from The Golf magazine who were a little surprised to see somebody come to the International from Australia. The Volkswagen Club of WA has a reciprocal subscription agreement with The Golf. Other magazines such as Volkswagen Audi Car, Performance VW and Golf Xtreme were also represented.

It was getting pretty lonely out there at 4:30 p.m., just by myself and a few die-hards keeping the vendors on their toes so I trudged off toward the near-deserted car park and headed off in the direction of Maidenhead to the B&B.

May 9th: Just Another Day?

Rise and shine! Now if you don't know this already, the sun gets up pretty early at this time of year, like about 5 a.m., even with daylight saving. (And it doesn't set until after 8:30 p.m.) Oh well, time for a long, hot bath before the cooked full English breakfast at 8:30 a.m..

Before heading off to the International, I have to shoo a couple of cats off the Passat. They evidently thought it a purrfect place to keep dry.

The sky looks a bit brighter this morning and even the forecast doesn't predict rain until later in the day, if at all. Roads are almost dry as I buzz through Bracknell, checking to see if I can stock up on fresh sandwiches, etc at Safeways. Alas they are closed, but not to worry as I still have some Jamaican bananas to ward off hunger pangs. Arriving at the TRL at just on 10 a.m., I pay another 12 and am directed to the far queue putting me in car park 3, which seems like a 5-mile hike from the interesting stuff. Fortunately, I'm able to store my provisions and gadgets in a large insulated bag. But this makes it rather heavy and I look forward to a progressive lightening as I consume part of the contents.

Barely have I scanned the changes in displays and I bump into David Pipes who some of you may recall was kind enough to guide me around the damp and blustery 1997 GTI-International. David had recently arrived with a Canadian visitor and we agreed to meet again at noon for a yarn.

This gave me a bit of time to look around at the cheap parts on offer and to drop a few small ones into my bag. As a consequence, the bag became even heavier and I decided to have a seat and consume some of the contents before capsizing.

New Beetle loses it badly
New Beetle loses it badly around the cones
GTI lifting a tyre during testing
Golf GTI testing out the new Yoki's
saves on wear.

Fortified and rested, I continue my circuit of the stands and cars on display. Again, not much of a showing of cars from other countries. Two years ago, almost half of the Club displays were foreign cars, this year it's about a quarter.

At noon, I met up with David and Co, and watched the Yokohama tyre test. A New Beetle was doing the rounds and looked like a handful when pushed hard. A Lupo had trouble with understeer all around the circuit with far too much roll; eventually the driver lost it and took out some cones.

After some toasted sandwiches at 2.20 each ($5.50!) we part company until later in the afternoon.
Golfs battle it out over the quarter
Golfs battle it out over the quarter
Lupo hardly in the running against a Polo
Lupo hardly in the running against an old Polo
In case you were wondering, the dry surface on the quarter mile circuit came up with sprint times for 0-60 mph in 3 seconds. Fairly academic: Some of the cars were racers, a rear-engined Golf, the usual twin-engined sort, a few quattros and hundreds of front-wheel-drive VW's and Audis.

The second day ends in an anti-climax.

The Yokohama tyres and rims which had been thoroughly scuffed by all comers were auctioned. The alloy rims were probably worth the bid price.

Some awards get announced over the PA. The recipients invisible to all but the front of the crowd because the organizers, for lack of a better word, had not set up a stage for the purpose.

As we trudged through the carpark, David Pipes jokes that he's forgotten where he parked his Golf GTD. He says it looks like a Golf GTI and we should point it out for him.

That must have been the highlight of the afternoon.

I'm not sure if it was exhaustion that made me feel less than satisfied about the day.
No enthusiasts
Empty space for Club Displays
There were great cars, some nice people, great deals if you didn't get sucked in, etc. But it lacked something. Perhaps the huge gaps between cars in the display area, the lack of variety and international participation on a large scale. It couldn't have been the weather; 1997 had worse weather.

Many visitors seemed to treat the days as "bargain days"; walk in, check out prices, hand over some cash, carry off the bits and drive away. They seemed oblivious to the cars on display, to the tyre testing and the quarter-mile. Very sad for those who made an effort to present their cars.

Maybe the organizers will focus more on getting more clubs on display from all over Europe to encourage enthusiasts to come together so that the event becomes an international again. Enthusiasm is infectious, but you need a critical mass of enthusiasts to make such an event work for all concerned.

Yes, I think that's what was lacking: Enthusiasm.

Read about the 1997 GTI-International

Email: bernie@innovative.iinet.net.au
Copyright © 1999, 2000 Bernd Felsche.