Previously, in the classic Monte Carlo Rally, competitors would set off from all four corners of Europe and ‘rally’, or in other words, meet, in Monaco to celebrate the end of a unique event. On a much smaller scale, our regular touring group of five started off as four, only coming together as five at Mansfield which was our overnight destination. Kevin Riley (AMG SL55) was leading another small group of drivers through Gippsland and up the Great Alpine Road to Mitta Mitta. He was departing from Metung whilst the rest of us assembled at Frankies in Warragul before heading north towards the high country. Ray Youlden was keen to put his recently-purchased AMG C63 Merc through its paces on a decent run, and had completed a thorough maintenance service including engine and transmission oil changes to the normally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 in preparation. Rob Morley (Mercedes SL350) came down from Traralgon, already prepared for a fine day with the roof stowed away. Glenn Campbell?s BMW M3 threw up a ?Check Engine? code relating to a misfire the day before our departure and it was sitting in the Traralgon dealership?s workshop awaiting a replacement coil pack for one of it?s eight cylinders. Hasty arrangements were made for Glenn to borrow his son?s 2015 BMW M235i coupe which has similar performance to the M3, but runs a single, twin-scroll turbo 3-litre straight six. The last of the Warragul group was Steve Schmidt in his BMW Z4 35i ? which uses basically the same engine as in Glenn?s loaner Bimmer, but this time with twin turbos.
The Warragul group travelled up through Powelltown to Warburton and then followed the magnificent Reefton Spur road past the Lake Mountain turnoff to Marysville for morning tea which we shared with a King Parrot, Cockatoo and Currawong at tables outside the caf?. It was then off to Buxton, past the Cathedral Ranges to Taggerty, Acheron and Alexandra before turning off and following the little-used Skyline Road into Eildon. Lunch at Jerusalem Creek was interrupted by the passage of a gusty, cool change which brought heavy showers necessitating the roofs to be erected on the convertibles. We sat out the worst of the rain during lunch, then headed off to tackle the 70-kilometre Eildon-Jamieson Road which is a never-ending series of tight bends and switch-backs roughly following the heavily-forested, southern edge of Lake Eildon. Unfortunately, the wind and rain had created a slippery mess of leaves, bark, twigs and small branches on the road which made progress a little more challenging and circumspect than usual. Thankfully, traffic wasn?t an issue, so we all managed to enjoy the capable handling of these cars in the adverse conditions. From Jamieson, it was a short drive through Howqua and Delatite to Mansfield where we refuelled the cars before retiring to our accommodation. A couple of cars were washed that afternoon, the others waited until morning. Kevin rolled in at about 4pm after having left his other group at the Falls Creek turnoff on the Great Alpine Road and worked his way down through Mount Beauty and Myrtleford where the rain caught up with him.
Day Two dawned fine and clear with the forecast predicting a fine day ahead. Breakfast was alfresco at the local caf?, then we hit the road looking forward to a romp through the Strathbogie Ranges on the way to Euroa. From Euroa, Kevin lead us on a merry chase through undulating country around Creighton?s Creek and Terip Terip which brought us out into civilisation near Seymour. We then headed for Strath Creek where we visited the Flowerdale Estate for a cuppa and tour of the 1848 homestead. Lunch was at a bakery in Kinglake West, then we followed Ray across to Toolangi and along the Myers Creek Road into Healesville. From there it was on to Launching Place and home via Yarra Junction and Powelltown.
Attaining the best fuel economy has never been a high priority on these road-trips, but as a group we have a fairly well-established pecking order of fuel consumption. The Z4 has always been the most frugal, then the SL350, the V8 M3 with the V8 Mercs being the thirstiest. Now we had a couple of new vehicles to contend with – Glenn?s borrowed M235i Bimmer was showing amazing economy (think Toyota Corolla) ? easily claiming the mantle from the Z4, and Ray?s AMG C63 was not surprisingly, at the other extreme. At day?s end, and having travelled nearly 400km from Mansfield, the M235i claimed 8.2 l/100km (34.5 mpg), the Z4 8.9 (31.7 mpg) and the AMG 14.8 (19.0 mpg). All cars were driven spiritedly and performed admirably. Now they need a proper clean to remove the sticky tar spots from some un-signposted surfacing works that caught us unawares.