The M3 Does Spain!

From where I last was with the the old girl it was fair to say that it was busy redeeming itself. For the next 3 months it was nice where the car had been spend free for once. It was 3 months in come August when I would broke this rule. Why? I needed cupholders and an SMG relay. While the relay could be justified what about the former item? This was easy ; I was going to drive the M3 down to Spain for a bit of a trip.

Given their reputation these days for many things going wrong I was apprehensive about doing so. Thoughts about the head gasket, SMG pump, VANOS and bottom end issues all went through my head. I had taken £200 shitters previously across Europe so why worry so much about this trip? I guess when it is your pride and joy that has cost you a few quid to maintain this feeling is quite normal.

Since the car had a service during the oil cooler saga only months before I left I knew it would be a case of checking the car over. Before I knew it there was little else to do but fit the new cupholders. While there was a mixup with the colour of the cupholders being delivered to me Cotswold BMW to their credit bent over backwards to get me out of this jam.

 

I did not hesitate to fit the grey cupholders and to pack my tools and spares for the trip. Little did I know the time for me to leave the UK for Spain would creep up very quickly! But at least the car was a joy to drive down, with me having some great company in the form of a good friend for the trip. Leaving at 6pm on a Thursday night however would hamper how much progress we made in France that day, especially when the Eurotunnel had a delay on of an hour until we actually would get onto the boat. With that in mind we made ourselves comfortable and attempted to sleep on the train and while waiting for the train with limited success.

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Back again at Folkstone!  Some say I live there!

Once in France and the time now being past 12AM we decided to call it a night and stopped off just outside Calais to rest and hit the road the next day.

This day would be testing. We would be driving from Boulogne-Sur-Mer to Pamplona, Spain. In a day. Yup, it was not going to be a short hop. With that in mind we jumped into the car and hit the autoroute. The M3 did come into its own here

Despite it being 14 years old and with a few miles on the clock it literally cruised all of the way down through France. 4 hours felt more like 2 and even the weather was cheering up for us. This would all change when he hit Bordeaux at 4pm that day.   Going through the hot traffic you could hear the car’s fan operating at maximum speed as the heat went up to 33 degrees centigrade. The car by this point had been running for 7 hours with us only stopping for lunch and fuel. Before 5PM with the car crawling around Bordeaux a few warning lights came on! It was running cool (albeit the oil temps going to over 100 degrees centigrade) and generally fine however. With this in mind I decided to stop off and let the car cool off for ½ an hour and let the traffic die down. Oh, and treat myself to an ice cream.

 

With that done it was then time to hit the road again with our next stop being Pamplona. After Bordeaux however this leg would drag on a little. However, we made it to Pamplona for 9:30 to meet up with our friend who had been there for quite some time. Not a bad time to get there really!

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Taken outside Muguiro

After having a beer and a small meal we all knew it was time to get to bed and to see what sights Pamplona had to offer. The truth is it was more than I was expecting!

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It is Hemingway town remember folks!
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Spain and Racetracks? Are You Sure?

It is fair to say that I was dreading the leg from Calais to Pamplona. It was a 10 hour drive with stops allowed for with almost 600 miles to cover in a day! All to be done in a car with a reputation for not being mega reliable, and high performance one at that getting on for 14 years old! You can imagine my relief that it made it down! Then again you always worry more when it is your own car.

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The descent into Pamplona was stunning!  A far cry from monotonous French routes

It was then time to explore Pamplona, and what a city it is! Famed for the questionable bullfighting as well as Ernest Hemmingway residing there during the 1920s. Yup, there was plenty to see, but we decided to try something different first, something carcentric. But in Spain? How? This one was simple. We took a 40 minute trip out in the M3 from the great city of Pamplona to Circuito de Navarra.

Experiencing the atmosphere at a clubman level in Spain was very interesting. Interesting enough for me to say that it was fantastic. Sure, there were pit girls and the usual stuff at the bike event but there was more. There were loads of people present to watch the entry level series where the youth would prove their worth by their skill level, not necessarily by what the bikes could do. The bar was rammed with people ordering Jamon bocadillos. Beers, soft drinks and the odd coffee were being ordered too, all being sold at reasonable prices! There was no overpriced bar here, just loads of people having a great time and watching the racing their mates and loved ones.

It was strange how the entry level events were more fun to watch than the bigger Super 1000s. There were more chances being taken and more rawness present during the racing! If there is an event on here it is well worth the visit.

After this day however we decided to chill out in the city itself. The second day was mostly spent looking at Café Iruna, a lovely café that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent, as well as a bar in the same square, again another one of Hemingway’s haunts.

From then on thanks to some local Spanish company we ended spending quite a bit of the day indulging in many canas and quite a lot of tapas! From mussels to strangely fried eggs it was all lovely,

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The Pamplona Bullring.  A place of alot of controversy ; it was confusing being there!

The day would come however that we would move onto our second destination, Valencia. In comparison to driving down to Pamplona this trip was quite a bit shorter! It was however as hot as Bordeaux the closer we got to Spain. At one point it did go hotter, 35 degrees centigrade to exact! The car’s viscous fan fully locked up on a number of occasions on the way down once the temperature went north 30.

However, Valencia does not have a reputation of being kind on traffic. I had heard from a few sources that Valencia could be a pain to drive in! How would we cope?  By the looks of it some cars were forlorn already at Valencia Airport!  Our fingers would be crossed.

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From Bulls to Valencia!

With me coming into Valencia things seemed different immediately. From travelling on the Spanish motorways with barely any traffic we suddenly saw many more cars around us! The cruise control would not be all that useful now! But at least I was in the right car for the job.

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When it came to parking the car up however you could tell the car was hot. The temp gauge was stuck smack bang in the middle of the gauge and the viscous fan was fully locked up. Yup, it was warm alright.  But at least the car could have a well deserved rest for a few days; it even had a companion in the form of a friend’s E89 Z4 30i sDrive. It’s just as well as I had heard on the grapevine that Valencia is not what you would call car friendly. But for once that didn’t matter.

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The accommodation was spot on for the break. In the heart of the city with it only being a stone’s throw away from the main square it certainly felt like we were living the high life! Gorgeous buildings with a chilled atmosphere and variety? This is the place! Oh, and a bit of sunshine to go with it.

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But I had to be honest. Valencia is no place for a car. With that in mind a friend suggested that we store our cars at Valencia Airport while we were there. After seeing the many webs of one way streets in Valencia this seemed like a good shout in hindsight.

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Without the cars at least you can enjoy a beer in the sun.  Happy Days!

But a lack of cars between us would not spoil the fun, oh no! After all, a lot of the a places to visit in Valencia were accessible by foot. However, they were even more accessible by bike! It’s almost like Valencia is built for bike travel ; it’s matrix of cycle lanes make it a breeze to go around on bike ; I could have been there all day! The UK could learn a thing or two here in the quest to harmonise and reduce traffic. Make no mistake, I love my cars, but I also hate traffic jams and waiting!

With that in mind we were just lapping up the scenery. However, the day would come that we would have to leave Valencia. This would not be without sampling part of the Formula 1 track first. After all, when in Rome, even if it was on bike!

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Yup, my companions on the trip were loving it on Valencia’s street circuit!

The next leg of the trip would be interesting. Partly because it was very familiar territory to use. But also partly because we had a surprise in store as well.

 

The M3 Makes it to Benidorm!

 

It was fair to say that I was lovely Valencia! Like a lot of Spain you find it hard to leave the great places ; the chilled atmosphere, great food and friendly people certainly do not help here! However, the next leg would leave me with a good reason to leave!

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Not a car you much of at all!  We came across this old Sierra just outside Valencia.  It was good to see it being used!

Leaving Valencia was like most other Spainish cities. Plenty of motorways with lots of heat. However, I never remember the speed limits changing quite so frequently as they did as I was experiencing on this trip! I guess its one way the Spanish could break up the monotony of motorway driving! Not that you really need it in an M3!

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I had the car, I had the shades and the weather.  What more do you need?

However I soon saw another reason to keep myself awake. That was to turn off the A7 onto the CV790 heading towards Costa Blanca, or rather, Benidorm. This road soon renewed our vigour from a driver’s perspective. I can’t say that my passenger shared my enthusiasm on some of the bends where I enjoyed myself! It was a little like the Italian job pilot scene, albeit without the snow and the Lamborghini! I was loving many of the tight bends I was contending with but also the changing camber of the corners, even if they did catch me out on a few occasions! It’s times like these that you learn more about driving as well as about your car behaves itself!


Before we knew it we had arrived into the outskirts of Benidorm, ready to have a good night’s sleep, a few beers as what most people do on a holiday, relax! That said I did bring along another passenger for the trip, in the form of a bird that I unintentionally hit!

At this point the M3 would prove it’s worth as a practical car once again! With my friend’s car being strictly a two seater it was the car of choice whenever we left the house. Not a bad way to travel in the Spanish sun you could say! Naturally we spent most of the time just chilling out rather than driving!

Before we knew it we would be well rested and travelling back to the UK.  As always the M3 munched up the miles with ease as we cruised back doing a 2 night stop.  This involved going through the Pyrenees and many single cross country roads as well as towns, which broke up the scenery nicely initially.  It was also strange going through a tunnel where there was a 15 degrees temperature drop in comparison to outside!

It was fair to say that this trip have been epic!  So right on so many levels, yet with a lot of trepidation! It was a shame to be back home, but in another, also quite a relief given the baggage an E46 M3 comes with.  All in, the trip was superb and the car proved itself as a European tourer that can master many trades.  Here is to the next road trip of many!