It’s a rare occasion that your job sends you on a road trip of your dreams. I never thought that thanks to my job I would discover such new places, new people, and even adventure.
After the first full-night’s sleep in ten days, I woke up and slowly came to terms with the fact that a journey had gone by far too fast. It’s true that everything nice passes too quickly. During the ten-day road trip, there wasn’t a moment spent idle and our cameras were clicking nonstop. Unpacking that “virtual drawer of memories” after a journey is a difficult task, but after our incredible journey to MINI United 2012, it’s our wish to recreate and share our amazing story for you.
Somewhere around mid-May we set our coordinates towards the most beautiful part of the French Riviera — our sights set on the biggest gathering of MNI fans from all over the world, with 30,000 in total attending! MINI United 2012 was in dreamy Provence on a proper racetrack, the Circuit Paul Ricard, near a small medieval village on a hill called Le Castellet and it proved to be the perfect location.
For us the ride there was 1500 km. We couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel, play the favorite tunes and leave a few skid marks on our way to France. The timing was incredible. We hit Venice in time for breakfast, Marseilles for lunchtime and had a sunset in Cassis. With freedom on four wheels, we had the vastness of Provence and the lovely Cote’d Azur before us just waiting to be explored.
There’s a truly unique feeling that only the true MINI connoisseurs can understand when you find yourself amidst a growing fleet of MINI drivers, all in it together approaching a common destination. Taking the scenic route and waving to each other in recognition, we felt part of a special MINI family, euphoric as we approached Le Castellet. France. Warm wind in our hair as driving down idyllic winding roads to the racing track, we were left at a loss for words. True bliss.
MINI of every color and variety — vintage and sleek contemporary — all turned out in force. It was hard to believe I was seeing so many MINI all at once, each with a unique personalized flare.
But the cars were just the beginning. Countless activities kept us busy from dawn till dusk. From test drives and racing on the track to huge music acts — not to mention the casual socializing and bonding with fellow fans under the Mediterranean sun — there was plenty for all. And when the stars came out some serious headliners like Gossip, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Ting Tings took to the stage for open-air gigs.
Our little MINI was lucky enough to land a spot in the “Beauty Parking” section, placed amidst over 100 other beautiful cars in the very center of the event. It was great to find ourselves amongst some of the most dedicated drivers.
Fans screaming with joy were a common sight. For one of the coolest events, a professional driver took you sliding down asphalt as if it were ice thanks to special “Easy Drift” tires, and we soon realized that if you scream in appreciation enough, the driver would do even a 180 or 360 spin. Kudos to those guys for spinning MINI around for 8+ hours a day and not getting sick!
But we wanted to leave our own skid marks on the track and for that we turned first to the Race Your MINI challenge. There you could go as fast as you dared but in controlled environment, so there was no fear of just completely letting go! Later we took to the actual Paul Ricard race track, a real honor to drive on. MINI enthusiasts were led by a “pace car” and we tried our best to keep up with on it the track.
MINI weren’t just on the asphalt, either. Chilling at the MINI Bar, people sat in sofas made of just the back part of Classic Minis and rode in MINI Rickshaws.
You could lounge around, have a cocktail, drive gokarts and take a ride in a MINI Rickshaw, and with MINI Test Drive you could even take a MINI of your choosing out for a joyride through the Provence countryside.
MINI Originality was really interesting. These were all kinds of MINI custom built by famous designers, often for celebrities. Limo-sized MINI, studded or all-chrome MINI (signed by David Bowie!). In this area also were the “MINI on Steroids,” as I like to call them. These rally cars won the Dakar Rally 2012 with Stephan Peterhansel behind the wheel.
The first night it was all about Iggy and the Stooges and his hard rock sound, followed by local music hero Martin Solveig. Saturday was undoubtedly the busiest day, especially in the evening where The Ting Tings dominated the stage. Their gig heated up the atmosphere to the boiling point and everybody was positively overjoyed. Right after them it was time for the mega star the band Gossip, which sang all her famous songs to us, took an admirable stab at speaking some French, and kissed to the crowd! Salut!
The final day we just took some joy rides. The MINI Cooper SD Coupé Cabrio literally flies on the road and gets you hooked after the first 100 meters. Later in the day, as we walked around during the final afternoon, we tried to soak up as much of the atmosphere as we could. We had a lingering feeling of MINI euphoria, and it was hard when we finally had to say goodbye.
While finally heading home through the mountain roads in the evening somewhere near Manarola, Italy, I was thinking about the real love people have for this little car. And I realized that it’s not so random. MINI is an amazing little thing that is first of all incredibly fun to drive and has tons of customizable accessories, as well. And so much happens behind the scenes, like creatively ensuring the car evolves with its fans needs and finding ways to properly thank the MINI loyal — like MINI United. This is why people love this car so much. And maybe a little bit because of Mr. Bean.
The next morning, awaking near the stunning shoreline Italian village of Manarola, I ran to see the view from our terrace that I could hardly comprehend the pure perfection before me. The vastness of the deep blue sea and the shore of Cinque Terre, all wrapped up in a beautiful spring day. The houses in the area had natural terraces amongst the rocks, too narrow for even a MINI to squeeze through. Grapes and olives grew along the little paths.
As so often the case, the ride home went by more quickly. The surroundings grew more and more familiar, and when we reached the so called “Gates of Belgrade” we knew it was time to wake up, that we are home.
I want to give a special thanks to the MINI Serbia Crew that gave us the opportunity to have so much fun and represent our country in France, along with all the other guys from MINI Club, Serbia. Thanks to them, we are able to tell you this story.
If you ever have the chance to go to MINI United, just do it. You won’t have any regrets. Top-notch fun, meeting cool new people, driving around in the most amazing cars and experiencing the unique blend of amazingness that only MINI can offer, are all guaranteed.