It was the perfect way to end the summer: a trip to Paris, a rally through France over in to Germany, and a day at the internationally acclaimed Frankfurt Motor Show. Who could turn down an invitation like that?! Well, amongst the team here, there was only one of us available to go, and that was yours truly, another benefit to being single and willing to do anything!

Ford Blogger Rally

It was the perfect way to end the summer: a trip to Paris, a rally through France over in to Germany, and a day at the internationally acclaimed Frankfurt Motor Show. Who could turn down an invitation like that?! Well, amongst the team here, there was only one of us available to go, and that was yours truly, another benefit to being single and willing to do anything!

After an unimaginable 7am start on a Saturday, the journey began to Paris. Living in London is full of perks, one of which is the Eurostar, which got me to my destination in no time at all. I was greeted at the train station by a Ford driver in one of the new Focuses, to take myself another blogger to the lovely hotel in the heart of Paris. We were there early and had a few hours to spare, so myself and my new found friend Marce, headed down the Champs Elysee for a few drinks in the sunshine. After a few we headed back to prepare for our evening’s briefing on what the next few days will hold. Of course, up to this point, we had precious little info to go on, safe that there would be some sort of rally…

That evening it was announced that there should have been 4 representatives from each of the different Ford markets total 24 different bloggers, including the UK, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Russia. We would be put into pairs and would share the driving of a brand new 2011 Ford Focus Wagon Titanium edition. We would be rallying from Paris to Frankfurt, with numerous stages, although this would not be your conventional A-to-B rally based on times. Instead, we would be challenged across the legs of the journey, requiring us to tap into our social networks to find locations and answers along our routes. Along the way we would get to stop off at the Ford factory in Saarlouis as well as meet people involved in the production of the car we were driving as well as on the Ford Evos concept that we have previously featured.

I was paired up with a UK writer Cate, and her diligent photographer Ian. After a lovely 3 course dinner and a good night’s sleep, we were up at the crack of dawn to get driving. One tricky part in all of this was that there was no satnav in the car – just a map book! It was also revealed at this point that Cate was not capable of driving a manual (stick shift), and so yours truly was tasked with the entirety of the driving whilst Cate took on the navigation duties. I am a Ford Focus owner, and so having the chance to drive the latest model was a welcome change, as was driving on the wrong side of the road, apologies, the right hand side of the road. In fact, this was the first time on the right for me, so was quite nervous given the 600km drive ahead!

The first leg, from Paris to Reims, began early and our car was the last to leave the garage as Ian set up his cameras. Along the way we were set 3 challenges, which were shared with us by Scott, Head of Social Media for Ford. Ingeniously, you could just plug the USB key we were handed into the port in the glove box and it could be played directly through the stereo system. These involved stopping off along the way in Brie-de-Meaux to purchase the ‘king of cheeses’, an eponymous souvenier, find a statue to photograph and also a specific window in the Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Reims. Whilst these seem fairly easy, remember we have a lunch to catch, no satnav and we are travelling the whole time with limited data usage on wifi dongles… Oh, and of course we left 30 minutes after everyone else as well. I’m not here to make excuses, but after getting horrendously lost trying to escape Paris, finding somewhere to buy cheese in Meaux and finding the restaurant, we managed to complete only 2 of these challenges. In spite of this, we were third to the restaurant, although the car had already begun to smell like cheese.

After a hearty lunch we set off to Mets on the French border with Germany. Whilst the journey itself wasn’t to have any challenges, we were asked to snap 3 photos we felt represented a theme Ford brand themselves with, including tech, green and saftey. We were also told that our cars were measuring how economically we were driving and a rating for this would be assessed, the top 3 getting points. After a quick investigation, we determined our fuel economy was already the worst amongst the drivers, and with little hope of salvaging this without getting out and pushing the car the next 200km. We took a team decision to throw caution to the wind and give the car a bit of a test, to push it to the max and test out some of its new features.

We set off last, again, and once we hit the open roads we opened up the engine. The car felt comfortable to drive at its top speed, and although only having to contend with minor bends in the road, the car hugged the ground quite well in most instances and felt very safe. Whilst travelling we gave the lane drifting feature the test, and if anything, it proved quite annoyingly useful, vibrating away when I was veering lanes. Of course, if you like to change lanes without indicating (naughty!) then this will obviously irritate you. If you change the intervention setting it’ll even steer you back in to the lane, which is awkwardly uncomfortable as it fights your control. We made it to Mets first – a stunning turn of events and a testament to my driving. Of course, it could be people had been taking it easy given the challenge. Once there we were set a parallel parking challenge, a test of our abilities and then the chance to road test the autopark function.

Every car nominated a driver and we took turns to get it in to the space set between two of the Focuses. Yours truly was up first, and I must admit I set the bar quite high – my front tyre approximately 10cm away from the kerb and a time exactly 2 seconds slower than the autopark. Proud of this, I stood by to watch the remaining participants, and although unsure of my result at the start, my confidence grew as each person took their turns. Some were slow, some were quick, some were very far out from the kerb and some crashed. I finished the champion, but sadly this garnered no points for the team, only deductions – so we had the least deducted from what we could only assume were already low points. You can check out everyone giving it a go compared to the auto park feature on this youtube playlist

The following day saw us drive straight to the Saarlouis Ford factory, which has been open for over 40 years. Having been round car production plants before I was looking forward to making comparisons between factories across companies and geographies. However this could only be achieved after we got to the factory, a 90 minute journey that took easily double. Unfortunately, and without pointing any fingers (Cate), we got lost numerous times and missed the bodyshop of the factory tour. However me made it in time to go down the production line and watch the cars being assembled, as well as getting the chance to enjoy a lunch in the factory canteen. Following this it was just a simple straight forward drive to Frankfurt for the motor show. Again, leaving last, we managed to make it there second… So you can say what you want about our abilities to complete challenges, had this been you classic rally we would have won.

So what did we learn? I hate to bring up the old stereotype, but some women cannot read maps for love nor money. That the new Focus is a fun little drive, is good value for its price range, and comes with a good few little extras if you pay for them, and that it is capable of getting the needle to the top of its dial. That I drive incredibly quickly and that I’m more accurate and about as fast as a machine when it comes to parallel parking – take that technology!

Thanks to all those that took part, and if you don’t believe me about the Focus, you can read Joe’s, from when he done the first UK drive.

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