Blakes first Irizar Integral was a Rally winner
Devon-based Blakes Coaches was delighted to return from the UK Coach Rally in Blackpool laden with silverware, including the prestigious Irizar Trophy, and narrowly missed out on reaching the final of the driving competition.
That the 13.2-metre, tri-axle i6 scooped a trophy couldn’t have delighted 22-year-old Hannah Blake more…. because she was the person who chose to buy it, and was involved in specifying every inch of the striking luxury tour coach.
Selecting the right coach for Blakes’ extensive tour work got easier, says Hannah, when she saw Irizar UK’s Integral vehicles last year: “I just loved them – they seemed so much more balanced than other coaches, and extremely well built.”
Having had her head turned, Hannah set her sights on the i6 tri-axle, and carefully ‘built’ it from the ground up, to include 53 i6+ seats with seatback tables and three-point belts, a toilet, drinks machine, cant rail and mood lighting, twin-screen DVD system, driver bunk, reversing horn and camera, inverter, and USB charging sockets throughout.
“I’ve just got back from a four-day tour to Looe, in Cornwall – not the easiest area to drive. But my co-driver and I agreed that the engine and gearbox combination were ideal, holding well on hills with plenty of spare power to climb them, and perfect gearchanges,” said Hannah.
“More importantly, the passengers love it. I’m convinced that it is the perfect coach for our work.”
Blakes’ work is mainly on its own, very extensive tour programme. The Tiverton-based company plans around 250 tour departures each year, in addition to 120 day trips. Other than a small amount of private hire, touring is the only work.
Established by Hannah’s father, David, and mum Janet in 1998, Blakes has gone from strength to strength, and now has ten full-sized touring coaches: “We’re having a great season this year, too,” said Hannah.
Hannah is Blakes’ Accounts Manager but then set about training for her PCV test in 2015, and passed 18 months ago: “I love coach driving, and wish I had more opportunity to do it, but my main job takes most of my time. I’ll take any chance I can to get behind the wheel, but this coach is assigned to our driver, Roy, and I know he’ll be delighted with it.”