“I’ll let you sleep with my girlfriend if I can drive your RS 4,” says a slightly inebriated twenty-something who’s wandered up to our group sitting on the side of the Coastal Highway, a strip that cuts north-south right through the heart of Ocean City, MD. This road is where the nightlife happens after the gates close at H2O International’s home of the Ocean Downs horse track. Massive groups of enthusiasts in Audis and Volkswagens cruise from parking lot to parking lot until Ocean City’s finest kick them out, only to go out on the hunt for the next swathe of pavement. We’d just spotted some friends from Volkswagen and the parked R-GTI, VW’s 2007 SEMA show car, parked in a mini mall parking lot and watching the German cars go by. It seemed like a plan, so we parked one of our staffer’s RS 4s alongside and hung out. That’s when we were approached by the guy with the RS 4 fixation and his girlfriend.
“And what do YOU think about that?” I ask, looking over at the girl as the RS 4 owner tries to hide the fact that he’s blushing. I’m sure she’ll give her boyfriend a little bit of guff over the remark.
“Well…,” she says, giving it a quick run-through in her head. “It IS an RS 4.”
It’s hard to argue with that logic.
Welcome to H2O International (a.k.a. H2Oi). It may not be the biggest Audi and VW show on the East Coast, but H2Oi is one of the most loved and also most relaxing. As autumn sets on the Mid Atlantic and the show season winds down, enthusiasts of these two German marques head to Maryland’s Eastern Shore for the gathering.
With local constabulary accustomed to dealing with drunk Senior Weekers, Bike Weeks and the like, Ocean City doesn’t seem terribly worried about the side effects of an enthusiast car show. Local reports following the event even quote a police department representative as saying that traffic citation rates weren’t more than any other week, and that’s even after we’d watched them set three cruisers deep in front of the Ocean City Hooter’s restaurant pulling over car after car for infractions… like shooting fish in a barrel.
Getting down to the Coastal Highway for the nightlife is important, but the not-to-be-missed part of the weekend is H20i itself. Now in its tenth year, all elements of the event continue to grow. From the burgeoning show field to the ever-growing vendor area.
Okay, while more vendors and show cars are impressive, it’s the rest of the package at H2Oi that really sets it apart. There’s the beater competition and the ever-present Top Dawg competition, unique categories for which the event is known. The venue is also a horse track, so a main grandstand facility complete with food and beverage vending and a wall of TV monitors showing the weekend’s football games are both a nice touch.
There was a wedding this year. Jason and Katie, regulars on this forum, got hitched. The legality might be a bit suspect as a staffer from Performance VW sat in as Justice of the Peace. His British accent was either a measure to pick up other ladies on the stage or a clue that he’s not a U.S. citizen. We’re unclear, but we wish Jason and Katie luck… even if their marriage is only recognized in the states of inebriation or PVW.
At-the-wheel loss of brain function is not a quality left out on the Coastal Highway. Later on Sunday and during the show, three cars took to Ocean Downs’ dirt practice track, doing their best WRC impressions. However, it was another forum regular in his rare Mexican-import Audi S3 that has garnered headlines. After doing some dusty drift sessions, he briefly evaded Maryland State Troopers, side swiping a parked car and parked trailer before he exited the grounds, got a flat tire and stranded his trashed S3 in a nearby median. Cort… what were you thinking?
Finally, H20i wouldn’t be the fine show it is without the cars. Being a little more southerly than other summer events, H2Oi draws an interesting selection of cars from the South that other events in the North East don’t readily draw. Countless organized convoys following the lead set by the DubAudi Gruppe’s DAGBall Rally bring in large numbers of cars from far and wide – worth joining up with one if you plan on attending next year.
We’ll avoid the temptation to name our favorite cars of the show, as there were just so many to see. With 1200 pics in the overall show gallery, the photos can speak for themselves.
As for next year’s H2Oi 11, the future looks bright. There’s been no announcement yet by event organizers as to whether the three-car rally exhibition on the practice track has caused complications with venue owners or the local police that could hinder next year’s event. Still, the organizers at H2Oi are tenacious and we’re sure the event will be even better next year… minus perhaps a wedding and a trashed S3.
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