The private bank for historic motor racing

10 – 17 October 2010

Rick Pearson is competing in the Mille et Une Nuits Classic, a rally event spanning some 1,800km of rugged Tunisian countryside, from 10 – 17 October. He has agreed to send his thoughts and experiences of the event, along with some photographs. You will find all posts from Rick below, with new content added as the event unfolds.

Epilogue

Now I’ve been released from 26 hours of Tunisian ferry roller-coaster, a final update:  When the final results were in... there was a surprise! Dakar legend and organiser of this first running of the Mille et Une Nuits, “Fenouil”, had put an intermediate check point in the final stage of regularity rallying on the final day, and the top crews were undone! Sneaking up on the rails after quietly lurking in the top 5 all rally were the Swiss crew of Yves and Elka Gouzer in their Austin Healey. Yves had totally rebuilt the car after taking it to the Himalaya’s and suffering all sorts of indignities hitting trains and trucks amongst other things and the 30km final stage saw them storm into the lead accumulating just 8 secs of error to take their final tally to 33 seconds over the rally. The overnight leaders, the Laurents from Serre Chevalier in their Lotus Elan (bought to celebrate Claude Laurent’s exploits at Le Mans in a Lotus in the 1960’s) slipped back to 2nd place by 3 seconds with pre-rally favourite and Tour de France regularity winner, Marc Rinaldi in 3rd just another 2 seconds behind. 4 times Monte Carlo rally (and twice Historic Monte) competitor, Jacques Fossa just missed out on a top 3 placing by 2 seconds in his 911 while early rally leaders, the Arlauds slipped to 6th after a disastrous final stage.

For our novice crew, we managed just a 4 second error on the final timing point of the final stage which was our most accurate result of the rally and saw us hold on to 10th place and 1st modern car home. We were also first novices and first of those crews rallying without significant electronic aids in the form of tripmasters and average speed indicators so were pretty pleased with the result. As expected, my pregnant wife’s competitive streak overcame her car sickness and she achieved her aims of beating both her Uncle (14th in the Rolls Royce) and Father (16th in the Safari replica Volvo) so we came home happy (and still speaking!).

It’s been a wonderful adventure with a fabulous group of people, every one of which seemed very pleased with the organisation and the overall route (and quality) of the rally. To a man they announced their intentions to return next year, and if you wish to join us or see more (professional!) photos of the rally, visit the official Mille et une Nuits website and its photo gallery.

I hope to see you in Tunis in October 2011!

Rick Pearso

Mille et Une Nuits - Final Day!

Once yesterdays results had been calculated, it was the Laurences in their Lotus Elan from Serre Chevalier who had sneaked into the lead. By just 1/10th of a second from the Arnaud's who were a similar distance in front of the Rinaldis! So it was their honour to lead the field away from the overnight halt in the walled City of Kairouan.


The Laurences lead us away from Kairouan

From the same region of France
but built for different purposes

The crews headed almost due west back into the rolling Tunisian hillside where more than 150km of empty roads lead to the days special. This was to be the longest of the rally at up to 30km and the toughest as we had to cope with goat herds, potholes and mad dogs (latter no problem for an Englishman...). Such was the technicality of the route that their were periods where we were at "maximum attack" with the 911 sideways out of the hairpins etc to stay on pace.

 


Under the watchful gaze

Alfa risks being crushed by rolling haystack

The end of this regularity marked the end of the competitive sections of the 1st running of the Mille et Une Nuits rally with the crews then making the final 110km back to the luxury of The Residence in Tunis at their own pace before the gala dinner and prize giving tonight.


Day started out west across the plains

Final stunning sights approaching Carthage

 It's been a pretty incredible week, and I will admit I had no concept of the variety of roads and scenery that Tunisia had to offer. Being able to stretch the car in a way which you can no longer do in Europe has been a real pleasure and the camaraderie  of the other competitors has been fabulous: undoubtedly a few new long term friendships have been made here this week.


Fenouil and his team have done an incredible job of organising this trip and I would not be surprised if every single one of the competitors returns in 2011 for the 2nd Mille et Une Nuits!
We certainly will and I would heartily recommend it to novices and regularity addicts alike.


Rick Pearson

Day 5

Controversy rained after yesterdays regularity test as the top 3 cars all showed errors of 7 seconds whilst maintaining they'd been bang on the pace indicated. Our crew was pretty disappointed with our error of 9 seconds as well especially as this placed us last of the 21 crews, again showing the standard of the entrants on this rally. Showing in the top 5 officially for the first time on a day was the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow of Yannick and Jacqueline Morizot with just 1 second of error using the Rolls trip and a mobile phone for the timing!


Fast early morning roads in from the coast...

... led to the mountains and spectacular views

 However, since all the top crews had erred similarly the overall placings were unchanged and it was once again the Arnauds that led the crews away from the overnight halt on the holiday island of Djerba on Tunisia's East Coast. With over 430 km beckoning there were many sad to leave the luxury of the Hasdrubal Prestige but the roads soon made up for this. A blast east across the coastal plane back towards the mountains of Matmata where we had lunched yesterday meant after 130km of liaison we were able to take in a superbly sinuous mountain stretch for the Day's regularity.


The best regularity of the rally stretches ahead of us

The Undisputed fastest car on the rally:
the support Skoda Yeti

Following this it was more sweeping roads to the lunch halt, set up by the Sables Chaud crew on a hillside oasis outside Matmata which meant a restart on a piste that wouldn't have been out of place on the Paris-Dakar and hence saw a very ginger restart for us!


Empty roads and stunning views

Local chicanes...

The roads gradually straightened out as the crews headed North, and while some traffic was encountered for pretty much the first time this week, turning off the Tunis road towards the spectacular walled city of Keirouan saw them empty out and meant despite the distance covered the crews were installed at the final overnight stop before tomorrow's return to Tunis early enough to allow exploration of the Souks.


The Lunch Oasis

Afternoon start resembled the Dakar
 
So the final day of the adventure beckons tomorrow with 110km total but including a monster regularity of anything up to 30km. With my co-pilot having been distinctly under the weather today it seems unlikely she'll be able to focus on the average speed tables for that length of time so fingers crossed we manage to revitalise her tonight for a competitive finish tomorrow!
Your "loving those empty mountain roads" correspondent


Rick Pearson

Day 4

When the results were in from Wednesdays stages it was once again Jean-Michel and Marie-Françoise Arnaud who were in the lead in their 1973 Porsche S, nosing back past Marc and Danielle Rinaldi by just 2 tenths of a second! The quality of the crews on this, the first running of the Mille et Une Nuits organised by ex Dakar Rally organiser Fenouil, was in evidence as 19 of the 21 crews got within 10 seconds on the scratch time on the days regularity.


Jaguars in the morning sun

The Arnauds lead the field away

For our crew, our smallest error yet of just 7 seconds was still only good enough for 15th on the day and we dropped back to 10th overall, just one second behind 5 times Tour De France winner Bernard Consten and his wife Claude in their V12 E-type Jaguar and just one second ahead of the beautiful Mercedes 280SL of Claude Guyot and Pascal Guiraud.


Crossing the Salt Flats at speed

Winding roads approching Matmata

So the Arnauds led the field away from the overnight halt in Tozeur and the crews headed east, with the hills that had offered such a spectacular descent yesterday on our left, onto the Chott (salt flats). Running 50 meters below sea level on straight roads speeds were much higher than in recent days and the power of the 911s in the field told as the first 4 cars to the lunch halt were Porsches. Clearly with the most modern car of the bunch this was our morning in the sun.


Troglodyte Lunch Stop

Fast morning roads meant the first 4 cars to lunch were
Porsches

So 224km took us to lunch in Matmata and a Troglodyte hotel (yet more Star Wars filming locations en route) with the final run into the break featuring some fabulous sweeping hill roads. More of the same just after the restart before a very tricky regularity in spectacular scenery on a hillside looking over the plains below and featuring crests and tight hairpins to test those trying to maintain exactly 48kph as required.

Chasing 5 times Tour de France winner Bernard Contens through the hills


The Laurences lead us away from Kairouan

... although camels prove a traffic hazard

Once the regularity was out of the way another 70km took us across broken roads (where once again the ride comfort of the Rolls Royce saw it pounding past other competitors) before the roads opened out to the coast and a ferry ride across to the holiday island of Djerba.


The ferry to Djerba...

... packed with lovely classics
Tomorrow we return towards Matmata initially to pick up some more of those fabulous sweeping hill roads before turning north for the walled city of Kairouan. The longest day of the rally at 432km will undoubtedly take its toll on the crews but the spectacular vistas are worth every single kilometre!


Your shattered

Rick

Day 3

When the results were in from the marathon stage that was Leg 2 of the first running of the Mille Et Une Nuits rally for classic cars, Marc (recent Tour de France winner) and Danielle Rinaldi were at the head of the field. On the day it was the Porsche 911 of Jacques and Marie Noelle Fossa that had taken the honours, despite Jacques managing to switch off all the electronic distance gear halfway through the regularity. His resourceful co-pilot managed to switch to hand timing and the average speed tables in time to take him across the line on the exact second. The regularity had included a lower speed section but this failed to trick the leading bunch who with exception of Day 1 leaders, the Arnauds in their 911, saw the leading 5 all get within 4 seconds of the scratch time.


Mopeds and blind crests

Spectacular rock formations

 


Fierce rivals line up for regularity start

Safari replica volvo of Yves Morizot

Day 3 found the crews up against the Algerian border in Tamerza with an early regularity in the hills above the stunning Tamerza Palace hotel where we had spent the night. A 9km run out to the start before turning and attempting to return at exactly 48kph proved tricky with some low speed hairpins to contend with both at the start and at the end of the 5km timed route. But at least the slow run out to the start allowed the crews time to appreciate the breath-taking scenery that was to be the signature of the entire morning.


How do they persuade them?

In convey heading for mountain descent

Running straight on from the end of the regularity the crews climbed 37km up through Redeyef before making an astonishing 8km descent on a winding mountain road covered in loose gravel with stunning views on the desert valley below. This finally gave way to a spectacular (slightly loose surfaced) fast track that saw the Rolls Royce using its extra weight to cut through to the tarmac below and scalp some traditionally faster cars. The teams then joined a tarmac main road for the blast down into Tozeur where lunch and a well deserved afternoons rest waited at the beautiful Hotel Dar Cherait.


Rolls leads way up the hill

911 heading for a drop

For our crew, we were both pretty battered after yesterdays long hours in the car, but pleased to have been once again the fastest crew without specialist tripmeters in the car so we’ve moved up to 9th in the standings. Clearly as well today’s stage suited our 911 as the power to sprint between the hairpins gave us a distinct advantage over the 2CV (which is controversially only sporting 1 engine and not the 2 declared at entry!) and which has just a tenth of our power and was struggling to average 45kph flat-out! There was no doubt in the minds of anyone who saw the Citroen “en route” of the commitment of Jean-Pierre Lenfant at the wheel though...


The road down...

A fantastic route down

So overnight at Tozeur which today is apparently most famous for the pair of Boeing 747’s which belonged to Saddam Hussein and were evacuated to the airport here when Iraq was invaded. Unfortunately the runway is apparently too short for them to leave again...

Tomorrow sees the crews return from this, the most Southerly point of our adventure, to the holiday island of Djerba on the East coast. A 366km day, the second longest of the rally, which starts with a 224 km liaison to the lunch break in Matmata. Then another 26 km to the start of the days only regularity, a 5km run called “Epingles et Troglodytes” (Hairpins and Cave Dwellers), another 71km to the ferry across to the island followed by a final 40km into the hotel.

Your “pleased to be first to arrive at the hotel today” correspondant

Rick Pearson


Oasis on edge of plain

Palmeria

 

Day 2

A day of contrasts greeted the competitors of the Mille Et Une Nuits as one of the longest days of the rally took us from the Mediterranean coast back through the mountains which provided such great driving yesterday and South into the edges of the Desert.


Start of Day 2, The Fossa's prepare to depart in front of us,
while the Rolls Royce looms large in the mirrors...

Oasis and mountains.. Typical terrain for Day 2

First car away was the 911 S of Jean Michel and Marie Francoise Arlaud who were the overnight leaders, not ex-President of the French Federation Sport Automobile and all round comedian Bernard Consten who had issued his own results yesterday! The Arlauds had aced both regularities on Day 1, although 3 other crews had also done so on the second RT! My rally novice wife was proud to point out we were leading the crews "who aren't equipped better the Seb Loeb" ie have no rally tripmaster on board in 12th.

So a very swift run of 30km from the coast up into the hills for the start of the days regularity which caught out a few very experienced crews. A particularly tricky multi-speed stage on a winding forest road with broken tarmac and livestock to challenge everyones time keeping. Following this a 200km run down from the hills above Ain Draham, through Bulla Regia on some superb quick and empty roads to lunch on a plateau above Kasserine. Once again the organisation had laid on a lovely barbeque in the middle of nowhere with stunning scenary as backdrop.


Ruined villages familiar to Star Wars fans everywhere...

Stunning location on a plateau for lunch on Day 2

The afternoon saw us driving through miles of cactus and heavily washed away river beds with the roads featuring long fast gently rolling straights. Then as we approached the border town of Tamerza the roads became even more deserted and slightly more washed out before the stunning vistas of Les Gorges de Selia came into view. Our lightly disguised racing Porsche has coped mightily with all conditions which is even more impressive once we realised (following a spot of investigative work during the lunch break) that she had only covered 1000km in the last 2 years and is still rolling on the tyres she came out of the factory on 17 years ago! This does at least explain the limited amount of grip I have been finding...

Tomorrow will be an easier day for the crews after today's marathon legs with just 110km to cover and 1 regularity and will hopefully end at a hotel where the Internet actually functions so I can share more pictures and videos from the rally so far!

Your "shaken to the bone by racing suspension" correspondant

Rick Pearson

Navigating the smaller towns throws up a collection of hazards
from brick lorries to tractors with wobbly wheels to donkey carts....
here all 3 at once!


Leaving the plains of Tunis and heading
for the Southern hills...

Jaguar parking only at sunset on Day 2

Mille et Une Nuits - day 1!

Ca commence! With the Jaguar E-type  of husband and wife team of Bernard and Claude Consten leading the field away from La Residence in Tunis, heading initially inland then back to the coast at Tabarka. Taking in 278km of roads with just the initial 35km to the extremities of the capital city experiencing any traffic at all. In fact that initial section featured a police guard of honour at every junction and pretty much every 100 yds in between!

Once clear of the City a 75km blast down deserted (and given the amount of dust on the road, unused!) motorway took the competitors of the first running of the Mille Et Une Nuits into the hills of Western Tunisia where the first regularity was won by the #1 starters and pre-rally favourites, the Constens.
This finished directly at the lunch halt where desert-legend Fenouil and his team had organised a Tunisian barbeque on a hill top with stunning views all around.

The second and final regularity of the day ran immediately from the lunch break and was once again won by the Constens but with the patron of race helmet and fabricators, Stand 21, Yves Morizot and his wife in 3rd and his brother Yannick and his wife 4th. This despite neither car having any specialized rally trip equipment on board! Thus giving hope to some of us who aren't kitted out with more onboard timing gear then Seb Loeb...

The final liason down out of the mountains rates as one of the drives of my life: Sat on the tail of the stunning original 1973 Porsche 911 RS of Jean Claude Miloe who in turn was chasing hard the RS replica of Jacques Fossa on empty mountain switch backs the views were stunning and the cars able to stretch their legs in the manner they were designed for.

The arrival at Tabarka came almost as a disappointment and if these are the kind of roads we get to run on for the next 5 days this rally will exceed all expectations!

Tomorrow sees one of the longest days of the rally as we head down to the Tunisian interior with a 423km run to Tamerza via Kasserine.

Yours apologizing for the lack of photos with this update but the Internet here is VERY patchy!

Rick

2 classic 911s and a modern imposter rest after a storming run down
to Tabarka Beach on Day 1 of the Mille et Une Nuits.

Prologue

Hi, I'm Rick Pearson and over the following 7 days (wifi permitting!) I'll be blogging here on the EFG motor-racing website direct from Tunisia as we follow the first running of the Mille Et Un Nuits Classic.
Organised by desert (and Dakar) legend, "Fenouil" as a Regularity Tour for Historic Cars the event marks a departure for him from his normal VERY off-road trips/rallies and promises to take in all the varied sights this stunning country has to offer.
With 20 historics, accompanied by a pair of slightly more modern cars where force majeure meant the original car entered failed to make yesterday's boat from Marseille, the 7 day long event started today with the a quick dash across Tunis and technical scrutineering. (Or as it's more properly known in this sort of Gentlemen's event: "getting the stickers on sort of straight!"). After the carnage in the Port in Marseille where the dockers managed to put several cars bound for Tunisia on the boat for Algeria instead (forcing them to then unload the Algiers boat while ours waited...) and then the controlled chaos that is the customs procedure in any North African port in Tunis this morning the organisers had wisely opted for a very gentle start today.

For myself and my 5 months pregnant wife, our chosen weapon, a 1952 Aston DB2 didn't make it out of the paint shop in time so we had to substitute with the only car we could beg/borrow/steal that was vaguely interesting: a Porsche 964 RS with a biturbo motor! So while we won't have the oldest car on the rally anymore we should at least have the most powerful! However the car is in full clubsport specification which means very little suspension travel and an even smaller hole to post a pregnant wife past the roll cage into the passenger seat...

The "opposition" consists of a stunning mix of E-types and an XK150 from French club: L'Amicale de Jaguar plus several lovely classic Porsches, a Lotus Elan, a twin-engined Citroen 2CV (!) and a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow which threatens to seriously deplete Tunisia's petrol reserves single-handedly.

First car is away at 8am tomorrow as the rally heads inland to Medjez El Bab where the first shots were exchange between American and German troops in the Second World War. It was supposedly said by Hannibal that "Whoever has Medjez-el-Bab has the key to the door and is the master of all Tunisia" but for the Mille Et Un Nuits participants it will just be a entry point to the "Swiss Tunisia" as we play briefly in the mountains before heading back to the Coast to overnight on the Mediterranean at Tabarka.

Yours trying to drive at 50kph exactly,

Rick Pearson

Two Jaguars, two Porsches and a 2CV with 2 engines!

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