The private bank for historic motor racing

2014

Tour auto 2013

Day 3

started with a long, over 3 and a half hour, road leg to the first stage through the amazing volcanic region of the Auvergne and crossing several cols. Some of the roads were very small and rough but the scenery was stunning.

We had a great run through the day’s first stage with our best result on a rally leg so far, 20th place. Lunch was taken at a stunning Chateau perched on the side of the valley at Bannegon, then we had a 1h45 road leg to the days 2nd stage where we managed 23rd which was not too bad at all. Then a final 2h30 leg down through the centre of Albi to the eponymous circuit where we finished the day with a race.

One of the problems of having a reasonably slow car is that we end up at the back of the grids with some drivers whose cars are significantly more talented than they are. It is fair to say some of the driving standards are truly terrible and at Albi this was to cause us major problems. Our car is suited to fast sweeping corners due to the fabulous balance and progressive tyre break-away so the car can be drifted with ease even at high speeds, but a slow corner leading onto a straight penalises us due to our heavier weight. The circuit should have suited us, but unfortunately we caught quickly up to an old Jaguar that was being driven atrociously: breaking in the middle of the straights, all 4 wheels on the grass on the inside of some of the corners, crashing into other cars etc but was very quick in a straight line, enabling him to repass me each time I’d been brave enough to dive up the inside of him. He was eventually shown the black and white driving standards flag and backed off, but the damage to our overall race time had been done although we still managed 15th on indice leaving us an astonishing 12th overall. Remember this is in little more than a well engineered road car... We're obviously very pleased to be ahead of our stunning 14th final position from last year’s Tour and after a couple of cold beers my anger at the driving standards had subsided to the point where I was able to enjoy it!


Dusty Astons take well earned lunch break

Heading for Nimes

After three days of sun the most Southerly depart of the Tour Auto started in light rain. This cleared quickly though during the short run to the first stage where we regrouped in sunshine in the stunning historic town centre of Lisle Sur Tarn and the local hunting horn band were out in force to “tootle” our arrival. The stage itself was extremely fast with long sweeping corners and despite having to have a couple of “comfort lifts” when the speeds just got too high (over 110mph) for a car with no roll cage on a country lane, the little Aston was at much less of a disadvantage then in the twistier stages which resulted in our best rally result yet of 17th which brought us up to a best yet 11th overall...

However pulling away from stage end there is an ominous rattle from the gearbox in the first 2 gears. We avoid using them as much as possible and push onto our planned service where the crew tweak the brakes and admit there is nothing we can do for the ‘box but push on and pray.

Sadly just 10 miles further on the rattle spreads to 4th as well and then even neutral. We park up and call in the crew. So just 20 miles short of lunch on Day 4 out of 5 our Tour is over for this year as the DB2 is diagnosed with a failed bearing. The risk of significant mechanical damage to the 60 year old gearbox if we continue is just too high.

But despite feeling some major disappointment right now I think we can reflect on a giant killing performance to this point from both car and crew: We acquitted ourselves well despite various injuries and we very much hope to be back in 2014 in a lighter car for a top 10 finish! The Aston Martin DB2 took everything in its stride during the week and shrugged it off whilst more stiffly suspended and newer cars broke all around us: the preparation of the Speed Scotland crew was extremely impressive as ever.


Perched Chateau offered spectacular lunch location

Waiting to head into first stage

So all our thanks to EFG International for supporting us and lending me their crack in-house navigator Keith Gap who once again was 100% perfect on the maps. And thanks to all who’ve followed us here on EFGMotorracing.com and have sent words of support to me on twitter (@pofg). We’ll be back blogging in just a couple of weeks time as we tackle the Tour Britannia in the “Trusty Turbo” so please join us on here once again for that.

Your "beaten but unbowed" correspondent

Rick

Day 2

started badly for your trusty correspondent as reporting on time to the hotel reception there was no sign of the crew or co-pilot...

I found them 10 minutes later FINISHING their breakfast... Too late for me to eat anything of course but to be honest I struggle to eat pre stages so was relaxed at this point.

It was a 2 hour run out to the first stage of the day at Thesee, which was rather tight and twisty and lined with large straw bales which caught out (and heavily damaged) a few cars. We booked 23rd fastest after being 25th in the indice overnight and both car and crew enjoyed the stage greatly.


Chateau tastic this time its Chevergny

Crew try to cure misfire at Bourges

However soon after the finish it became clear we had a problem. The car started misfiring badly and getting worse. We limped to the end of a motorway section and the crew were ready and waiting to check all the plugs. #2 was found to be oiled up so cleaned up quick and we were away. Sadly the problem quickly returned and we were parked up in the middle of a stunning forest as the crew rushed to our assistance. This time the problem is traced to a faulty rev limiter but not before we saw several of the big Cobras and GT40s thunder pass from the 2nd competition grid. To be in a forest in the middle of nowhere and see a real Daytona Coupe, one of just 6 built and worth probably in excess of $10 million, tear past was simply surreal.

With the car now back to full health, we had no choice given our time lost but to bypass lunch and go straight to the circuit at Magny Cours. The most recent home of the French F1 Grand Prix features a long uphill straight once again that punished our little road car in comparison to the lightened competition vehicles that fill the rest of our class. But the race still went well with a great battle in the closing stages with a fully “Caribinieri” liveried Alfa (including blue flashing light) which we won!

17th on indice was our best result so far, and the team managing to find me some food while I was on track was possibly an even bigger one as I was feeling really quite rough having eaten nothing for 20 hours!

Following the race, it was another long road section to the final stage of the day which was super twisty but we went well, booking 23rd on Indice and by the arrival at our overnight halt in Vichy we were up to 15th overall. Very pleased and very shattered your trusty correspondent nearly fell asleep in the Champagne tent (yes it’s a hard life!).

So far the rally has undoubtedly been very hard with long days of driving albeit in beautiful sunshine. Sat in a very warm car is taking its toll on the co-drivers who have been admitting to struggling to keep awake.

Astonishingly my co-pilot, Keith, has developed an enviable ability to sleep between tulips on the road book which I hope means he is feeling more refreshed than I am although how he sleeps with the roar of the engine and constant howling in pain of the tyres (and the driver who has pulled a bicep on one of the early stages!) is a total mystery.


Fixed at the second attempt

Dawn at the Chateau of Chambord

Day 1

was supposedly an easy day to break us in gently: "it's just a gentle cruise west to Le Mans and then back east to Orleans" translated as two 3 hour legs interspersed with 1 rally stage and 1 race on the famous 24 hour circuit.

We set off, as is the Tour Auto tradition, at the first light of dawn. Sprinting out of Paris before the infamous rush hour to the official start location at the Chateau Dampierre in the forest at Rambouillet to the South West of the capital. Then it was a long first leg to just outside Le Mans where we regrouped for the first stage. En route we had to link quickly with the Speed Scotland crew as the car wasn’t running cleanly, but this was simply a timing issue associated with her pre-race tune up and was quickly adjusted. Then at the pre-stage pause, a helpful spectator pointed out one of our spotlights had worked loose. Given we’d lost the securing bolt there was no option but to cut the cable to the lamp as otherwise it would be quickly smashed and it’s a very original (1950’s) part. However the knife borrowed from the crew next to us turned out to be the sharpest known to mankind and while removing the lamp unbeknownst to me, I managed to slice my finger as well. Only noticing at stage start when I when to put on my race gloves and realised I was losing a reasonable amount of blood!


Waiting for the official start 7am Chateau Dampierre

Gridding up at Le Mans

The stage was flat and very fast on single track roads and we had a solid run through as planned, a good way to shake out a year’s worth of cobwebs and to see how the car felt at high revs. Although the speedometer cried enough at the finish line along with our only measure of distance. Perhaps shocked by the speeds reached? But 25th on the “indice of performance” (the adjusted results which make allowance of age/engine size of car) out of the 126 cars in the competition section was a good start.

Onwards to the famous 24 hour circuit at Le Mans where we would be using the shorter Bugatti variant but still taking in the big uphill start/finish straight and passing under the famous Dunlop bridge. The former didn’t really suit our car, and I nearly died of boredom while we sat for 40 minutes on the circuit waiting for the grid positions to be decided post practise, but we still had a great race and finished ahead of several cars for 22nd on indice.

A quick bite to eat then another 3 hour road leg saw a very tired crew roll into the spectacular heart of Orleans where the Speed Scotland crew quickly replaced the speedometer cable and left the Aston in fine fettle for tomorrow.


Cobras and GT40s before the noise begins

Arriving in Orleans

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