The final day of the 2014 Tour Auto dawned over the cars in the Champ De Mars in Valence, which will be well known to regular readers of our blogs on here as the frequent halt for the Historic Monte Carlo Rally. This time it was a little warmer than when we were here in February but still quite fresh... it would appear the weather for the final day “run to the sun” might actually be a touch cloudy which to be honest, after the heat in the car over the past couple of days is quite welcome!
The last day was to feature a run out of Valence south on the motorway to pick up the first special stage and some stunning country roads then a cross mountain hack to get to Paul Ricard for the final race before heading down for the ceremonial finish in Marseille.
In fact that first stage started in the clouds and there were some concerns for the earlier cars about visibility. The “Le Colombier” stage was very very fast indeed initially with sweeping bends then an uphill tighter section. It felt like we were very quick over the opening stretch but the uphill twists didn’t really suit the heavier Aston but we were still disappointed with 22nd of the 114 cars remaining given we’ve been tending to average in the high ‘teens. Yet realistically there’s only a couple of cars still running without roll cages and given the speed of the stage and the inherent desire for self-preservation, this is still a strong result.
Both the run down to Ricard and the race itself were reasonably uneventful, although we did manage to have a fabulous battle with an Alfa TZ which saw me pass him in the twisty bits each lap, only for him to blast back past on the main straight which got a bit frustrating after a while! I also managed to see over 100mph at the apex of the fastest corner on the circuit (“Signes”) with the old Aston in a lovely 4 –wheel drift. Undoubtedly the Speed Scotland crew have given us a car with a fantastically neutral set-up which has helped massively during the weeks racing and rallying. We’re classified 17th which isn’t bad given we’re using the short circuit which has 2 long straights following slow corners which is pretty much worst case scenario for us.
Straight off the circuit, load the co-pilot and straight out of the control and off down the hill past Cassis to Marseille. The car has no time to cool down and this just shows what an incredibly robust race car you need to have to survive the Tour Auto. We pass a Lancia Stratos trying to catch fire while in a traffic jam en route, and just as we were 2 years ago, we’re the first Competition section car to arrive at the finish.
Glorious sunshine, cold Champagne and a huge sense of satisfaction wait for us at the Old Port and we’re classified 13th on Indice, 3rd in class and 42nd overall. All with the oldest car in the race, no safety cage, and a leather bench seat to slide around on.
It’s been a classic Tour Auto, the stages have been excellent, the scenery stunning and the racing fun. Clearly the sad loss of one of the Guard Republican Motorbike outriders mid-week takes a little of the gloss off the Celebrations, but it was still a marvellous event and it’s with great thanks to EFG for supporting the crew and letting me record our modest efforts here, to Keith my demon co-pilot for ensuring we were one of only 2 cars in the top 20 without any penalties whatsoever (his 4th “clean sheet” in 4 events) and to our families for letting us disappear for a week to play with old cars!
Already looking forward to next year,
Your “two from two in 2014” correspondent
When you left us, your intrepid EFG crew were lying in 12th place on the 2014 Tour Auto on the weighted classification, and a stunning 28th overall. Although that sheet of results seems to mystify everyone on it!
A short run out from the overnight halt in Aix Les Bains, once again, as everyday so far, in brilliant sunshine, saw us arrive at the legendary Col de L’Epine. A fierce climb, short descent then climb again over 5 miles of sinuous tarmac would blow away the overnight cobwebs. Although we had a time for a little extra sleep on the startline after a nearly 50 minute delay waiting for the ambulance to bring out 2 of our fellow racers who had left the course and potentially tweaked their backs a little. Since they were in front of us in the results, we knew a good run through would see us up to 11th and still in with a shot of our fantasy top 10 finish on the Tour Auto in a road car! 18th was bang on what we could have expected and surely enough we were in 11th overall at the end. That said, the stage had some pretty spectacular “weaves”: left-right-left through rock faces that required some serious sawing on the wheel and I ended the stage in agony with my torn bicep and barely able to drive the car on the descent. It did occur at this point that we were in very real danger of my not being safe to continue at the wheel and having to retire from the Tour Auto. But I elected not to share that with the co-pilot and simply concentrated on protecting that arm as much as possible in the hope the final 2 stages of the day were less twisty.
After a spectacular gorge run where ourselves and an Austin Healey left a modern Ferrari for dust (he was simply too wide and too worried about his car!) and a very quick lunch in yet another fabulous Chateau with a view (this time at Hollandsburg) it was straight onto the next rally stage... which meant the driver couldn’t really risk eating an awful lot given the likely exertions! Which felt a bit harsh given my mornings efforts! But it was the right call as this stage was VERY quick and we had a clean and good run through. Again 18th was ideal, but we dropped back to 12th on indice and 3rd in class after a Healey managed to gain 26 mins in the overall results yet only be 1 min quicker than us on the stage??? Given the level of risk we’re taking to achieve this without a roll cage and with a leather bench seat, it’s faintly disappointing that something odd is happening in the results. We’ve also dropped back 15 places in the overall reckoning to a more realistic 43rd!
A very stressful run down into the town of Romans and a quick Optic 2000 visit: where we threw their kind gift of a bit of cake over our shoulders into the back of the car and left as fast as possible in order to try and make the liaison timing to the final stage of the day. This was another 4 plus miles, but supremely fast. Where it was quite good visibility I could use my circuit racing experience to keep us in the hunt with the real rally drivers, but it did mean some of the speeds reached were a bit worrying for a 62 year old car with drum brakes. I’ve got pretty confident in the car over the week though and since she was in prime condition and the tyres were hot and grippy we were able to push hard and we scored another top 20 stage time on the Indice (19th). Sadly, another car managed to find over 20 minutes between stages in some sort of bizarre timing rectification and we dropped back another place to 13th in the Indice, 3rd in class. Which to be honest doesn’t feel a fair reward for a strong day from the EFG crew: Keith proving time and again what a master he is of the maps as we watched crew after crew wrong slot in front of us while I managed to overcome the bad arm to a large degree on the last 2 stages.
A quick couple of Cols later (and another Optic 2000 visit, this time for an ice-cold orange juice which was very welcome) and a very hot and sweaty crew made it to Valence.
Just one day left to run on this year’s Tour Auto, and it’s been a real classic: fabulous stages run in beautiful countryside in glorious weather. We’re all shattered, and yes, this is what we do for fun, but the end is in sight with just 1 stage and 1 race at the legendary Paul Ricard circuit tomorrow before the final dash down to Marseille and the prize giving dinner.
Your “nearly home” correspondent
Tough Tour Auto Thursday
The 3rd leg of the 2014 Tour Auto was always billed as being the toughest of the week, and so it proved. We were away from the overnight halt at Mulhouse just before 8am for the traditional early thrash up the motorway to the first stage. We regrouped in an icy cold village before a superb flowing stage that we felt really suited the Aston, no big stops or big climbs. We were quite disappointed therefore to score only 25th (of 125) on the indice of performance.
This was followed by a long run (nearly 5 hours) across superb flowing country roads. Bathed in glorious sunshine, as we have been all week, it is a continual mystery how we can see virtually no other cars for maybe an hour at a time. Today didn’t allow time on the schedule for a lunch break so we were issued with a picnic to be eaten at a scenic spot of your choosing along the route... somehow we managed to find a grass verge opposite a lumber yard (!) but it did at least not require any reversing: something we are currently unable to do after the failure of reverse gear yesterday. Our faulty fuel gauge worked for the first 10 miles this morning before failing again so plenty of caution during the day with regards to fuelling the car. That said, the road stages seem to be much easier to make the timings on this year: there was some suggestion last year that competitors were having to push too hard and it would appear that the organisers have taken this to heart. Although the run to the circuit after the 2nd stage of the day was very tight indeed and caught out a lot of competitors. As did the fully camouflaged Gendarmes laying in a ditch alongside one stretch of country road so there were a few collars felt and talk tonight of as many as 3 disqualifications.
The 2nd stage was also nice, quiet easy apart from 5 horrible 1st gear hairpins at the end. We didn’t feel it suited the Aston particularly, but with more confidence in the brakes today, I’m able to push a little harder and we were happy with 21st which moved us up to 17th overall.
As mentioned, it was a hard and fast run off the stage to the race at the Circuit De Bresse. We raced here a couple of years ago and it really suited the little Aston, but today I was really struggling with the handling as the rear tyres were spinning up at the slightest provocation and also my twin handicaps of my ankle and bicep were complaining quite heavily as I slung the heavy DB2 around the twisty circuit. I was unable to speak for a good 10 minutes post race with the pain/exhaustion in the 27+ degree heat and I felt the race had not really gone well for us. But losing places is not the same as losing time and we’d held on well to the cars in front and scored an astonishing 12th in the race to take us up to a stunning 11th overall on Indice de Performance.
A gentle run down and into Aix Les Bains and a cold beer in the sunshine beckoned while our crew worked flat out on the car, repairing not only the reverse gear, adjusting the brakes, replacing a chewed fan belt (that a helpful passing spectator spotted), fixing the fuel gauge, and cleaning the screen having checked and added oil/water where necessary. Try getting that done in your local garage in 1h30!
Sadly however as I type, word is reaching us that one of the Presidential Guard from the Gendarmarie that escort us on their motorbikes lost his life today in a road accident. These motorbike riders are extremely skilled and it is always sobering when someone in the rally fraternity is taken from us through the smallest twist of fate/bad luck. Our thoughts tonight therefore are with his family and his brothers in Corps whose support we appreciate so much each year.
Your “somewhat saddened” correspondent
Day 2... heading North!
It always seems odd to head for the Mediterranean out of Dijon by heading North, but that’s what the competitors of the 2014 Tour Auto did this morning! First stop was a special stage just east of Langres, so really due North from the over-night halt. The little Aston woke well from her overnight slumbers, without any real hangover from Day 1. Your faithful correspondent however was hobbling with one very black ankle from my early encounter with the bunny burrow and a sore thumb where the unassisted steering had kicked back on me during the race at Dijon after I’d hit a kerb. The results from yesterday saw us 24th on the stage and 20th in the race for an overnight position of 20th on the Indice of Performance. A good steady start which we were pretty pleased with. We don’t have the outright speed so it’s slowly slowy catchy monkey, trying to stay out of trouble on the tracks/stages and avoid any road penalties. We’re all racing old cars, and old cars break when treated like this, so there is a good chance of a few people making mistakes. In fact, these began on the first stage of the day with a red Healey buried in the ditch meaning we were held on the pre-start line for 30 mins while he was rescued. A good run through the stage, which once again was a bit dang quick for a 62yr old car with drum brakes and no cage and we pushed onto the main road leg east before we regrouped for the 3rd rally stage of the 2014 Tour Auto. This time we had a hill climb (which we struggle with because we have a heavy car) which then turned into a super fast descent (which we struggle with because I bottled it on the rather intermittent drum brakes) on a narrow track through the trees. A fun stage but we don’t expect great things in the results. We were once again held for 30 minutes on the start line after spectators refused to move to a safe place until the Police arrived.
A couple of cols were then dispatched on the way to lunch which was right near the German border in an incredible Chateau on top of a serious hill. Then a fast descent through the vinyards that feature so heavily in the Rally De France (Alsace) to today’s circuit at L’Anneau Du Rhin. With a main straight of over 1 km and then some seriously twisty bits including 2 2nd gear 90 degrees corners leading to a pair of 2nd gear hairpins it didn’t really suit the car (we need high speed twisty) but the grid bottled it into the first 2 corners and I was able to make up 9 places under braking (!). After this it was mostly about saving some tyres for the rest of the week, but we still managed to be the first car back to the overnight halt at the Musee D’automobile in Mulhouse where we nibbled mini-burgers while admiring the incredible Schlumpf collection.
Early start tomorrow (first car 6.30) and while the car has a couple of small issues: not least the failure of the fuel gauge and no reverse gear, the driver managed to rip a bicep during the race to put alongside the twisted (and very colourful) ankle on the injury list. Plus of course the thumb from the kick-back from the steering on the circuit yesterday, but these are all (mostly) standard things when you are pushing this hard with a car this heavy.
Your “walking wounded but happy to be here” correspondent
A VERY early alarm call saw the our intrepid equipe gather in the Grands Palais in Paris for 5.30am this morning. A true shock to the system... but with just 1 rally stage and 1 race ahead of us it was a gentle first day that beckoned, albeit one that would see us on the road for nearly 12 hours.
The usual random roadbook directions were defeated on the run out of the Grands Palais but cars were seen heading in several directions and the “Drax” chateau at Vaux de Vicomte found in time for a quick croissant before our official start of 0757.. (too bloomin’ early by half).
The little Aston, 62 years old this year, took the jaunt out of Paris in her stride, but with a year since either driver or co-pilot had sat in here, it took some time to re-adjust to the little noises and vagaries of the old girl. She wasn’t happy leaving the Chateau though, with a mis-fire that meant that we pitted quickly on the first leg to meet with our service crew for some quick fettling. They fixed the car easily but unfortunately your idiot correspondent managed to put his foot in a bunny burrow at the side of the road and turned my left ankle with a resounding crack. The car and co-pilot were on good form, so the only option was to tighten the race boot and try and minimise the gear changes where possible. Lucky it wasn’t the (usual) braking foot or we’d have been out of the Tour Auto 2014 in less than 1 hour from the official start.
The question remains of course if it’ll go back in a race boot in the morning...
The first stage was very early in the day after a brief regrouping at Sens. The stage went well for us, but the speeds on the test were very high for a car without a roll cage and there was an element of self-preservation coming in as we got within 1000 revs of the limiter in top gear on a single track road....
There followed a long run down to lunch through yellow seas of oil seed rape in rolling French countryside that the Tour Auto organisers find so well, then after lunch a quick run down to the old Formula 1 circuit of Dijon Prenois for the first race.
10 mins qualifying was followed by a 40 minute wait for the grid to be announced, meanwhile, I’m sat on the circuit, helmet on, car melting, bored senseless... it’s definitely one of the toughest parts of the Tour Auto! Eventually they pulled us forward to our grid slots and I was very chuffed to be 12th of the 50+ cars (given ours in the oldest AND a road car...) but to be honest the results felt a bit dubious.... and come the start a number of seriously quick cars blew past me on the run to the first turn. The problem being that our car isn’t quick in a straight line but I can make up for that in the corners when I’m on my own... when we’re racing and there are people using all the track and at slow speed, I simply can’t carry the speed... and hence we went backwards fast. As I type results aren’t published.... but it felt like a long race! Albeit one where I learnt to drift the Aston in 4th gear so came back with 4 melted tyres and just 4 days left to run... careless.
Tomorrow we set sail for Mulhouse and we’ll see some results for how we did today. 2 stages and 1 race beckon on the next leg.
Follow it all here on EFG Motorracing.com!
Your “hop-along” correspondent
Saddle up and Head South
Each year in early April, nearly 300 of the most spectacular historic race cars in Europe gather at the Grand Palais in Paris before setting out on over 2000km of road, rally stage and circuit to arrive either on the Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts of France. But don’t mistake this for some gentle cavalcade/ sortie into the countryside, the “Tour Auto” is as hardcore as historic motor-racing gets.
You need to chose a car comfortable enough not to break backs or loosen fillings on the road sections, (which use some of the tiniest roads on the map of France), but which also can handle flat-out rally stages and even race competitively against your rivals without rolling about like a Routemaster bus.
Some, like us, prioritise crew comfort and aim to complete each leg “in a condition where you can still walk”. Some take road registered Le Mans prototypes like Ford GT40s and Porsche 904/906s to target strong finishes in the races, while others will opt for rally cars like the legendary Lancia Stratos of which 3 will take the start this year. Porsche 911’s of all flavours feature heavily and 5 of the seldom seen De Tomaso Pantera’s are on this year’s entry list as well.
In the considerably less dangerous regularity class are another 3 Stratos’ (Strati?) and several examples of the incredibly valuable Ferrari 250 and 275 series. A stroll through the Grand Palais at the start a couple of years ago and some rough maths saw us estimating there were over $300 million of cars on the rally, and it’s more than possible that will be exceeded in 2014! Not least because to have your car selected often means it has to have an incredible period history and be one of the best examples of its type.
As I’m sure you can imagine, the sleepy French towns and villages through which the Tour passes shake to the sound of the Cobras as they pass, and the crowds fill virtually every junction of the route: it is quite simply a magnificent sight.
So given the opportunity by EFG to take part once again (and the kind loan of their crack navigator come Head of Marketing, Keith) it will be with great anticipation that I head to Paris on Monday 7th for the scrutineering and sign on.
This year it’s the turn of the Mediterranean to host the finish of the Tour Auto so the route sets out at dawn on Tuesday from the Grand Palais down to the official start at the Chateux Vaux-Le-Vicomte (best known as the “Drax” Chateau in James Bond’s Moonraker) from whence we set sail for Dijon where we will race on the ex-F1 circuit at Prenois, with one special (rally) stage on route.
Wednesday sees us head north-east to Mulhouse, with 2 specials and a race at the Circuit de L’anneau du Rhin. While Thursday will be the longest leg of the rally (we don’t even get a lunch-break!!) as we trek down to Aix Les Bains with 2 specials and a race at Bresse en route.
The toughest day for rallying will be the Leg 4, Aix to Valence, where we have to survive 3 specials on the way. While even the final day sees a sting in the tail as just before the finish in Marseille we’ll have one last rally stage and then a race at the legendary Paul Ricard.
Once again, we’ll be taking the 1952 Aston Martin DB2 that has served us so well in prior years. She’s the oldest car in the competition class but any gains we get on the handicap system known as the “indice of performance” are offset by the fact she has no roll-cage and a leather bench seat. This means on some circuits I’ve been known to slide away down the seat in long right hand bends to the point where I can no longer reach the throttle pedal! Some sort of 1950’s traction control?
Our target? Officially: simply to finish without hurting ourselves or the car and to enjoy the whole experience. But deep down it would be good to sneak into the top 10 overall on the indice where cars performances are adjusted for age and engine size. We were 14th two years ago and were just outside the top 10 when a gearbox issue sidelined us in 2013 so fingers crossed…
Please follow our blog on here as I try to keep you updated en route. Although 11 hours gripping the steering wheel for grim death does occasionally leave me unable to type!!!
Thanks as ever to EFG for the support and our families for letting us disappear for a week to play with old cars!
Your “itching to get to Paris” correspondent
Tour auto 2013
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
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
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