Tour Auto 2016
The Tour Auto 2016 started, as it does every year, with the arrival of the cars in Paris. The city of lights is the official starting point of this gentleman’s rally, since many a years. The 25th edition of the Tour Auto started with the arrival of the cars at the Grand Palais on a lovely sunny sunday, april 17th. I was with a few friends and decided to check the thing out. Sure, it might not be *the* best moment to see the cars, considering the massive crowd of photographers and tourists that wander around the streets, however, it remains a very special moment to see classic cars all stickered-up in the streets of Paris. And I’m all up for enjoying special moments.
Usually, you know that something big is either arriving or around the coner when you see the guys kneel and get ready for their shots. Needless to say it’s hard to miss cars, especially when you know there’s only one entrance for the cars. The big issue is the time of arrival: it can be from early on in the morning to almost midnight! So many great cars this year: Ferrari 275 GTB, Ferrari 250 SWB, Porsche 911 RSR, Jaguar E-Type, Porsche 2,7L RS, Ford GT40, Ligier JS2, AC Cobra, BMW 3.0 CSL & so on & so on…
The next day was the public opening, with the showcase of the cars at the Grand Palais. A priviledged moment to see all cars under the imposing glass & steel canopy of the french building. It’s also the day of the « night party », where I got to see the 488 GTB Pioneer upclose.
On tuesday, things start to get serious. It’s the beginning of the rally.
This usually means an early start to try and catch the cars from their starting point at some château, about 50/60 km from Paris. This year, my friend Eddy and I decided we would skip that and go straight to the french country roads to catch them in action. First leg is the speciale, where they have some sort of « time-attack » challenge on closed roads (which is awesome). The Speciales are a rare moment where you can actually go nuts behind the wheel, usually this means driving hard and sometimes some rather comical scenes, like this year, where an AC Cobra had probably hit a barrier, and had the fence AND a steel pole still attached to the car during the rest of the speciale. Talk about taking it seriously!
The Tour Auto is an event where those classic cars are driven like they were meant to. However, it is no secret to everyone they can sometimes be capricious: most have a history of breaking down, sometimes being unreliable. Which is why the Tour Auto is not only a « chill cruise » around France, but it’s also a mechanical survival experience where you have to take care of your car before AND after the problems (you are allowed to use mechanics, but only during certain times etc). Otherwise? You are disqualified. And it’s just one of the many reasons for disqualification. The Tour Auto 2016 is no « easy game », it’s a fun roadtrip as well as a time to challenge yourself and your car in a « rally environment ».
We stopped along the roads to take photos / film the participants going from leg to leg. They never cease to amaze with the scenic roads, though they seem to sometimes be the same from year to year (but then again, why change a wining combination?). It’s actually sometimes very tiringand frustrating because you might not see a car for 45 minutes, then have a group of 10 swarm you in 30 seconds. But we all know is part of the game, sometimes participants honk at you, sometimes they wave, they know we’re there for this and they play the game, just like we do. And they better respond to the huge expectations from the inhabitants of the villages they cross path with: everyone is outside, sitting on chairs, on their domain, on their house porch, in their garden, just waiting for the cars of the Tour Auto to pass. Sometimes even all afternoon (dare I say all day?). And that’s what we love: it’s almost a way to reunite the people with the love for cars. It’s a reunion!
When the Tour Auto reached the Dijon Prenois race track, it already was the end of the afternoon more or less. Some cars were already long gone, whle others were still driving when we left. But still, it’s always a thrill to see such cars on the asphalt, racing like there was no tomorrow. Some cars take this very seriously, while others are more chillaxed. There is something about classic cars and their exhaust sound that you simply can’t find with newer models, I reckon. Mainly due to the fact they weren’t built with the same specifications and expectations (nowadays car manufacturers have to watch out for a BUNCH of stuff including but not limited to noise & pollution regulations).
The Tour Auto 2016 was a great experience. I’ll have to do the entire thing one day, just to try it out! Once you get further from Paris, the roads are even more beautiful and scenic. Narrow mountain roads, magnificent greeny forests… It’s all there, really. Though it must be almost as tiring as actually *doing* the rally haha!