Auto Tour 2009
What a journey
The inaugural tour had generated an exciting wave of enthusiasm throughout the Monaco Yacht Show and indeed the industry. RWD found themselves receiving requests to join the tour along with offers of sponsorship and association. It was important to RWD that the quality, discretion and enjoyment were maintained, so the selection of guests and sponsors was deliberated and discussed at length, until the final invitation list was eventually achieved.
The tour departed from the RWD studio in Beaulieu, New Forest at 06.00, bookended by the rapid Audi RS4 lead car and the steadfast Land Rover Defender support car, complete with Howard the tour car doctor. Toby’s recently acquired Alvis TD21 was meanwhile resting in a local garage after a manic and exhaustive search of the New Forest and Beaulieu Motor Museum for a regulator proved fruitless. The Ferrari Dino, Porsche 911 Carrera, Porsche 911E and Silverlining’s team car, a stunning AC Ace Bristol, drove north to join the M25 after passing near Guildford to collect a pair of guests in their marvellous DB9.
Encountering fairly heavy rain, the first technical hitch surfaced in the form of an electrical fault on the AC Ace. Within a few minutes Howard had her running again and the Silverlining team joined the increasing group at the Eurotunnel VIP Lounge. The Le Mans style parking grid boasted an impressive array of cars, ranging from an original C type Jaguar to a plucky Austin Healey that had already suffered a puncture and fuel leak, both of which had been remedied by its driver.
After a delicious picnic of freshly made New Forest produce on the train served in wicker baskets, the tour headed south bound for Reims. En route a brief diversion took the tour on a lap of the historic Reims-Gueux Circuit. Enthusiasts and guests took equal delight in seeing the C type Jaguar on familiar tarmac and hearing the distinctive roar of its 3.6 litre straight six echoing off the derelict pit wall as it thundered past, well within the national speed limit of course.
The almost full complement of cars looked resplendent parked on the manicured lawn of Les Crayères, which is located between the champagne houses of Pommery and Verve Cliquot. After checking in, guests walked across the road where they were taken on a fascinating tour of the Pommery chalk caves and champagne house, obviously taking the opportunity to sample some of their fine produce. Back at Les Crayères guests were served a hand selected menu cooked by the Michelin starred chef, with fine Bordeaux and delicious Montrachet wine. After dinner, guests enjoying drinks in the bar were interrupted by the delightful rumble of our final guest arriving in his specially purchased Alfa 8c, the full beauty of which could not be totally appreciated until sunrise.
The second day took the tour to Château du Pizay, where a light summery lunch was enjoyed in the remarkable grounds. Talk of the mornings drive and road ahead led to a suggestion of an alternative route which enabled some of the drivers to open up their cars and get into some serious driving. Other guests took a more leisurely approach with everyone arriving at one of the finest vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape for wine tasting and enthusiastic conversation about the exhilarating drive enjoyed by some that afternoon. Arriving a little later than planned at Crillon le Brave, the tour rolled into the ancient hill station in the foot hills of Mont Ventoux. A traditional meal of slow cooked lamb over a smoky fire and Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the perfect ending to a long but exhilarating day.
Before sun rise an intrepid group took the opportunity to drive up to the summit of Mont Ventoux to watch the sun rise. Richard the photographer had already ascended to a vantage point, from there he captured the impressive sight of four pre 1966 cars driving at their limit against a breathtaking back ground.
After a superb breakfast the tour set off on the route to Monaco, this took in the Gorge du Verdon. Without exception the smiles on the driver’s faces spoke volumes about the enjoyment of driving their cherished cars through this spectacular landscape. Richard could be seen hanging from the roof of the Audi taking great photographs as they enjoyed a spirited descent. One of the drivers was spotted enjoying coffee in a road side cafe only to overtake the entire tour and be the first to arrive at the lunch stop. With the sun shining, lunch was an impromptu picnic where co-drivers swapped back to their starting cars ready for their arrival into Casino Square.
Mark and Toby spent the remainder of the journey allocating the prizes to the guests which would be presented later on that evening on board motor yacht Amnesia.
Once more regrouping at the top of the road in to Monaco the tour descended into busy Tuesday afternoon traffic, bursting with excitement and relief that the cars had all made it without any trouble, a top hat wearing official directed the cars into the especially reserved spaces in front of the Hôtel de Paris where the arrival party awaited.
Standing on the terrace an invited group of guests welcomed the gallant travellers with champagne and canapés, F1 drivers mixed with industry friends, guests and their families. Looking down on to the magnificent display of cars there were numerous people posing for photographs in front of them. As the awards and prizes were given out and enormously kind words spoken, the view across Monaco harbour was a perfect end to the 2009 RWD AUTO TOUR and beginning of another exciting yacht show.