Auto Tour 2010
After approximately two thousand miles of reconnaissance, route planning and lunch hunting the final elements of the 2010 tour were decided and put into place. The list of attending guests was growing with an exciting array of fine automobiles in the wings, at one point it looked like there may be more Ferraris than any other marque. The feeling in the studio was one of great excitement whilst humbled that so many of our friends and colleagues were so willing to dust off their beautiful cars and join us in our annual jaunt through France.
Learning the lessons from previous years the Redman Whiteley Dixon fleet were serviced and tweaked well in advance of the start date, despite this the slave cylinder on Alvis’s clutch decided to stop working three days before which meant a frantic, however successful collaboration between Red Triangle a motor bike courier and Peter the local mechanic.
It was when the two magnificent Jaguar XJ’s were delivered to the studio that the anticipation and excitement really showed, no sooner had the keys been handed over, we each took turns to test drive these amazing cars. We were, without exception all very impressed by them. It was a privilege to have them as our support cars and we were proud to show them off.
The early morning start from the Old Electric Light Station in Beaulieu saw a few sore heads from the pre start celebrations at The Lime Wood hotel with Silverlining and their guests. It had been a legendry evening which personified the spirit of the Tour, meeting new faces who quickly became friends, fantastic food, entertaining banter and of course a steady flow of France’s finest.
As ever the first few miles were tentative as the drivers listened to every rattle and change in exhaust note, the timing, the gearbox, just making sure . For one driver reaching Southampton was a landmark as he had only taken delivery of the car a few days earlier and covered a meagre 10 miles in his ownership. By the M25 everyone was in full swing all relaxed and starting to enjoy the journey.
Arriving at the Channel tunnel premium lounge the rest of the guests were assembled and already introducing themselves. The fleet now complete, the gorgeous Ferrari 250 Gt, the Bentley proudly flying her Union Jack, the gorgeous E type all ready to forge on to Reims. In a what must be the most expensive crocodile formation of the day, we filed on to the train, not all the drivers paying full attention to the “Apply hand brake “ signs as the Healey gently rolled into the back of one of the e types, no damage just duly noted by everyone to give the Healey plenty of room! Fresh new forest picnic lunches were handed out, quiches warmed on manifolds and homemade cakes devoured.
En route the tour diverted to a former grand prix circuit where the roar of the 250GT flat out is something that anyone present will surely never forget, quite incredible.
Arriving at Les Crayers two of the guests were kind enough to point out a mistake in the hand written and drawn pace notes, it was telling that only they had noticed, none-the-less it was logged and noted (and the author punished). Relaxing for afternoon tea in the sumptuous grounds of the hotel, some guests enjoyed a game of boule whilst others took time to enjoy the hotels lavish suites and grounds. Before dinner a local Champagne expert led the guests through blind champagne tasting on the terrace. After a delicious 5 course dinner guests relaxed in the bar telling tales of their journey so far and to what was in store the following day.
Back on the road, guests without cars joined other drivers for a stint or two, this is one of the fantastic aspects of the tour which is difficult to quantify. The time spent with a friend or colleague when there is nothing to do but talk, drive and read a map is all too rare. Without exception we all learn a lot and cement friendships in this time, it is a perfect way to spend a few hours.
Sadly one of the e-types developed an ugly oil leak after a grim road side diagnosis from Howard, the car retired. After a re-shuffle the guests were soon back on the road in a Ferrari Dino, heading for a well earned lunch.
Traditionally day two is always a long day of driving which is broken up with a spectacular lunch in the Loire valley and several deviations off piste to keep everyone engaged, many miles are covered during the day and the reward is arriving at Crillion Le Brave in the foot hills of Mount Ventoux. Watching the sun set from the terrace whilst tasting local cheese and wine presented by their creators is a wonderful end to the day. After a delicious dinner we presented the guests with our awards ahead of the Grand Tour Prize to be presented the following day in Monaco.
Thundering up Mount Ventoux to watch the sunrise in convoy must have been a spectacular sight for any bleary eyed onlooker, sadly the sun was unable to cut through the mist which had settled at the peak so the view was restricted although the quality of light was dreamlike. Through the mist the sound of the Ferrari came ever clearer then eventually into view with no damage after a slight off on the lower road, the feeling of camaraderie not to mention relief that all was well, was moving.
Day three is a day of pure driving pleasure, the bond with the other drivers, and the bond with their cars is remarkable. The driving is challenging at times and a sheer delight at others. With only a few miles driven on motorways the route took us through the spectacular Gorge de Verdon and across a spectacular mountain route eventually arriving in Nice with a short run to the Monaco turn off.
Regrouping above Monaco our advance team had already arrived at the Hôtel de Paris and were welcoming guests at the reception party, once assembled we were led by the 250gt into Monte Carlo. Despite the heavy traffic and rising temperatures, one by one each car parked around the square in front of the hotel, clapping and cheering from fellow guests, cameras flashing and a huge sense of achievement.
A glorious display of beautiful automobiles, friends, sunshine, a spectacular setting and a chilled glass of Champagne, the perfect start to the Monaco show!!