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Auto Tour 2017: Racing is Like This

TEXT: CARLOS DE MIGUEL, UNAI ONA / PHOTOS: DOUGLAS HALLAWELL, UNAI ONA

One more year we hit the road to closely follow the XXVII French Auto Tour, by PeterAuto and disputed during the days 24 to 29 of April.

As usual, the appointment began on Monday 24 with the reception and verification of the participants and their machines. at the Grand Palais from Paris; an ideal place for fans where we could see the almost 280 participating cars resting, grouped by brand.

Auto Tour: A marathon rally

El very hard journey that the participating cars had ahead was the following:

Five days with finals in Saint-Malo, Chateau de Goulaine, Limoges, Toulousse and Biarritz. 2.500 kilometers in marathon stages from 6 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon in which, apart from treading the French roads, they did the same on the circuits of Le Mans, Val de Vienne, Albi and Pau Arnos.

Abbeys, castles or imposing landscapes like the Pyrenees dotted his adventure; at the same time they were accompanied by the fans even in night tests like the one completed in Biarritz.

At each end of the day, a gala dinner was held with an award ceremony for the winners. Of course, on the night of Thursday 27 the great protagonist was Ari Vatanen, who had his birthday and was honored with a video-summary of his exploits and an attempt at a happy birthday in Finnish from all the attendees. Cheers and applause to the teacher, as he deserves.

Tour Auto 2017 participants

This year the organization has paid special attention to French brands. Thus, curious classics such as a 1971 BSH Berlinette, several CG (1200S, Proto 548), DB (HBR, HBR5), a Hotchkiss 864, an Artois s49, a Jide JS 2 DFV, a Rene Bonnet Djet or a Panhard Monopole, among others.

The participating cars were grouped 5 'grills' or groups. Number 1 and 2 (numbers 1 to 149) were regularity numbers, while the rest of the numbers up to 299 were used for pure speed or VHC. This last major category was divided into subgroups E and F for vehicles from 1951 to 1965, G for those manufactured between 1966 to 1971 and, finally, Section I for the most recent ones built between 1976 and 1982.

Recall that the Tour Auto wins it who leads the cat to the water in the final HCV classification, with regularity being a secondary category. Here are the overall winners:

1st Ford GT40 by Andrew Smith / James Cottingham.
2nd at 6m 54 sg the E-Type of the Swiss Favaro / Niedet
3rd at 7m 54sg the GT40 of the Germans Ellerbrock / Louisoder

Auto Tour, first person

Among us, there were two participating teams: Repsol Classic Team and Nou Onze Team, of which the former did not do anything bad at all. One of its members, Carlos de Miguel, He tells us in the first person:

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'Racing is like that'

Carlos de Miguel

This is a typical phrase of our sport to justify the blows of bad luck. But it does not stop reflecting the reality of an activity subject more than in any other case to imponderables out of control of the human part. Luck is a constant in all facets of life, but in the case of motorsport, we also depend on mechanics and mechanics - we all know - can fail at the most inopportune moments.

This comes to mind to somehow justify that, after staying at the head of the Tour Auto de France for four of the five days of the race, the engine seized up in the last test of the last day, at the Pau Arnos circuit. It must be recognized that we had some fault in the breakdown of the mechanics. We try an impossible. We wanted to beat a Porsche Pre A on the track in the south of France, made entirely of aluminum and equipped with an engine…. at least suspicious. These cars in their time had about 90 horses and the owner of this machine openly acknowledged reaching 145 at least. Too much for our little Alpha 1.3.

But in Pau we managed to overtake him and subtract some of the 18 seconds that we wanted to distance ourselves to tackle the final part with ease. And for this, it is evident that we forced the engine too much and it did not resist. We fight to the end for the so-called "performance index", a modality that establishes a handicap depending on the year and the displacement of each car. In this way, it tries to match the performance of, for example, a '72 Porsche RS versus a '57 Alfa Romeo Giulietta with drum brakes. [/ Su_note]


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The fight throughout the race was especially tough against the Aston Martin DB2, the aluminum Porsche 365 Pre-A, the powerful Jaguar MK1 or the very light DB Panhard. And against other Giulietta similar to ours. It must be said that, as we have commented in the Porsche Pre A, we realized that the mechanics are too much improved. We dare not say that they are not legal, but ... how they run !!! Especially considering that, in the rain and snow, the timed sections of the road, secret for all participants, are always less secret for the French.

It is something natural that must be assumed. Not because they have had the opportunity to train before. Not much less. But for the normal knowledge of the roads. For example. If there is a rally in Spain that starts from Madrid and reaches Segovia, we all know that it either goes through the Canencia mountain range or the Morcuera mountain range and then, with complete security, it will reach the aqueduct through Cotos or Navafría. You just have to take the notebooks for other tests.

The Guilietta proved to be a perfect car for this category. Lightweight, easy to handle on mountain roads, fast to a certain extent on circuits… although its drum brakes don't hold what we would like and we would like more power up high. I guess like everyone else! That is, if, every afternoon, in service, you had to review half a car with constant work on suspension adjustment, brake bleeding, steering adjustments or even adjustments to the body, which twists at the limit of adhesion. [/ Su_note]


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We never had glory closer and it will be difficult to repeat. But it has been a bittersweet experience since, to the bitterness of abandonment at the last moment, we must counter the satisfaction of leaving all the participants a little astonished that two Spaniards were in the lead. In the words of my car partner with whom I share the wheel, Luis Delso, "we have been the loose verse of this race." And on the other hand, given up, the better that it was the last day and we have been able to enjoy a race that is the best in the world mixed of sections and circuits, with about 250 works of art at the start.

Naturally, we will be back next year. We are already preparing a completely different car to continue trying to give the note. In the workshop a De Tomaso Pantera is already being assembled and, if it does not arrive in time, there is a Fiat 124 Abarth that has already participated in the Auto Tour other times. If nothing happens to us, we will return to the Grand Palais de Paris to enjoy the show. [/ Su_note]

Auto Tour, anecdotes with national flavor

Meanwhile Carlos Beltran, of Nou Onze Team, participated nothing more and nothing less than partnering with Derek Bell, Five-time champion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Driving with the champion in a Porsche 911 must have been an exciting experience and, above all, full of anecdotes.

It appears that the French gendarmerie stopped them for speeding, at which point the two police officers recognized Bell and took a photo with him. But that did not free the team from the fine because, as the famous pilot was told, 'You don't run on the roads, that's what the circuits are for'. Masterly!

At another point, they had a minor hit on the open road and a couple stopped to help them. Husband and wife recognized the character and freed the team from the rain by inviting him to their home to relax while the assistance repaired 911.

Anecdotes aside, more than one of us would give a kidney to rally with Derek Bell. In Tour Auto 2017 the champion took care of driving on the circuit while Beltrán, who is not afraid of anything, did it on the road.

Finally, we will say that Tour Auto enjoys a popularity in France that is difficult to imagine in Spain. As in the rest of central and western Europe, public administrations and populations feel true veneration for Vintage Vehicles. How much longer are we going to wait to catch up with him?

* We thank Carlos de Miguel, Douglas Hallawell and
Carlos Beltrán his help for the realization of this chronicle

What do you think?

Unai Ona

Written by Unai Ona

Unai Ona travels throughout Europe to tell you about the best events on the Old Continent. A first-rate photographer, he never tires of immortalizing the beauty of the great prewar and postwar classics, his true passion ...

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