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La Rochelle, 27th of April

C´est fini, this year's Tour Auto Optic 2000 is history. Five days after leaving Paris the remaining of the 250 started teams reached the finish line on the quay of La Rochelle at the Atlantic coast. On their blast through France they covered 2187 kilometre, mastered 12 special stages on small country roads and through the mountains plus 4 appearances at the Circuit du Mans, Magny Cours, Albi and Val de Vienne. There is no other event in the classic car diary that combines the fun of a road rally on the countryside with the sportive character on the race track and closed off stages like the Tour Auto. Now already in its 22nd edition the TA became an institution that attracts both the sportive drivers and regularity fans to enter their car in April for the first big driving event in Europe.

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Most of the teams are regulars to the TA but the few new ones every year learn very fast that this is not a relaxed cruise from lunch stop to coffee break with a little bit of driving in between neither it is a permanent waiting at one of the checkpoints for the allocated time but it is 12 hours of driving on every of the 5 days. It is a very demanding challenge for both the cars and the drivers as one could see in the faces at the arrival of every stage, especially at the end of the week: tired but satisfied when the co-pilots hand over the papers of the day to the marshals and enter the park fermé through the arch at the entrance. Just a small glass of Champagne or a beer to cool down before picking up the luggage at the service wagons and leave for a desired shower in the hotel.

At this time the cars are handed over to the mechanics to check, make a service or repair, some small one but also major rebuilds on some of the mechanical components. Many cars have wounds from unwanted contact with French countryside fixed with duct tape, some even wear the matching colour showing that one is prepared for this “repair”. As the cars are lined up in order of their race numbers at the parc fermé one could see that the gaps in between are getting bigger every evening due to mechanic failures forcing a premature retirement.

The last of the five days today led from Limoges to La Rochelle, the capitol of the departement Charente-Maritime. Soon after the start in the morning the last of the 12 special stages was held in Darnac, with the first two cars in the competition within half a minute after 4 days this was the second to last chance to attack the leader. Carlos Monteverde, who dropped of the leading position after a penalty on day 4 was able to cut off 9 second of the leading Jaguar of Jean Pierre Lajournade leaving him all possibilities for the overall victory at the final race meeting in Val de Vienne, the race track that was last driven in 2011. Here Monteverde managed to come home third behind the AC Cobra Daytona driven by Kenny Brack and the AC Cobra of Ludovic Curon gaining the needed seconds to reinstall himself on top of the leader board just with the last stage driven.

The fast Cobra Daytona suffered mechanical problems all days and was not present at all special stages so it was taken out early from the circle of favourites. Curon was fastest overall during the days but with a penalty of 6:30 minutes on day 2 he was just able to step back on the podium behind Monteverde and Lajournade.

The other categories were more clear as the Ford GT40 of Phillipe Vandromme won the category G by more than 7 minutes, the Ferrari 308 GTB Gr.4 of Andrew Beverly the category I and Erik Comas the category H with his Lancia Stratos. The former F1 pilot was fastest of all entrants and had a lead of more than 5 minutes in his category at the end.

But you do not have to have a big banger or exotic racer to enter the podium as there is also the index of performance relating the achieved time to the performance of the car. Just as in 2012 another Porsche 356 was winner overall, this time the car of Frederic Puren.

The regularity class was finally won by team Nicoules on Ford Mustang.

So what is the conclusion after five days: first of all the TA is superb on the competition aspect and the fun of driving through the French countryside. Certainly the Grande Nation differs very much depending what part of the country you choose for the route and maybe there are even more interesting parts with more breathtaking landscape like the Provence or the Hautes-Alpes but still the Tour was another experience not to be missed. Some might complain on the entrance fees on this sort of rallies as an entrant with accompanying mechanics, fuel and transport of the cars to Paris and from La Rochelle might calculate about 20.000 Euros but one has to keep in mind what it takes to organize an event of this size. Beside all the logistic to accommodate 250 teams and their mechanics plus the amount of helping hands of the organisation, sorting out all the permissions with the departements and cities is quit a challenge that requires a lot of experience. The organisation of Peter Auto succeeded once more giving the participants a memorable week in France and one could be curious where the Tour 2014 will lead us to.

This was our final report on the single days of the Tour Auto 2013 Optic 2000 (obviously) but in the next day we do another report on all the participating cars.

Report & images ... Peter Singhof www.ClassicCarPhotography.de