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Valence-Marseille, 12th of April, 2014

C´est fini! This year’s Tour Auto is history...After 1900 enjoyable kilometres on five days including 9 special stages on closed off country roads and four circuit races the Tour reached the final destination at Marseille. With total driving times of 10 hours a day over a full working week the TA is certainly one of the most demanding rallies in the historic car circus but also one of the most satisfying. This could be seen at the finish line in Marseille were the places on the podium were celebrated directly under the chequered flag but all the finishing crews went directly to the party in the champagne sponsors tent, still wearing their race suits. Over a full week a lot of impressions could be collected that will be kept in mind for a long time, at least until next year’s event were most of the participants will be back in Paris.

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Safe the best for last, this could be the description of the last stage today. Early in the morning another hill climb (the last special stage of the week) had to be taken before the route headed south towards Le Castellet. After a longer motorway section the drivers could enjoy the Col de l´Espigoulier between Auriol and Gemenos, this is the highest pass in the region and gives a splendid overview on the area, not to mention the driving pleasure on the numerous serpentines. As most of the cars in the later classes reached the col in the afternoon the light was just wonderful, certainly the road is also a preferred excursion destination for bikers and cyclists but still there was remarkable few traffic for a Saturday afternoon.

After this probably best section of the entire week the last stop was made at Le Castellet were the final race of the week was held on the very modern race track. Unlike Bresse or Anneau du Rhin even the more cautious drivers could enjoy their car to the fullest, the run-off areas are very spacious solid ground (no gravel) and the red and blue stripes make Paul Ricard not just very forgiving for driving errors but also very unique and recognizable.

The overall victory is usually decided in the second competition class that includes the latest GT cars of the original Tour de France era until 1966. In this category the AC Cobras and the Jaguar E-Type are competing for the best times on the special stages and the track. Overall victory went to Shaun Lynn and co-pilot Kevin Kivlochan who went into the last day with a comfortable lead after favourite Ludovic Caron lost his car on the 6th special stage on Friday afternoon. In a slippery fast left corner in the woods the Cobra made contact with the surrounding mound and although the car could be driven the next day this took his chances on the victory. But Caron was not the only one who went into the landscape in this corner as several others did as well. At Paul Ricard Lynn could take it easy be following his hardest opponent, the Jaguar E-Type of Jean-Pierre Lajournade to an comfortable eighth place.

After the years of the touring and GT cars the Tour de France Auto was held for sports prototypes from 1967 on. Although these are not eligible for the overall victory this era is the most interesting of the new Tour Auto as one could rarely see a Porsche 906 or Ford GT40 on public roads, not to mention on alpine passes. This category was finally won by Romain Rocher and Jean Francois Pennillard on Porsche 906.

But the Tour Auto is not just about competition but also half the cars are driving on a given regularity speed with the choice of a low, medium or high average. The regularity trophy was won by a duo of Alpine A110 of Georges Henri Meylan with Julie Stervinouin front of Pierre and Marcel Ragues.

Now that the Tour Auto 2014 is over the organizers are certainly beginning to plan next year’s event and one could be curious what the itinerary will look like next year. Certainly it will again contain some of the most enjoyable country roads but the direction is still unclear.

For now we have our final daily report from the Tour Auto, in the next days we will take a closer look at the entry list and bring an extra gallery sorted by cars and their starting numbers.

Report & images … Peter Singhof