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Clermont-Ferrand, 22nd of April, 2015

The second leg of this year’s Tour Auto led today from yesterday’s finish at Vichy to Clermont-Ferrand. Although just separated by about 70 km the organizers had a 347 km tour on the program with two special stages in the mountains and the final race of the day at Charade.

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Early at 7 am, before the sun was up again the first of the three competition classes led the field towards the first special stage in the morning at Augerolles-Les Mines. The hilly road through the forest with a lot of bends was perfect for the lighter Alfa GTA against the heavy Cobras and Alexander Furiani and Max Werner set the second best time on this stage just beaten by the Jaguar E-Type of Jean Pierre Lajournade and Christophe Bouchet who were 10 second quicker than the rest of the field. Ludovic Curon and Shaun Lynn on the other side lost about ¼ minute during this first test of the day showing that the special stages are very different from the races on the permanent track. Just after the first special stage the tour directly set of towards the second test of the day at Montprison, again a narrow hillside road through the forest but longer with a total time of about 8 minutes to less than 5 on the first one. Obviously the road was a little bit tricky as reportedly several car went off the road and so the whole tour was delayed and the field was spread out after this section. Again the Alfa of Furiani was perfect for these conditions and after a second place in the first special he could even set the best time of the overall competition just beaten by the newer and much stronger De Tomaso Pantera and Porsche 911 RSR in class H.

After two hard special stages the drivers and their navigators had a nice lunch break at the Chateau de Parentignat on the way to Charade. Although this takes a little bit more time than the lunch breaks directly at the circuits the visit to the small chateaus is always one of the highlights of the tour. The cars were lined-up in front of the main building giving the visitors a lot of good photo opportunities.

The final challenge was the race track of Charade, an old hillside track with a lot of ups and downs and a vintage atmosphere thanks to the lack of safety fences on most part of the track. Certainly this track favoured again the powerful Cobras and since the GTAs have to drive in the same group they have to keep their time-loss due to the power-handicap within a limit.

The race at Charade was won by the Ford GT40 of Richard Meins and Timothy Huxley due to technical problems of pole sitter Curon.

At the end of the day the lead changed with the Jaguar of Ljournade taking over from Curon with a lead of 14 seconds, Curon is just one of three Cobras on the places followed by Lynn.

In class H for the later sports cars and prototypes as ran originally after the GT-years of the Tour de France the podium is taken by Porsche, De Tomaso and the Ligier.

Tomorrow will be the longest day of the week with an early start at 6:30. Over 463 km from Clermont-Ferrand to Toulouse the day will again feature two special stages in the morning and the race meeting at the Albi track in the afternoon. Looking around in the parc fermée this evening showed that some mechanics had plenty to do to service and repair the cars so the classification could change from day to day, presumable the Tour remains undecided to the last race at Pau on Saturday.

Report & images … Peter Singhof