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Pau, 24th of April, 2015

The 24th edition of the Tour Auto Optic 2000 is hit to the home stretch as today saw already the second to last leg starting at Toulouse and finishing in Pau. Apart from the competition and the get together with likeminded petrol heads the charm of the Tour Auto is the ever changing scenery on the way from Paris to the endpoint. Today was a very special leg as the tour left the even ground going up all the way through the Pyrenees. Normally a detour for the assistance cars in the road book does indicate small country roads unsuitable for the sprinters and trailers, exactly the roads one could enjoy to the fullest in a classic sports car. As today the service crews rarely saw their teams on the road driving the same direction this certainly meant that there were a lot of small roads to enjoy and being in the Pyrenees this included no less than three mountain passes including one of the Hors-Catégory (first grade).

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As mentioned yesterday the race order was changed for the two last days so the regularity was sent off at 7:30 am in direction to the first special stage of the day, a small hill climb at the Col des Ares. Like in the previous special stages this was a close battle between the leading Jaguar E-Type of Lajournade/Bouchet, the small Alfa Romeo GTA of Furiani/Werner and the runner up in the overall classification Curon/Villacourt on AC Cobra. Started with a half minute lead the Jaguar team could add another 10 seconds on this section against the following teams. Setting the best time they were followed by the Alfa and the Cobra.

After the first special stage the convoy was leading towards today´s lunch stop at the ancient Abbey of Escaladieu dating back to the 12th century. In perfect sunshine the drivers could enjoy their buffet in the shadow of the trees in the garden of the venerable premises whereas the cars on the parking were surrounded by the spectators. But there was not much time for a rest as the timetable was very strict so the strengthened teams had to get back on the road soon. Although this was the only day with a time consuming race meeting on a circuit and the leg with 370 km rather short the permanent ups and down dropped the average speed so there was no time to be wasted.

After the snowy mountain tops could be seen all day it was the time to approach them on the Col du Soulor in the afternoon. Few spectators found their way to the top whereas a road like this would be crowded on events like the Mille Miglia as it is during the Tour de France (for bicycles) that crosses this pass every now and then. So the classic cars had the road almost on their own as both the assistance was missing and only few campers were on their way that day.

After descending on the other side the journey led towards the final special stage of the day at Haut des Bosdarros. Unfortunately a technical problem with the radio of the track marshals did not guaranty the safety of the fast section so the competition stage had to be cancelled and just as the regularity upfront the speed was moderate. This also meant that the result after the first stage in the morning is also the final result of the day with Lajourade still leading Curon and Lynn, now with about 40 seconds ahead. As the Jaguar proofed competitive both on the track and the closed-off special stages Lajournade should get this advantage over the last day with the race a Pau-Arnos in the morning and a final special stage in the afternoon before the Tour Auto will end in Biarritz. With  225 kilometers this will be the shortest of the days as all the cars should be in the parc fermée well before sunset, unlike today when the last cars arrived very late due to the delay in the evening.

Report & images … Peter Singhof