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Paris, 3 May, 2016

On 04/18/2016, 237 cars were on display under the canopy of the Grand Palais. In the 25th anniversary Tour de France Auto cars that have written the legend of the event like the Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France, the 3.8-litre Jaguar Mk II, the Ligier JS2 etc. were being honoured. Many other jewels of car production from all over the world, America, Germany, Italy and France, lined up by make and model for scrutineering and administrative checks, delighted the public all day and the guests in the evening. Some 10,000 thousand passionate fans of historic cars took advantage of this temporary exhibition!

The first day finished with the traditional Tour Auto Optic 2ooo cocktail party.

Car-by-Car Photo Documentary

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© 2016, Thomas Quintin

Leg 1: Lajournade and Caron are already locked in battle!

The programme for 04/19/2016 was a start at the crack of dawn, leaving Paris for the Château de Courances where the official start was given. After passing through Sens they tackled the first 9-km long stage (Sens-Les-Gaillards) on closed roads. This eagerly-awaited special hosted the first race against the clock and victory went to the winner of the 2015 event, Jean-Pierre Lajournade in his Jaguar E-Type, from Ludovic Caron in his AC Cobra and Damien Kohler’s Lotus Elan.

After the effort came the reward with lunch in the Fontenay Abbey founded in 1119 and registered as a Unesco world heritage site. It provided the décor for several films like Angélique Marquise des Anges and Cyrano de Bergerac. The environment gelled perfectly with the spirit of the Tour Auto and was greatly appreciated by the competitors. Once this exceptional site had been visited the field set off for the Dijon-Prenois circuit for the first races of the 2016 event. This provided everybody with the opportunity to see the progress of the work on the renovation of this circuit, which was the theatre of many legendary races, and the famous scrap in the 1979 French Grand Prix between René Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve. Lajournade and Caron recreated this joust in their own style in the afternoon, with the latter winning the race and closing the gap to his rival in the VHC overall classification of the first leg to a mere two seconds.

This first day run in sunny weather ended at the Palais de Congrès in Beaune after a 454-km leg.

Leg 2: Lajournade extend their lead

The following afternoon of 04/20/2016, the next challenge that awaited the drivers was the Berze-Le-Chatel and Marchampt specials stages measuring 9.3 and 12.4 km respectively. Lajournade set the fastest times in both pulling back the precious seconds lost earlier on, and put himself back in the lead of the VHC overall classification for the second day on the bounce!

Once the two timed stages had been completed the drivers set for Lyon where they went into the parc fermé in the Palais des Sports, a stone’s throw from the Gerland Stadium, the former home of the Olympique Lyonnais football team.

Leg 3: the rally crosses the highest point of the event

The programme for the 3rd leg, on 04/21/2016, included a drive through the Haute-Loire followed by the crossing of the Parc du Pilat to the Monts du Velay crossing along the way the highest point of the event, the Col de Charousse, 1241 metres above sea level. The first stage, the 11.8-km Rive de Gier, took place on a section where the cars could go flat out on a slight downhill slope on a fast wide road, which tightened up in the second part. Caron came out on top pulling back three seconds on Lajournade who ceded second place to another E Type driven by Thomas Leriche-Hugo Payen. Lynn finished 19th giving away 47 seconds to the leader. In the late morning the drivers tackled the famous Saint-Bonnet-Le-Froid special (12.8 km), formerly one of the highlights of the Monte Carlo Rally which, today, attracted many fans and spectators with nostalgic memories of the past. Lajournade hit back and beat his rival winning the stage by four seconds from Andrew Smith’s Ford GT40 with Caron in his Shelby Cobra 289 a further 13 seconds back.

The participants then stopped for lunch in the Château de Gourdan, a building constructed in the 18th century on the site of an old fort. This gave many of the teams the opportunity to swap stories of the thrills experienced earlier in the morning. To round off the third leg of the Tour the drivers found themselves in the Vercor for the third timed stage, the 9.3-km Bouvante en Royan special, well known to rally drivers. British crew Andrew Smith-James Cottingham in their Ford GT40, who had already shone in the previous stage, clinched their first victory since the start of the race by eight seconds from Lajournade’s E Type, and 12 seconds ahead of Caron’s Cobra. When the cars arrived in the Valance parc fermé on the Champs de Mars Esplanade, Lajournade-Bouchet were delighted as they had achieved their aim and stretched their lead over their main rival in the overall classification to 51 seconds. Lynn was now 2m 54sec behind the leader dead-heating with Leriche-Payen who had put on some scintillating performances in the third leg.

Leg 4: the Tour stops in Marseille for the night

In the afternoon of 04/22/2016 the drivers got back behind the wheel and headed for Nîmes for the final stage of the day, Saint-Victor-La Coste (7.1 km). Although it was a short special the drivers had to keep their wits about them as it was run on a fairly bumpy road. Victory again went to Lajournade-Bouchet who eked out another four seconds over Caron-de Villaucourt and Smith-Cottingham (dead heat).

When Lajournade arrived at the Lédenon circuit, which hadn’t hosted the Tour Auto for a long time, in his Jaguar he had a 1m 16sec lead over Caron’s Shelby Cobra. Since the start of the rally the Cobras have been quicker on the circuits, so victory went to British driver Sean Lynn’s Shelby followed by Caron in second place and Lajournade in third hot on his heels: finally he only lost a second.

Thus the Frenchman’s Jaguar Type E arrived in Marseille where the Tour Auto finished in 2014, and drove under the Arch marking the finish, erected on the MUCEM Esplanade on the edge of the Mediterranean having again increased his lead in the fourth and second-last leg.

Lajournade scores his 3rd victory!

On 04/23/16, the final day, the drivers left Marseille in the early morning for the first special, the 8.4-km La Coutronne stage. It had all the right features to delight hill climb enthusiasts with a perfect road surface, a winding layout with strings of tight corners as well as beautiful countryside. Victory went to British pair Andrew Smith-James Cottingham in their Ford GT40 who beat the two victory contenders, Jean-Pierre Lajournade in his E-Type Jaguar and Ludovic Caron’s Shelby Cobra by 11 and 16 seconds respectively. After the first stage out of the three on the day’s programme, the field headed for the Le Castellet plateau and the Paul Ricard circuit. The Ford GT40 racked up its second win on the trot from Caron who pulled back 23 seconds on Lajournade. Thus, the latter had a 57-second lead when he started off on the road crossing Sainte Baume and the Esterel Massif, which brought the Tour to Cannes, where the finish took place.

A large enthusiastic crowd turned up in front of the Palais des Festivals to cheer on these stars from the bygone days of the motor car. The drivers had a few hours’ break to recharge their batteries at the buffet in the Plage du Majectic, another new addition to the race that delighted the entrants, after which they set off again to tackle the two night-time stages specially organised for the 25th event.

Unfortunately, the first timed stage in the Col de Vence had to be cancelled for safety reasons. The following (and final) one, the 13.2-km Les Ferres-Roquestron special, was the theatre of the last battles in the 2016 Tour Auto and it also established the definitive result. While Smith-Cottingham made it a clean sweep with their third win of the day 15 seconds in front of Lajournade-Christophe Bouchet, the Parisian driver clinched his third victory in the Tour Auto. His main rival, Caron in his Shelby Cobra, gave away 1m 23sec in the final stage which sealed victory for the crew in the Jaguar who had led from the first to the last day.

In Group G, Eddy and Jean-Jacques Benezet in their 2.5-litre Porsche 911 ST finally got the better of Arnaud Gaudel-Alexandre Delaye’s BMW 2800 CS in the last stage, and wrapped up victory in the overall classification of their category. In Group H, the win went to Florent Jean-Philippe Talabard in their Group IV Ferrari 308 Michelotto. Jean-François Penillard-Mathieu Verlaine in their Porsche 356 Pre-A triumphed in the Index of Performance, while Argentinean duo Martin H. and Francisco Sucari in their Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta came out on top in the overall classification of the Regularity category on the final day.

Photos ... Thomas Quintin

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