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Orléans, 23rd of April

After the prelude in the Grand Palais yesterday the 250 teams of this year's Tour Auto finally took the road through France in what is supposed to be a thrilling week.

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Early in the morning at 6:15 am the first car left Paris centre towards the official start at Chateau de Dampierre with a neutralized stage out of the French Capital. Although the last group of the day (the second regularity) was intended to start at 10:00 am all the cars left Paris very early to avoid the daily traffic jam. With plenty of time at the Chateau a breakfast was served to strengthen for a very long day. The cars were lined up at the lake behind the castle with hundreds of people waiting at the front entrance to see them leaving one by one.

Today's leg led west into the direction of Le Mans to have the first race meeting on the small Bugatti Circuit after a first special stage at Beaufay.

The races at Le Mans saw the usual suspects running in front of their grids, the first competition class was again dominated by a couple of Alfa Romeo GTA with von Wildenburg/Hahne being fastest again. The next grid saw the expected battle between the Ford GT40 and the numerous AC Cobras followed by the Jaguar E-Types. At the end two GT40 were leading followed by the AC Cobra Daytona Coupé. The last competition group was mixed up by another GT40, several Porsche 906 and 910 and a very fast Lancia Stratos, a car that might even have more potential on the narrow special stages.

After the competition classes the regularity classes had their track time but due to a delay in the previous grids they were running quite late, with a tightly organized time table the convoy was not able to catch up the lost time so the way down south to Orleans was a race against sunset. Although the last car was intended to arrive at 9:15 pm the higher regularity numbers came in well after 10 pm giving the crews a very long day. But the night will be short again as tomorrow the longest stage of this year's Tour Auto is on the program leading over 500 km south via the French GP Circuit in Magny Cours to finally arrive at Vichy again late in the evening. Whereas today's lunch was served at the Circuit tomorrows lunch break will be at Chateau de Bannegon, one of the highlights of the day. Although parking and the arrival and departure from the country side castles is always difficult these lunch breaks are preferred by most of the participants over the track side stops as this adds very much to the special charm of the Tour Auto. Again a lot of locals will stand aside the road to welcome the convoy in their home town waving as the cars blast by through the small villages and country roads. The weather is also expected to be sunny and dry just as this afternoon after some clouds and some drizzle in the morning.

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