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Paris-Dijon, 8th of April, 2104

This year’s Tour Auto is on its way to the destination in Marseille. After the scrutineering the day before with the check of the cars, the safety equipment and the paperwork finally the cars are on the road and the track.

Very early in the morning (6:15 am) the first cars from the competition plateau 3 left the Grand Palais to the official start at Chateau Vaux le Vicomte, due to the unpredictable traffic in the French capitol this first leg was neutralized, the official timekeeping just started at the chateau, where a small breakfast formed the basis for a long day. The sun was just out when the three Mercedes Gullwings went off to fly towards the first special stage of the week just a few miles away leaving the crews no time to acclimatize, but as most of the entrants are regulars this was nothing new to them.

Just after the first special stage the main driving direction of the day was south east towards the destination of Dijon. As usual on the first day in the region of Paris a lot of rape fields were passed on the rolling landscape so the main colours were yellow and green. Fortunately the sun helped to pop out the colours in the morning, later some clouds could be seen but it was still an enjoyable day. Whereas the first competitors arrived at the lunch stop about noon the following regularity groups came in rather late at 3:30 pm making this a very late lunch. The location was the Chateau de Bussy about an hours drive north-west of Dijon.
Just after the lunch the journey led directly to the first race meeting of the week at Dijon-Prenois and whereas the groups are separated from the start usually the regularity group has to wait quite a while for the races of the competition to be finished as long as they are running behind them. Later the week the order of the groups will change and the regularity will be running upfront making the timing at the race tracks easier reducing their waiting time.

Every of the three competition classes had its own practice session of about 10 minutes, then the cars are lined up by the marshals in the order of the practice to have their race. As the setup usually takes some time the entire race for each group is rather long pushing the timetable further to the back. Today the last regularity group was running into the dark finishing their laps about 8:30 pm with another 45 minutes to drive to the parc fermé in Dijon, with 393 km this was a normal stage.

Just after the cars arrived in the parc fermé the crews had to check over the car for the next day, looking for the luggage service and take the bus to the hotel. As tomorrow’s stage starts at 7 am as well this will be the first of several short nights during the Tour Auto making this one of the most demanding events of its type.

Tomorrow will see the drive to Mulhouse where the cars will be lined up at the famous Schlumpf Collection after two special stages in the morning and a visit to the Anneau du Rhin race track in the afternoon. With 403 km this will be about the same distance as today followed by the longest leg on Wednesday. As usual the landscape will change very much from day to day leaving the rape fields behind entering Alsace tomorrow.

Report & images: Peter Singhof