© 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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