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Paris, Grand Palais 22nd of April

This year's Tour Auto Optic 2000 is just around the corner, today no less than 250 cars entered the Grand Palais in central Paris for the scrutineering of the five days event. In its 22nd edition the Tour Auto (based on the history of the Tour de France Automobile) again attracted a good field both in the regularity classes and the competition classes.

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As many entrants are regular to the TA many cars are known from previous editions and very well prepared by the hoard of accompanying mechanics. Typical cars in the regularity are numerous Jaguar XK, several Porsche 356 and 911 but also some rarer sports cars like the duo of Lancia Stratos. For those preferring the sportier gait in three competition classes Alfa Romeo GTAs are lined up, a lot of Porsche 911 in their 50th anniversary year and a swarm of Renault Alpine A110.

The big bangers include a duo of De Tomaso Pantera in race trim, several AC Cobra and Ford GT40 but also more sophisticated racers from Zuffenhausen with the 906/910 prototypes being featured car of the event. One of the top cars is without doubt the very rare Cobra Daytona Coupé that was seen on the race track in the past but rarely on public roads.

Another feature of this year is the Centenary of the British marque Aston Martin and several DB2 variations are joined by a quartet of DB4GT. Unfortunately their main opponent back in the early sixties, the Ferrari 250 GT SWB became a rare sight at the Tour Auto due to the ever increasing value of the cars, just years after more than a dozen of cars running the jubilee Tour just 2 of them found their way to Paris this weekend. For the first time in the last years this event does not feature a single 250 GTO, not really a surprise as last year's feature also just attracted one car running the whole Tour.

So again it is up to several 275 GTB and a couple of Dino 246 GT to represent the Cavallino Rampante. They were lined up around the centre display from Maranello with their latest representative, the LaFerrari unveiled later that afternoon in the Grand Palais.

Tomorrow will see the early start at 6:15 in Paris to lead the convoy out of the city before the traffic gets the usual mess. The official start will be at the Chateau de Dampierre west of Paris for the first leg. The rally again leads through France in 5 legs on about 2000 km with visits of no less than 4 race tracks and numerous special stages, the first stop tomorrow will be at Le Mans on the Circuit Bugatti for the first timed race events. The journey will then lead south east for the first arrival in Orleans. In the next days further stops will be at Vichy, Albi, Limoges and finally on Saturday the arrival at the Atlantic coast at La Rochelle. After Le Mans further races will be on the French Grand Prix circuit in Magny Cours, in Albi and at Val de Vienne.

We will report on the whole Tour and try to keep you up to date with daily reports from the road and small image galleries from the interesting places in the French countryside.

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