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56th Tour de France Auto

April 23-26, 1997

Everybody talks about the Mille Miglia Storica in Italy, which has indeed become very "hip" in recent years. But France, too, does have its important event for historic motor racing: the Tour de France Auto.

250 GTO's330LM s/n 4381SA275 GTB's

The Tour de France, which took place as a major European event for road racing for the last time in 1986, had been revived in the 1990's by Patrick Peter (he is the "P" in the BPR organization and one of the initiators of the world-championship for GT-cars) of Paris. Likewise as in the Mille Miglia Storica, a car is eligible for the TDF if the very car or an identical model did once participate in the Tour de France between 1951 and 1973. But sometimes the organizers make exceptions for cars which did start in the TDF after 1973 if the car in question really is the very car that participated years ago.

There are always many Ferrari in the field of participants, which is - by the way- devided into two categories: there's one so-called "racing" category for the fastest drivers, and a "regularity" category for all the pilots who prefer trying to drive the several stages in a preset time and in a rather constant way than exhausting their cars at the limit. This year, the oldest of them were the 212 Inter Berlinetta Tuboscocca s/n 0141T of Federico Dubbini of Italy and another 212 Inter s/n 0255EU with a spyder-body by Vignale, driven by a Mr. Ribadeneira, Sr. and Jr. from South America.

212 Tuboscocca Touring Berlinetta s/n 0141T212 Inter Vignale Cabriolet s/n 0255EU

While the latter team did reach Biarritz in the southwestern part of France on Sunday, Dubbini dropped out with technical problems.

212 Inter Vignale Cabriolet s/n 0255EU

The first Ferrari to start in Paris was Brandon Wang's 250 LM s/n 5903, soon followed by one of Mr. Wang's other cars, a 275 GTB Competizione Speciale s/n 6701, which he had kindly handed over to Phil Hill and his son Derek.

250 LM s/n 5903

One of the most remarkable differences between the Mille Miglia and the Tour de France is the fact that the latter includes a ride on a racetrack in the schedule of each of the four days. So the first day of the Tour lead the participants to Montlhéry, the famous circuit near a suburb of Paris.

365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione s/n 16717

The 250 GTs represented the majority of the 39 Ferrari entered in the 1997 Tour, since no less than 22 of the 3-litres V12s participated, including 250 Europa GT, 250 GT LWB (nicknamed "Tour de France"), 250 GT SWB and 250 GTO as well as less competitive 250 GT Lussos.

250 Europa GT s/n 0373GT250 GT TdF s/n 0899GT250 GT SWB s/n 2011GT
250 GTO s/n 3705GT

A very special car had been brought to France by Paul Vestey from England: the 1957 250 GT LWB Berlinetta Scaglietti s/n 0677GT which was driven to 1st OA in the 1957 Tour de France by Olivier Gendebien, the second victory for Ferrari in a sequence of nine in the prestigious Tour.

The yellow stripe on the body - carefully preserved during the restoration - indicated that the car which wore it was leading in the overall classification; today's identically named cycle race is parallely known for the leader's yellow tricot.

This old war-horse did of course fit much better into Montlhéry's historic scenery than to the environment of the modern Val de Vienne circuit, which set the highlight of the stage from Poitiers to Bordeaux.

For father and son Hill, it did look like if their race was over on the second day for a moment when Derek hit the breaks a little too late and steered the 275 GTB Competizione Speciale into the ditch. But after some work on the car and excessive use of adhesive tape on s/n 06701's nose, the two Americans finally could finish the Tour.

275 GTB/C Speciale s/n 6701

But on the third day, the Tour of Mr. and Mrs. Mergard's 365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione s/n 14885 really was over after the waterpump failed. Even changing the oil two times in rustical workshops in little French villages could not solve the problem, and so one decided to resign to prevent the engine of severe damage.

365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione Series 1 s/n 14885365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione Series 1 s/n 14885

365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione Series 1 s/n 14885365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione Series 1 s/n 14885

After the fourth day had begun with the start in the medieval Carcassonne, the team Wang/Pearson dropped out after their 250 LM suffered a damage on the gearbox. Up to then, Brandon Wang and G. Pearson had fought for the overall win with Henry Pescarolo. After the race had ended for the Brits, no-one could stop the bearded French, a legend in sportscar racing by trade. This year, he drove a Cobra for the ATS Team.

The first sportscar made in Maranello to reach the finishing line was Jeans Sage's 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione s/n 2165GT; the organizer of the Ferrari Shell Historical Challenge placed 13th.

250 GT SWB s/n 2165GT

In the "regularity" category, a Triumph came in on 1st, while the best placed Ferrari was the 250 GT Lusso s/n 5031GT of Messrs. Taylor and Harnett from England (5th position).

250 GTO s/n 3705GT

Thanks to an exception which was made for their multiple Tour-entered 308 GTB Michelotto (s/n 31135), father and son Entremont from Paris had been allowed to participate in this car from 1980. This resulted in a placement on the 8th position.

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