A few weeks after visiting Zandvoort we returned to mainland Europe to take part in the first overseas rally organised by our friends at Brooklands. Our destination was Angouleme in south western France to attend the annual event called Circuit Des Remparts. The itinerary included a night stop in Le Mans both on our way to and from Calais.
Similar to our last overseas venture I left Jagger at home, not least because the total mileage covered on the trip was going to be close to 1300, which for a car returning 14 miles per gallon restricts things a little, so once again we set off in my trusty old Mercedes 300SL.
We arrived at the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkstone and met with fellow members Tony and Duncan Saunders in their British racing green Jaguar XK 150 S. When we got across the channel we drove for a couple of hours before stopping at one of the service stations for a spot of lunch and then it was full steam ahead to Le Mans. We got to the hotel late afternoon and after enjoying dinner with the rest of the party it was time for bed. The following day after a leisurely drive south we reached our destination in Angouleme.
On Friday a group of us made our way to the town hall to complete our registration for the 130 mile rally which would take place on Saturday. The instructions suggested we arrive at the meeting point by 8 am where breakfast would be provided after which the cars would depart at 30 second intervals - all pretty reasonable you would think, but when we noticed a little over 400 cars were taking part we wondered how long we would have to wait at the start!
Surprisingly we managed to get away without too much fuss, but with so many cars participating it didn’t take long for us to be part of one long traffic jam - a theme which stayed with us throughout the day but nothing to be concerned about. We drove for around 90 minutes through towns and villages lined with locals cheering and waving as each car passed by before the route took us to a beautiful ancient castle where more refreshments were on offer.
After staying there for about half an hour we departed and found ourselves following a ’59 Cadillac convertible loaded up with five happy campers inside.
The route to Jarnac took about two hours and on arrival we were guided to a parking area and instructed to take a short walk across the horse racing circuit to a massive pavilion where lunch was being served. If it had escaped any of the participant’s attention that this was quite a special event we were all taking part in, I’m they sure took notice once the hospitality tent had been reached. Waiters greeted everyone and served a large gin based aperitif as waitresses guided us inside to a beautiful dining area that must have had seating for almost 1,000 diners. Bottles of wine, which sadly I had to resist, were on every table and in no time at all we were fed and watered with the minimum of fuss.
Eventually we dragged ourselves from the table and made our way back to the cars where we resumed our drive through the quaint towns and villages while acknowledging the now endless groups of well wishers lining the roads. A further pit stop was provided but as time was getting on we decided to drive in and drive out without stopping - just to complete the entire route.
When we arrived in the centre of town police guided us through pedestrianised area’s into a large square where hundreds of people were waiting to watch each car drive onto a raised platform where a French speaking commentator described each car and thanked us for taking part.
We headed back to the hotel and got ready for the evening festivities - a soiree arranged for all the rally participants. When the doors opened gorgeous girls dressed in backless evening dresses served champagne and tons of food including oysters and snails were available together with copious amounts of wine. It was a fabulous way to end the day before we returned to the hotel in a taxi. The following morning we were up with the lark because another benefit of entering the rally was the offer of a dedicated parking space in the centre of town. The only drawback being that we had to be in place before the town was closed off to traffic at 9 am.
After parking the cars we went in search of a coffee shop to sample some wake up juice before visiting the paddock and what a treat we found there! I counted 17 Bugatti’s lined up while cars from the early 1900’s sat alongside 60’s beauties such as a Lotus Elan, Renault Alpine and of course E-Type’s.
When the racing started we made our way to our pre booked seats in the Cathedral grandstand which conveniently had a large tv screen opposite so we could see every part of the race. We enjoyed lots of close wheel to wheel racing throughout the day and the whiff of oil and burning rubber as well as the distinctive exhaust sound from the Bugatti’s was my favourite race.
When the racing stopped we took a slow walk around the town on our way back to the car, take a look at what we found.
SS Jaguar 100
Sergio Peinetti and his Bugatti with a De Lorean close by.
A pair of Alfa's
When we left Angouleme we made our return journey to Le Mans where we drove along the Mulsanne straight on our way to lunch at Janine’s Bar - the place we stayed at last year during the Le Mans Classic. After lunch we visited the museum, located about 500 yards away before returning to the hotel for our final night of the trip.
The following morning after breakfast we said our goodbyes to the other participants and loaded up our cars to head for Calais. We continued to travel with our friends in the XK taking turns to be the lead car and eventually reached the Euro Tunnel. After a coffee inside the terminal we were on our way across the channel and heading for home after enjoying a fun but tiring week.