|Posted on September 22, 2017 at 10:55 AM|
As September rolls around we normally turn our attention to the Circuit-des-Remparts in Angouleme and this year was no different. I really enjoy visiting France and this race has a special place in my heart. Hundreds of cars turn out for the rally each year and there's events throughout the weekend including the Concours d'elegance on the Friday night. My wife, Sandie, and I set off a bit early this year. We made our way down from Calais stopping at Bernay and Le Mans (briefly) and I think this is what I'll do in future too. We sometimes take the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo but I rarely have a good nights sleep!
We arrived in Angouleme on Thursday and the town was already gearing up. Cars were in the pits for the race on Sunday and there was a proper buzz about the place with all sorts of classic and modern sports cars and exotics everywhere you turned. A particular highlight was seeing Derek Bell's Le Mans car being towed behind his W. O. Bentley, not something you see every day! Speaking to his mechanic I learned that he'd used nearly 1 litre of fuel per mile - the most surprising thing perhaps was that I was not at all surprised.
A couple of our friends who live near Carcassonne came up for the weekend and it was fantastic to be able to spend a decent amount of time in their company. We used the Friday and Saturday as a chance to relax (and shop) and make the most of the trip away. Several pastries were tested, beers sampled and wines tended to. My son Luke came down on the Friday with a couple of his friends - who had surely heard they were missing out. This made for a good group of us and added to the experience.
Sunday, and the race, seemed to creep up on us. There was some confusion with the schedule which meant I cancelled my lie in for nothing (not that I'm bitter about it!) and had more than enough time to prepare the car. Thankfully this consisted of little more than pressing the engine start, unlike last year I'd had a proper chance to run her in and all little teething troubles were long since sorted. Practise was preceded by a demonstration run by Mr. Bell in the aforementioned blower Bentley. Quite how he managed to chuck it around those tight hairpins is anyones guess. When we finally made it out I had a good run and enjoyed being back on the track. There was a brief interuption by the Patrouille Acrobatique de France (I hope that's right, the French red arrows if you will) which will rank as one of the strangest "red flags" I've encountered but it only added to the event.
Back in the pit lane I found out that I'd qualified 6th. I was pleased with the result as my car is very much now set up as a "fast road" car rather than an out and out racer. In truth the grid was a bit of a mismatch, with an 11 litre Aero engined Amilcar looking like the obvious favourite despite only having 2 gears (first to 80mph and second to 140, wow), it only added to the charm though. There was also two factory K3s in attendance which was a lovely to see.
The weather let us down through the day on Sunday, with the rain absolutely chucking down at times. This made for very tricky conditions for some of the races in the interim but thankfully I didn't see any major incidents. We were very lucky that it stopped in time for my race and though the track was still damp conditions were good. The race was very enjoyable, despite a near miss with the Bira K3 on the middle hairpin up the hill (I think he had some trouble and had pulled up) and I held position to finish 6th overall. I don't think there's any shame in admitting to being lapped by the Hispano-Suiza powered Amilcar which absolutely flew round the track (no pun intended) to take the victory. Sitting in the cold light of Monday morning and faced with the long drive home there was only one question on my mind: Which car will I take next year?