What we used to know about the Rallye des Princesses was its “glamorous atmosphere” and its “princesses” for whom “nothing is too beautiful”. But can we really summarize this event with this kind of testimonies written by colleagues ?
Therefore, we sought to identify the essence, values and ambitions of this rallye. We aimed to understand what was hidden under the name deliberately provocative of “Princesses’ Rally”. So when Viviane Zaniroli offered us to follow the first 3 days of adventure we jumped at the chance to follow the 90 female crews and their classic cars from the back seat.
Get ready for a journey of more than 1600 km across France (without using once again the word glamorous)!
Rallye des Princesses, day 0: the calm before the storm
Everything began under a blazing sun, on one of the most beautiful squares of Paris : La Place Vendôme. All the participants were invited to the car checking.
Time for the crews to stick the last sponsors and come across their public. Indeed, cars, each one more beautiful than the other, have naturally attracted a large number of enthusiasts. The excitement on kid’s (and big kid’s) faces running between cars (we all did it) is priceless.
It is pre-rally time, the moment when we concentrate and enjoy the last moments of resting.
Champagne in the glass, smile on the lips: unlike many rallies, the atmosphere is family friendly. The crews are happy and proud to present their cars and pilot’s sets (sometimes unorthodox but that is what we love) like the little sailors’ hats or the very fancy fringed mechanics’ suits. Some of them also give some interviews. In the evening, the drivers are all dressed up for it’s the opening night, it’s already the last moment of carelessness before the start of the race.
Day 1: a prince among princesses
As in previous editions the crews started the 19th Rallye des Princesses from Place Vendôme. This kick-starting created a dream traffic jam : Alfa Romeo Spider 2000, Porsche 550 Spyder, Austin Healey MK3 or Ferrari 308 GTS follow each other while waiting for their turn.
Viviane Zaniroli was here for the crews, by the side of each car before launch. A tricolor flag in hand, she provided the first encouragement and the last piece of advice to finally lower its flag. She seems to know every vehicle, every competitor and instills a real closeness to this sporting event, like an automobile fairy godmother.
A little further, the Porsche 911 3.2L My Gasoline (our crew for the departure) is getting ready. Slipped, almost faxed, behind the front seats, we were able to experience our very first start of the Rallye des Princesses (and probably the only one, knowing that the event is for women only).
The first kilometers in Paris are rough, the pilot Mylène Dorange and her co-driver Samantha Peauger take their mark with the automobile with long eyelashes (whaaat ?!) : a stunning 1985 Porsche 911 lent by the french professional driver Valentin Simonet. In fact, it is more the chronometers and tripmaster who ask to be tamed. Indeed, it is the very first rally for the youngest crew of the 2018 edition: number 94!
Mylene is a rider. Every day on a motorcycle, raised by a bikers’ family, she discovered her passion for 4 wheels in journalism school. Immersed in the world of circuits, gum burned and flat-6 engine by Valentin with whom she founded My Gasoline.
Like many of us, Samantha’s car passion is hereditary. His father has initiated her from the youngest age to the joys of sports driving. On a daily basis, she used to cross Paris area aboard its Audi A3 (she loves it, she threatened us to talk about it).
“Comfortably” installed at the back of the 911 we had a ringside seat to admire the competitors. No Audi A3 for this time but an incredible AC Cobra. It passed us in a terrible roar, before we overtook a magnificent Lancia Delta Integrale with the typical calm and voluptuousness of the Porsche of the 80’s ..! The flat-6 in stereo, we swallowed the tight turns of the Chevreuse Valley with a disconcerting agility. At the front, the eyelashes were struck by the wind. At the rear, we saw the tremendous turbo tail spoiler (option on this model 3.2L) that followed us from the start. And this is already the end of the first connection stage.
Day 1: serious business
It is now a matter of regularity. After starting at the back of a Porsche, we saw a beautiful light grey Alfa Romeo Spider 1600, we jumped over the door to follow Florence Lanusse and Patricia Marco for a few kilometers of racing.
What could be better than taking part in a Rally with your hair in the wind, under the high sun of late spring, all to the rhythm of the famous Alfa Romeo 4-cylinder engine? Unfolded, we put our vertebrae back in order, from the top of our meter ninety what a pleasure to not be stuck under a roof (even if our long legs almost overflowed from the side of the car).
Three, two, one go! Quick reminder, the principle of regularity is to cover a stage with a given average speed. In this case, 50 km/h for this little Alfa Romeo.
What are the difficulties? Read the road book, anticipate the changes of direction and the traps of the road, keep this speed over the whole race, keep the speed to check the random control points, spare his horse, do the best with the traffic (yes the roads are open), do the best with other competitors, respect the driving code and traffic regulations.
The information fused, the small 4 cylinder roared at each downshift, no mistake for the team #83 thanks to Patricia behind the road book and Florence behind the wheel. It is always like this. We felt the concentration of the pilot and the seriousness of her co-pilot, the trust in each other has to be total ! Even if a joke often slipped between two directions.
The two friends, who could be sisters, are also participating in their very first Rallye des Princesses. The car is part of the family, Patricia’s grandma lent it for the race.
Imagine the grandma’s cabriolet slipping from turn to turn between Paris and Biarritz! Florence and Patricia always wanted to take part in a rally, so they started with a women’s 4×4 rally in the middle of the Moroccan desert (respect)! This experience has forged their characters and gave them the taste of adventure.
From one Alfa Romeo to another. To finish this first racing day we jumped into a Giulia from the Carabinieri, To be continued …