What it’s like following Tour Auto as press.
In the classic car world there are two main types of events: the ones where you see cars parked doing nothing except being beautiful. And the ones where you see them driving. Tour Auto is part of this second type.
When I arrived at Grand Palais on Monday, it just felt like a small Retromobile: cars of all sorts, parked. It just didn’t match my expectations. Actually, it was so underwhelming, I almost felt like it was going to be a boring event. I was wrong.
Tour Auto: cold start
We were fortunate enough that Mini France gave us a Cooper S to follow the whole thing. The article on the car is coming soon. So with my friend Nico, we met at 5:30 in the morning (tough morning), stopped next to the Louvre on Quai François Mitterand, and waited for the cars in the emptiest Paris I have seen in years.
Cars starting to pass in front of us, immediately it felt different: the sounds of the race prepared engines, the roll caged Healeys besides the normal boring traffic, everything was coming alive.
So we started following them all, stopped once or twice to shoot some videos, and then, just before the first stop at Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte, somehow, we happened to be driving behind a beautiful blue Ford GT40.
On the road. The sound was absolutely insane, it could never be translated in a video. Actually, to us, it was competing for first place of the best sounding car of the event against something else (you will know soon enough).
My first special: lives up to its name
The event was already crazy enough in my taste, I was happy with what I saw. But, we then arrived to a special. I had never been on a special before.
Stupidly, we started thinking it was a good idea to keep driving to the next stop. Fortunately, driving around closed road for the special was more difficult than expected, and we ended up in a dead-end, followed by a Ferrari 458 Speciale for some reason.
Picture it, the country, the silence, birds singing, all very peaceful. Suddenly, in the hills, you start hearing a sound. Quickly, you realize it is an american V8 giving everything it’s got. And just 1.5 meters away from you, a Shelby Cobra passing by at full racing speed. Wow (it was Ludovic Caron et Jean-Pierre Gagick, famous French automotive TV host, but we’ll find out later).
I realized how special this event was. I had seen videos before, I knew roughly what it was, but I had no idea it would feel that mad.
On the road to Dijon
We hit the road right after the special stage, and chose a spot to eat a terrible club sandwich as main course, and (suprisingly good) pop-corn while watching cars passing by. We hit the road again, and as if we felt it, we timed it perfectly. I looked in the miror (as you always do on Tour Auto) and told Nico “look what’s behind us”. The car just overtook ours with lots of sounds, and there it was, a BMW M1 Procar. Yeah a BMW M1 Procar! BMW M1 Procar! M1 Procar! Procar!!
So, naturally we decided to follow it. And as you would expect, it was quite difficult to follow a 470 hp ultra lightweight race car with a Mini Cooper S. Thanks to my heavy right foot, we were able to do it, and thanks to Mini, we had a sunroof, which meant that we were able to really listen to the 6 members of the band, and film some of it. Seeing this beast in the streets of many villages (and even of Troyes) was hilarious. Next to the M1, even a Porsche 3.0 RSR (which is as wide as a couch) looked tiny.
At Chateau de Vaux, which was the lunch stop, we saw many cars arriving and parking. But one was more special than any other: A Maserati 200SI. What a beautiful thing to look at. From any angle you like, there is absolutely no flaw in the design. And guess what, it’s fast too, Sir Stirling Moss said it himself. Nico and I both fell in love with that car, as we are gentlemen, we didn’t fight over it. The lack of millions helps too.
Tour Auto with a view
On the road again, and while enjoying the beautiful roads, we found ourselves behind a group of cars composed by two Ferrari 488 Spiders, one Ferrari 812 Superfast, one terrible Porsche 911 cab (I still don’t like regular Porsche, sorry), all lead by a… Ferrari 275 GTB. Only on Tour auto. The modern sports cars decided to overtake the classic Ferrari, which we didn’t, we enjoyed the view too much.
After a while, we were right behind a 488 spider again. At pace. Again, surprisingly, the Mini was able to follow it (pretty much) for 20 minutes. Until I we were low on fuel. At that point we decided to cruise. As if we felt it, again, 10 minutes later, the Ferrari and a Lancia Stratos got arrested by the Police. Turns out, 6 driving licenses were taken that day, not mine. Anyway, if I get my driving licence taken, I promise I will do licence-free cars reviews for RRC, would you like that?
As if this all wasn’t crazy enough, I saw the 200SI in the mirrors, let it overtake me, and followed it almost all the way to Dijon-Prenois. Priceless.
The insane races of Tour Auto
And so we arrived at Prenois. And while the special is great for watching cars crossing a city at racing speed to beat the clock, the race track offers another show. One where all the cars are racing against each other. And honestly, watching a Ford GT40, a Porsche 904/6 Carrera GTS, AC Cobras, Jaguar E-Types, Lotus Elans (which won in 2018 and this year again) racing in the same category is absolutely out of this world.
Right after that race, on the next category were racing Porsche 3.0 RSR, Ligier JS2, Ferrari 308 Group 4, Detomaso Panthera, Lancia Stratos, BMW M1 Procar. I agree, this was even better.
The mechanical show
Arriving at Parc des expositions in Dijon, we witnessed another interesting show. It was time for the mechanics to disassemble the cars, in public. At this point, Nico and I were too tired to even think straight, and we decided to enjoy the show while having a beer. And again, this was another crazy situation, where Cobras, Alfas and Porsches were in bits right in front of us. But one of our favourite little cars was there with a spare engine on the side: a Deutch Bonnet, beautiful french little rocket.
We found our good friend Felix in an uncomfortable situation as the photo shows. Indeed, Felix was following a team as a mechanic, and he will tell you his Tour Auto story.
Is Tour Auto worth your time?
As much as I would like to tell the whole Tour Auto as I lived it, it would take a whole book to even scratch the surface. I mean, the story I just told you is only one day of Tour Auto, one day! It took so much effort to try and remember everything that happened, I can’t even consider telling the rest of my story.
Anyway, as you can see, this event is out of this world, a mix of everything we love in classic car events. The only thing I was unhappy about, is that seeing all those insane cars racing and crossing the country was very frustrating for me. So, maybe next year.