Ferraris at the Tour Auto Optic 2000 - Part 1 of 2
Reported by Jean-Bernard Heros
The 27th edition of the Tour Auto Optic 2000 took place April 23-28, 2018. The route, which lead competitors from Paris to Nice, covered approximately 2,100 kilometers and included four circuits and ten special stages on closed roads.
(A compete Tour Auto report, with a chart of all Ferrari entrants, including model, drivers, results and the all-important chassis numbers, will be in the June 1 issue of Cavallino #225. Subscribe today!)
On Monday, April 23rd, the traditional checks took place at the gorgeous Grand Palais where the public could approach the cars. Early the next day, crews headed southeast of Paris to the 17th century Château de Courances residence and its magnificent park, classified as an official “jardin remarquable,” from where the official start of the event was given.
After the special stage of the morning held in Sinotte, the Dijon-Prenois circuit welcomed the competitors for lunch but also for the first of the four track races. Following the races, the longest stage of the event ended later that day in Besançon, in eastern France.
On Wednesday, a 400-kilometer stage brought the drivers to the famous Megève ski resort. On the way, two timed stages were proposed. First, the nicknamed “Altitude 800” in the early morning, and then Oyonnax-Haut Bugey in the early afternoon. To close the day, a race was held on the Circuit de Bresse, as well as a meal offered at the same place. All the competitors were delighted by the beautiful landscapes of the Mont Blanc Massif.
The next day, as the caravan ventured further south, there were more mountain passes on the schedule. The first special stage of the day was the rugged Combe de Savoie Col de Menée. The second special stage, Saint Nazaire le Désert, had to be cancelled due to an accident by an official reconnaissance car. After a picnic, the competitors found themselves on the winding Circuit Lédenon, called Mickey Mouse by some pilots. In the late afternoon, Avignon (nicknamed the "City of the Popes" because of the presence of the popes from 1309 to 1423) hosted the Tour Auto. The city is also the birthplace of sports personalities like pilot Jean Alesi, a former Ferrari driver.
The penultimate day began with La Gabelle, a stage on the flanks of the mythical Mont Ventoux. Lunch was held in the sumptuous setting of the Royal Convent of Saint Maximin (the third tomb of Christendom, based in the heart of Provence). Then it was on to the Paul Ricard circuit, which will be hosting the return of the Formula 1 French Grand Prix in June of this year. The day ended with the special Grand Caunet stage, which led competitors to Aix en Provence for a well deserved rest as fatigue is felt after four days of racing.
The final stage of the 27th edition of the Tour Auto Optic 2000 included three special stages with Pays de Fayence in the morning, then Les Ferres-La Roque en Durance, and finally La Bollène-Turini, which is a mecca of the Monte Carlo Rally. The finish brought the competitors to Nice, located at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea at the beginning of the French Riviera. After the abandonment of the Ford GT 40, the leader throughout the tour (Cottingham/Smith), it was the Lotus Elan that won this year’s Tour Auto (Favaro/Badan).
Since 1992, the Tour Auto has become an iconic historic car race. Each year, the course takes a different route and offers beautiful landscapes to competitors from all over the globe. Appreciated by the crews and the numerous crowds present throughout the course, the Tour Auto is a big international success. The 28th edition will again take place in April 2019!
Images from Jean-Bernard Heros.