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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Collection

Welcome to The Collection and a few stories!

Tort'rouge arrived in September this year, a lovely little Renault 4CV  from 1952. She has always lived in the delightful Charente region, so is quite at home here in Hiesse, near to the ancient town of Confolens. She spent the past 12 years being lovingly renovated by a couple in Angouleme who have added some very nice personal touches to this delightful little car.

The Alfa Romeo S3 Spider was found in London, having spent the early years in Vienna. She is very original and in lovely condition. She seems to enjoy the open french roads, a welcome change from city driving! 

And now for something new! 'Project 7' is soon to join the fleet is this gorgeous little 1931 Austin Seven Ulster! The plan is to prepare her for road and circuit use, and she should be arriving soon from England. Not much is known about her history, yet.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Angoulême, Circuits des Remparts, 16-17-18 September 2011

The city of Angouleme hosts many superb festivals and colourful events throughout the year, and the third week in September is no exception, seeing the annual Circuits des Remparts return to the town.  Weeks of preparation have seen crash barriers put in place, marquees erected, local people reminded, and shop windows decorated with a race theme.  Race weekend is here, and the place will again ring to the sound of engines.

Since 1937 the track has retained its 1.279 km lap, virtually unchanged since that first meeting, when Raymond Sommer won in his Alfa, ahead of the likes of J P Wimille and a young Maurice Trintignant, as well as an Englishman in a K3MG.  The war put an abrupt end to the event until re-established in 1947, when struggles between Bugatti and Delahaye eventually gave way to the likes of lighter Simca, Cisitalia, Frazer Nash and DB Citroen cars, more suited to the tight circuit.  Famous names like Ferrari and Maserati also made their presence felt with drivers like Fangio, Gonzales and many more competing.   
From 1955 until 1978 following the tragedy at le Mans there was no racing in Angouleme.  Since then we have had an uninterrupted period of unique street racing in Angouleme, matched only by Monaco and Pau. Today the famous names still show up and return to share in the atmosphere, with Jean Pierre Beltoise and Jean Pierre Jabouille enjoying this year’s event.

Friday is the relaxed entry day to the weekend and sees drivers and teams arriving, booking into hotels, unloading their cars in the paddock and signing on for the races.  The Rallye contingent receive their Saturday route instructions, and the press and journalists prepare to record the happenings, cameras notebooks and pencils at the ready.  Enthusiast visitors frequent the many cafes and restaurants, soaking up beer, wine and the atmosphere of hundreds of classic cars filtering into the city centre.  

The weather forecast was mixed, but Friday evening was warm and clear, and saw a wonderful line up of beautifully prepared cars mount the ramp in front of a packed audience in the Champs de Mars, the huge square in the shopping area, for the Concours d’Elegance.  Under the ever watchful eye, and cigar of Inspector Colombo (ably played by Yves Lecoq) we were treated to cars like Theophile Schnider, la Licorne, Delage, Sandford, Porsche, Alfa and many others, large and very small.  Dressed in the style and period of their cars, it was lights, music and action all the way for owners and vehicles alike.  A great way to kick off the Race weekend.


The skies were overcast and the ground damp for the departure of the Rallye at breakfast on a rather grey and misty Saturday morning. Chais Magelis on the banks of the Charente was full of even more magnificent machinery, as they were flagged off on their tour through the beautiful relaxing Charente countryside.  Lunch was taken in Cognac (the town, but I feel sure some was sampled!) with the return to Angouleme late in the afternoon, in time for more food and drink amongst restaurants and cafes in the tiny streets of Angouleme.   

The party in the evening at les Halles, the huge market place in the middle of town saw the competitors sampling the local produce and toasting the day’s winners.  Promises of an early night from the serious racers saw them leave early, the others enjoying the night life that the centre of Angouleme had on offer.  It is a great opportunity to make new friends as well as catch up with those one has met in previous years.  It really is quite a unique experience. 

During the course of the weekend the gardens of the hotel de Ville were given over to a selection of very special cars from the brothers Ballot. They competed at Indianapolis the Targa Florio, the French and Italian grand prix, and manufactured cars between 1921 and 1932.  A beautifully presented collection of unique machinery.


Sunday morning, race day dawned and 0800h seemed to come up very early!  Practice commenced with the first competitors getting used to the cool and damp conditions on a circuit that takes no prisoners.  Guard rails seem all too close at that time, and in the semi-dark!  As the morning progressed, the sun made its way up into the blue French sky, slicing between the old buildings creating sharp contrasts of light and shade, as the cars darted between corners.   

The sounds of Bugatti, MG, GN, Frazer Nash and the aero engined Morgans very quickly woke everyone up!  We were all also treated to an interlude of blue and noise with a group of Matras screaming their way around the circuit.  Memories of classic Grand Prix racing and le Mans, it was wonderful!  Times were being set, the opposition established, grid positions achieved and the lunch break quickly approached.  There were a few mishaps but nothing that tape, elbow grease, the odd hammer and a few prayers could not fix.

During the lunch interval when some were taking on food and water, the track still rang to the sounds of Volkswagen, Alfa and Maserati, as their cars were demonstrated to the public.  The rest of the town was full of every marque of car you could possibly think of, either sitting in displays of being paraded around the main square. This is a very special event indeed.  It does clash with Goodwood and a number of other motoring festivals each year, but still attracts its own particular and regular attendance.


The weather was still warm and dry following the lunch break, but the clouds had something up their sleeves for later as the first cars made their way to the grid for the plateau Wimille.  All the small engined MG, Morgan and Amilcars were dwarfed by the 10,000litre Schneider! Stuart Dean brought out the lovely Jacobs MG coupe which finished second to the Morgan of Charles Reynolds.

A sad note this year as we mourned the loss of the ‘voice of Angouleme’, as Jean Louis Mathieu passed away recently.  A man with immense knowledge of his car passion he will be much missed, by French and all other participants.  

Damien Kohler flung the Diva around the streets ahead of the Ancelin Lotus Elan in the Pescarolo plateau.  There were great tussles down the field with three wheeling Mini and Autobianchi mixing it with the bigger engine sports cars.  All close stuff!

The rain decided to come down for the first of the Bugatti races which spoilt a potential close wheel to wheel race.  The Grand Prix cars slithered and slid, carefully avoiding the ever so close barriers in the wet conditions, with the yellow 35B version of Gregory Ramouna crossing the line ahead of Chris Hudson. Martin Overington in his most wonderful sounding 35B could not get the power down on the wet surface and came home a disappointing fourth, but at least finishing here for the first time.  Next year?

The fabulous little T13 Brescia Bugattis followed and had to cope with both dry and damp conditions, spraying their way to the line, lead by Andy Johnson in his lovely 1924 machine.  Some very close and brave racing was watched by the enthusiastic crowd, sheltering under their umbrellas in the stands and lining the walls of the Remparts. 

A close finish in the Larousse Tourisme GT and GTS race, saw the Mondy Alpine cross the line a second in front of the Porsche 911 of Francois Rondel.  An amazing mix of cars which also saw the Reliant of Mark Jordan work his way through from the back of the field to finish a creditable sixth.  Passing here is not at all easy!

French Protos sports cars saw most of them make the finish in their race, won by Gilles Terrones in his blue and orange LRP B 100 1984 machine.  The fast Hema of Laurent Bayers unfortunately stopped in a plume of steam/smoke early on, robbing the race of some close racing, the driver exiting his car fairly quickly!

Rain again introduced an additional element to the Trintignant race, with the monster 6litre GN of Justin Maeers over-steering his way to the flag!   
 He was followed by similarly directional Tim Greenhill in the Wolseley, and the always sideways Dougal Cawley in Piglet, the Frazer Nash!  Unfortunately the two Morgans of Sue Darbyshire and Gary Caroline had a very gentle coming together in the slippery conditions early on, which ultimately changed the course of the race.  

Eric Comas came to Angouleme again and demonstrated just how to throw a Renault Alpine around the streets in a fashion that was guaranteed to produce a win.  And he did in the Beltoise race!  Close racing between the fast following Porsches and the sole Lotus Cortina produced exciting and very close racing through the field. 

The very large crowd was again entertained to the sight and sounds of the Matras in GP and le Mans guise, as well as the wonderful sounding Tecno, all managing to negotiate the tight turns.  Echoing between the high walls made it a tingling experience.  It brought many a smile to gathered faces.

The final race was for the top finishers in Tourisme, GT and GTS catagories, and once again saw Monsieur Comas give us all a demonstration in race driving, finishing around 45 seconds ahead of the fast charging and close racing Porsches, Mini, Lotus, swapping positions throughout the race!

Angouleme gets back to normal very quickly after its annual race event, it is not long before the next city event, and the evening saw all its goodbyes said, cars strapped on trailers, last handshakes performed, and promises made to come back again next year and to tell those who have not been yet to definitely put the date in the diary.  

I hope you do too, my reader!

For a selection of my photographs – AutoGraphracing
Circuits des Remparts –

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Circuits des Remparts 2010

Circuits des Remparts September  17-19, 2010 Angouleme

1939 saw the first motor race take place round the streets of Angouleme, les Circuits des Remparts, with racers like Pierre Wimille, Maurice Trintignant and Raymond Sommer competing, the latter winning in an Alfa Romeo. 71 years later we celebrate the centenary of Alfa with the roar of the twin overhead camshaft engines reverberating through the streets of Angouleme once again, the only changes to the circuit being straw bales replaced by steel Armco.

Cars like Bugatti, Frazer Nash, DB Panhard, names like Fangio, Manzon, Gonzales have all graced this capitol of the Charente.  Racing ceased in 1955 after the le Mans tragedy, thankfully being revived in 1978.  Along with Monaco and Pau, Angouleme is one of the last surviving great street circuits.

It has become a weekend for showing off your cars, joining in the rally, entering the races, meeting friends, old and new, making contacts, swapping tales, and all in all having a wonderful weekend in this beautiful region of France.  Entrants and visitors come from all over Europe to be part of this special event.  A credit to the city and all those who work so hard to make it all happen.  Long may it continue.

Friday sees the arrival of competitors and visitors, taking over all available accommodation in the town, restaurants spilling to overflowing.  The streets and squares filled with exotic machinery, echoing through this ancient place.

The evening is always given over to the Concours d’Elegance, a spectacle where entrants display their beloved cars, appearing in period dress, in front of an enthusiastic audience.  Lights, music, go for it!  From Renault to MG, Alfa Romeo to Berliet, everyone experiences a slice of history and glamour.  All are winners.

Saturday morning, bright and ever so early, has hundreds of amazing cars gathering by the banks of the Charente River outside the new home of the Bande Designee, the sun making everyone feel warm and in a good mood for the day ahead.  Teams study their maps in readiness for the tour of the lanes and sweeping countryside of the Charente Department.  Bugattis, Ferraris, Delahayes, Cord, Aston Martins and many, many others, from 1920 to the present day, around 300 cars and crews head out in convoy.  Maps are not really necessary, as you are greeted by the sight of local people at nearly every junction encouraging the cars and giving directions.  The route is lined with young and old, enjoying the sounds and sights of this wonderful display of classic vehicles.  Lunch was taken in Cognac and a further route guided everyone back to the finishing rostrum in the Champs de Mars in Angouleme.  Life was getting busy in Angouleme.

During the day those who stayed in town were entertained by a superb display of the vehicles designed by Jacques Durand beside market, les Halles.  An amazing collection of cars from the pen of one man.  Around the Hotel de Ville gardens, set amongst the flowers sat a mouth watering array of cars, with
Bugattis, Matras, Talbots, all relaxing and ignoring the cameras.

Saturday evening sees the restaurants and bars full as just about everyone spills into town to soak up the very special atmosphere.  Cars are not left out as people parade through the streets in their much loved vehicles.  A very special place to be in France, in September.  Miss it if you dare!

Sunday morning practice wakes everyone up from 0800h.  A chance to see if all the pre-race preparation has come together, and for any new arrivals to the venue to get firsthand knowledge of this short, but very tricky little circuit which holds so much history.  Driving around in the tire tracks of the famous, avoiding kerbs, barriers, handling the ever so tight hairpin corners and working out how and where to overtake.  A few competitors did not make it through to their races due to the odd mishap, mechanical and directional.  Most however, made it through safely.

A welcome lunch break to take in the buzz in town and then it is time to take your position on the Remparts, your seat in the grandstand to settle down for an entertaining afternoon in the hot sun. 

Three wheeled Morgans dominated the first race, the Wimille Plateau, demonstrating how to lay down single tyre rubber tracks!  Fast, furious and brave action, close racing being the order of the day.  Follow this!

In between races the crowd was amused to see how the modern super cars have difficulty getting round the tight corners, with the nimble Renault 5 Turbo nipping past the Lamborghini and Dodge Viper as they practiced using reverse gears!  More glorious sounds.  Throughout the town, vehicles were on display, and stalls were set up selling varieties of car related products.  A pleasant place to wander around should the racing within earshot not be quite your thing!

The Pescarolo race saw Paul Conway make it third time lucky, as he steered and slid his thundering V8 Morgan between the barriers just keeping ahead of the fast charging Damien Kohler in the very quick Diva GT, after a race long tussle.  Alfas, Minis, MGA and Jaguar made up the field as the two leaders weaved their way through to the chequered flag.  

A host of mainly blue DB Panhards then took to the streets, and with lots of three wheeled cornering, some of them even trying to somersault over the barriers!.

Alfas made a welcome return to Angouleme and screamed their way amongst the tall buildings, in and out of the sun as it pierced through the gaps between houses, their shrill and evocative sound thrilling the crowds.  Celebrating their Centenary, Alfas could be seen all around the town.  A fabulous display of beautiful design.

The Tringnant race saw MGs, Rileys, Amilcars and the giant eleven litre Vauxhall of Tony Lees relive the early history of this event.  Lots of opposite lock driving being a welcome sight from the current GP racing.  Close racing and much overtaking as well.

The Bugatti race was robbed of a potentially titanic battle due to the non appearance of Martin Overington in his 35B.  However Michael Hudson took up the reins and gave all watching a wonderful display in his similar car. Eighteen Bugattis is an awesome sight and sound, and brought out the rare 1933 type 59, last of the GP racers.

Monomills gave us an insight into Rene Bonnet’s 1950’s as well as 60’s and 70’s single seat Panhard and Citroen engine cars, a great sight and sound, being driven with so much enthusiasm, even boasting some interesting design details.

The Larousse grid brought together tail happy GT racers, doing their best to slide their way round, avoiding contact with the all too close Armco.  Agile Alpines, powerful Porsches, mighty Minis, while the favorite Peerless and Warwick drifted to the delight of the crowd in the late summer sun.

A glorious array of eagerly awaited Historic GP and single seat cars took to the tarmac.  Ferrari, Cooper, Talbot, Gordini returned to their old haunt, to make the hairs stand on end and take us back to those halcyon days in a magnificent show of wonderful machinery.

The Finale brought out the top honours from the two GT races, but a problem with the leading Porsche early in the proceedings robbed us of a super final charge to the line, as it stopped suddenly on the exit from the last corner, all the fast following cars somehow managing to avoid the parked Porsche!  This did not stop the remainder making the most of it, putting on a great display for the approving crowds, rounding off yet another wonderful weekend.

Time then to pack everything up for another year, head off of for  a well earned meal, swap stories with new friends, and make a promise to return again next year.

For all Photographs follow the Autograph Photos link.

See you here in September 2011.