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.