Blessed by brilliant sunshine, a fabulous variety of vintage and classic cars dating from 1917 to 1978 assembled at Chantilly, on the north-eastern outskirts of Paris, for signing on and scrutineering in readiness for the Paris Amsterdam Rally 2018, which will be flagged away tomorrow morning.
Whilst four rally mechanics worked tirelessly to scrutineer 45 competing cars in record time, drivers and co-drivers/navigators enjoyed meeting and reacquainting themselves with friends old and new. Some had very recent adventures to report; only half-joking, we said yesterday that the first challenge was to reach the start line, and as if to prove the point David and Natasha Royds experienced a breakdown a mere ten miles from home. Returning their 1919 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost to the garage they picked up a 1965 Porsche, re-packed their luggage and still managed to reach Chantilly by 4pm – an achievement that merits some sort of award in its own right.
Earlier arrivals had plenty of time in which to admire their surroundings. Overlooked by the fairytale Chateau and the almost impossibly magnificent 18th Century Great Stables, only a few metres from the luxurious Rally HQ at the Auberge du Jeu de Paume, Chantilly racecourse looked absolutely stunning, populated as it was by thoroughbred fillies and other fashionable racegoers.
Of course horsepower of a different if no less glamorous kind was on most rallyists’ minds. Having fettled their cars, applied competition numbers and rallyplates, calibrated their tripmeters and filled up with fuel, the excited chatter of anticipation subsided for the duration of a compulsory Competitors’ Briefing, which included a special session for novice crews. Amongst these we should extend a special welcome to Robert and Helen Stoneman, the winners of a free entry in our competition earlier this year, who are embarking on their first rally together in their 1935 Alvis Firefly Special. We wish them – and everyone else – the very best of luck.
A welcome dinner this evening for the Paris Amsterdam Rally competitors provided a further opportunity for crews to mingle and meet, if not to size-up their most likely rivals. We appear to have a very happy bunch of competitors, and we trust their high spirits will see them through any mishaps or mechanical misfortunes in the days ahead!
The fun begins in earnest tomorrow as the rally sets off on a 375km drive from Chantilly, shadowing the route of the 1898 Paris-Amsterdam-Paris race through Champagne and the Ardennes towards our first overnight halt in the impressive medieval fortress at Sedan. Amongst many other things we’re looking forward to a timed test at the picturesque private Circuit des Ecuyers, a lovely farmhouse lunch at Ferme de Presles Restaurant in Nanteuil-la-Foret, a photo opportunity at the evocative old Reims-Gueux grand prix course and afternoon tea at Cafe Icrok, on the shore of Lac des Vieilles Forges. If we have fine weather, it will be a delightful day indeed!