Even though the first car wasn’t set to depart until 7.30, the crews were up and about early. As the competitors put fuel in their tanks, the start banner was hung outside on the stunning gates of the Trianon Palace Hotel gate.
At 07:31, it was the 1924 Bentley 3L of Stephen and John Ward that lead the competitors across the start line. Car 1 – the 1921 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost of David and Natasha Royds suffered a loose fuse connection. This meant them starting at the end of the pack along with Steve and Ruth Lambert, who were being introduced to their 1963 MGB, heroically delivered by Rally Preparation Services.
As we said goodbye to Versailles, we got word that the Hayes’ Triumph TR3A had overheated in the traffic. But never fear, mechanics Karim and David were on the way and soon had them back on the road.
After a practice regularity to get the senses going, it was off to the Kart Circuit in Angerville to get the blood pumping. Some gave it more beans than others. ‘Miscommunication’ in the Porsche 356A on the slalom meant they continued going straight into a (thankfully) moveable bollard.
The Bristol 405 of Michael Joseph and Yusef Sadiq approached the tarmac much more gingerly; as did Giorgio Cumin and Carla Bonassi in the Rolls Royce Corniche, although they didn’t want to leave doing four laps to everyone else’s two!
There was even a clash of the titans as the Ford Mustang of Alec Hammond galloped after Tristan Beard in the mighty Mini. But the little pocket rocket wasn’t giving an inch and all Alec gave away was a hub cap that detached itself from his wheel.
Last to arrive and sadly miss their slot on the circuit was Car 31, the 1971 Maserati Indy 4200, owned by Ralph Hummel, as it had to have the top hose replaced by sweeps Richard and Gary.
From the morning circuit, it was off into the beautiful country lanes for another regularity, through small villages and towns, as the clouds cleared, and a beautiful blue sky brought us into the lunch halt in Liniez.
Re-energised, our crews then made their way through Lassay-sur-Croisne for another regularity before arriving at the historic Race Circuit La Chatre.
Positioned in the side of a hill and boasting all curves, no straights, racers used to say that if you could conquer this circuit, you could race anywhere. Over 100 days per year, current Formula 2 drivers are trained on the tarmac where our crews tested their own skills this afternoon.
The history even curses through the veins of the marshals, who are all volunteers, as they also cover the Le Mans 24hr.
The crews loved the twists and turns, no one more than Chris Beighton in the Ford Mustang who went for a spin but managed to recover.
Car 17’s troubles had continued with a puncture and so they couldn’t tackle the circuit as they would have wanted with the ‘space saver’ fitted.
Car 30, with its Union Jack roof visible from the top of the circuit, just made it in time for the MG BGT to set a time, while the Ford Escort, Car 28, of Andrew Wenman and Tom Goddard had their throttle cable snap which consumed most of their afternoon.
Despite a few jobs for the sweeps in the car park, including tinkering with the starter motor of Car 1, the Royds’ Silver Ghost, spirits were high at dinner as the first results of the event were revealed.
Chris and Judy Beighton in the 1964 Ford Mustang are ahead in the Classic category, with Barry and Rome Weir in the Alfa Romeo Sprint in second, and Linda Tucker and Sarah Jennings in the MG BGT in third place.
David Wenman and Jeff Robinson lead the vintage class in the 1929 Chrysler 75.
But as they say, tomorrow is another day…