Day four of the 2015 Tour Auto dawned in the hope that things would not be as drastic as day 3. Richard and Tim had finally made it into Toulouse at 1.30 am after sharing a romantic evening in the Albi paddock watching the Wren motorsport mechanics changing the G40 gearbox by moonlight. Keith and Chris meanwhile had enjoyed an evening in Keith’s favourite French city (where he is honourary consul for his services to French aviation) to the extent that Keith was awaiting the GT40 crew when they arrived. Day four did not involve any races which have so far proved the GT40’s strong point but 2 special stages would give both crews a chance to climb up the leader board.
The best part of day four which saw the event move from Toulouse to Pau, in the midst of true Basque country, which involved several awesome road sections climbing the mountains of the Pyrenees. After the dramas of several competitors being evicted from the event the previous day, todays road sections provided plenty of chances for the drivers to test the performance of their vehicles without breaking the speed limit and risking joining Mark Freeman in the “maison de chien”.
The 1st special stage of the day again provided plenty of challenges for both crews who came through with respectable times.
The plan was then for the crews to emerge from the special stage still in their helmets and flameproof underwear, to link up with the support crew to enable any service and fuel requirements to be met. Most teams position their support crews within 3-4 km of the end of the special stage so by the time the GT40 and E-type with their overheating co drivers Tim and Keith had past the 20km mark after the special stage ended we were all getting more than anxious. The support team ended up completing the post race servicing on themselves before the cars. A call to David Rambo elicited the response “we got lost, but fortunately we came across the chateaux where lunch is being served”. Knowing that the support team were ensconced enjoying a leisurely lunch, Keith, Chris, Richard and Tim, covered the remaining 40 km arriving late for lunch in a state of some distress, crash helmets on, flameproof suits still zipped up, sweat poring from their foreheads, after a journey including dicing with a flock of sheep with their cuddly lambs fighting for space on the mountain road, to find a very chilled out support team, sitting in the sunshine, listening to the wrens singing in the trees, recommending the Iberico ham as they made their selection from the extensive dessert menu.
The long run to the final special stage looked as though it would allow plenty of time to be completed without penalties, however, the torturous nature of the roads meant both crews found it difficult to reach the start within the allotted time allowed. Both crews made it there to discover there was a serious delay. Chris and Keith walked to the start line, which was alongside an old auberge, walking in they asked for a coffee and sat on the seats around a table on the patio overlooking the start line. Coffee was served but the woman explained that the restaurant was no longer in business, but this was her house, she refused to accept payment for the coffee which made this the best coffee this week. The stage was later cancelled following a series of serious accidents. As a result the crews headed to Pau at the end of day 4.
After the drama of the GT40 gearbox change on Thursday night managing to arrive in Pau with both cars broadly in tact meant that the hard working Wren crew were able to get a reasonably early night having completed a full service on both cars for the first time this week. Their early night was more than deserved after Darren and Sam perform an intricate ballet dismantling and then rebuilding the rear end of the GT40 in difficult circumstances, under the moonlight, completing the task at way past midnight. Meanwhile back in Toulouse Rambo who had set off to rejoin Keith and Chris, to deliver their overnight bags, had got lost in the car park.
So day four ends with both cars still in the event, this is a first for Richard. Both the remaining Hong Kong teams are locked in a Titanic battle, car 205 in 39th place and car 206 in 40th. With a race at Pau Arnos and one more special stage before the run in to Biarritz there is still everything to play for.
This is our penultimate message form the Tour Auto 2015. All of these messages have been a combined effort of the editorial team of Richard, Keith, Chris and Tim, photo of tonight’s editorial meeting held at 1am after another 17 hour day and a pending 6am alarm call.