Tour Auto 2015

After the trauma that befell both crews on the first day of the 2015 Tour Auto surely the racing gods would look kindly on cars 205 and 206 today. An early morning start in Vichy was fortunately without the dramas that befell Richard and Tim leaving Paris on Tuesday morning but with the GT40 in 45th position and the E type down in 64th after Chris’ uncharacteristic trip into the gravel at Magny Cours there was lots of work to do.

With a new alternator charging the battery in the GT40 both crews managed a trouble free run to the first stage with Richard also running in the new suspension on his car but Chris and Keith still grappling with brake issues and a lack of a working trip meter. The first special stage of the day provided plenty of challenges but both cars made it through satisfactorily and began to climb up the leader board. The second stage of the day was a wild 11 km uphill along a river valley, or was it a gorge? It was a climb that would have tested the most accomplished Tour De France cyclist, not to mention those competing in the Halow 250 next week (a great charity, definitely worth giving to, so sponsor the ex Safari Rally class winner of 1984 who will be competing in next week’s cycling event:

Despite several other cars falling foul to the unforgiving conditions, cliffs, ditches, trees and walls, both Chris and Richard set the foundations for a spectacular come back up the leader board. This would not have been possible without aforementioned ex Safari navigator Keith or the “Tour Auto without a trip meter” legend Tim.

A long slog of four hours was required to get the competitors to the Chirade circuit near Clermont Ferrand but this was not without a lunch stop first. Dejeuner was enjoyed in the beautiful setting of a French Chateaux in the sun looking out over a lake. Richard’s only complaint was that when he first competed in this event many moons ago, wine was served with lunch. Sadly in this politically correct age, it wasn’t. Keith was more concerned that the oysters had been sitting in the sun too long and his advice was: “avoid the seafood”, but most of us saw the food and just ate it…

With the Chirade circuit having been the scene of Richard’s memorable 2012 Tour Auto race victory hopes were high that he would repeat the feat. Chris was making his debut at this challenging circuit and the E was not necessarily the best car, but even though he was starting way down the grid after the Magny Cours mishaps yesterday the team had every confidence that they would see a leap up the leader board by the end of the race.

Starting from the front row Richard hustled overall leader, Monsieur Caron until the Frenchman inevitably surrendered the lead to Richard who never relinquished it. Richard won from Sean Lynn, father of budding GP2 ace Alex Lynn, resulting in a famous victory that sees Richard maintain his unbeaten run at this circuit. Commenting on this victory RM said “after yesterday, today has proven that motor racing is a game of two halves”. Meanwhile Chris ensured there was no repeat of the big penalties after his moment of madness at Magny Cours. Finishing the race his only comment was the brakes on the E type are “as useful as a chocolate tea cup”… Excuses, excuses.

News just in of today’s leader board: GT40 climbs back to 19th place, E type up to 47th. With improvements like these , marching 20 places a day towards the front, where will it all end in 3 days time? We are almost back in the game after the lows of yesterday. Service crews just finished checking the cars, GT40: fine, E type: fractured rear brake lines and no fluid, so only half the braking system functioning, must have been damaged during the off track incident yesterday. Glad to report all now sorted for tomorrow.

Tomorrow sees another packed day with two Special Stages and a race at the historic Albi circuit where Chris was hugely impressive last time out in 2013, and threats of thunder storms, let’s hope not.

Its amazing to think that after everything that has happened, both high and low, we are still not even at the half way point in this event. There have been plenty of casualties amongst other teams but the determination of the HK team together with their dedicated team of mechanics has so far been hard to break. This is a truly remarkable event in every respect, none of us has ever had entire classes of school children doing Mexican waves as we roar past disturbing the peace.

Anecdote: Today witnessed yet another bizarre racetrack incident when Mark Freeman in his Cobra looked like he was about to blow his engine as smoke billowed from his car and he layed a line of oil the full lap of Chirade circuit, but in fact it was a can of oil in the Cobra’s boot which spilled all over his and his co drivers clothes and leaked onto the exhaust pipes causing the smoke…

Hopefully tomorrow will be another relatively trouble free day, but as another sixteen hour day comes to a close the only thing we have come to expect is the unexpected.
Service stop

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