The final day of the 2015 Tour Auto dawned wet and overcast in Pau. Whilst the prospect of arriving into Biarritz was tantalising, neither of the two crews of cars 205 and 206 were taking anything for granted . In all the years Richard, Tim, Chris and Keith have taken part in this event, none has made it to the finish, and the memory of the GT40 suffering engine failure during the last race in 2013 was still fresh in the memory. The first competitive section of the day was a race at the Pau Arnos circuit, but during the 30km run to the track Chris and Keith in the E type Jaguar found it was only firing in 5 cylinders, instead of six. We assumed the water had got into the electrics, Sam and Rambo quickly dried them out, but the big cat was still running like a pig. On arrival at the track we had 15 minutes to take another look. Replacing the spark plugs which were heavily oiled up, immediately cured the problem. Running at road legal speed limits all the day previously had fouled up the plugs, at least the E would be on full song for the race.
The track was new to both Chris and Richard, but Chris had completed about 50 laps during the Easter holidays with his kids on the PlayStation, so at least he was well prepared. The undulations and myriad flowing corners looked as though they would perfectly suit the Macau, Bathurst and Spa legend Ricardo Meinzzerini and his bright red GT40. With the GT40 second on the grid and the E type 8th, both cars were well set for a good result. If the E type could beat the GT40 by over 64 seconds then the Jaguar would leap over the Ford in the overall classification, we were fighting for 39th place overall…
As the flag dropped Meinzzerini set off like a scalded cat and set about an epic dice with the Frenchman in the Cobra who had denied Ricardo the victory at Magny Cours earlier in the week. Aside from a brief moment when the Cobra got ahead, Ricardo led the race throughout, becoming the only driver to achieve two victories in races during the 2015 Tour Auto, a feat Chris had achieved in 2013. Chris meanwhile with the E type running better than ever, and his track knowledge gained racing Freddie and Edward (on the computer) paid off with an outstanding performance, dicing with the E type of the overall Tour Auto winner and the famous Wilment cobra of Sean Lynn, previous Tour Auto winners. At last the E was at its best, brakes working well, engine purring and keeping up with the front runners, Chris now on racing form and at one with the E type, finishing a strong 5th. The end of the race was a watershed moment as both teams had never made it this far in the past. There was one final special stage to complete before the run in to Biarritz and after a quick stop for fuel the cars headed towards the final special stage. Conveniently the organisers had scheduled lunch to be taken in the form of a gourmet picnic which was to be distributed after the final special stage which meant no risk of a Rambo moment, racing ahead for an early lunch.
Arriving at the final stage, Chris reported that the exhaust on the E was loose, rattling terribly and filing the car with exhaust fumes. Captain Keith decided to carry on regardless, we were not about to give up almost in sight of the Atlantic ocean. Unfortunately as the car lined up, it became apparent there had been a very serious accident with one of the organisers course cars and with the stage being occupied by emergency vehicles and helicopters, the stage was cancelled and the crews headed towards Biarritz. The fumes were filling the E even more now, and so the rear window of the original famous Jaguar registration, CUT7 was removed to help ventilation. The remainder of the run to Biarritz was uneventful with both cars running in convoy, only splitting up when the GT40 sped past an obvious turn in the route, the navigator dreaming of the forthcoming FCC elections (for which he is running for Treasurer).
Arrival in Biarritz was an emotional moment for crews and support, particularly for Richard, Chris, Tim and Keith who had never made it this far before. Arrival was something like the legendary NY ticker tape parade for Neil Armstrong on his return from the Moon, Richard being interviewed on the finish line by a celebrity French TV presenter. Thus came to an end the 2015 Tour Auto with plenty of highs and lows and “what ifs” but also a huge sense of achievement.
Many pseudo intellectuals would say that Richard, Chris, Keith and Tim’s adventure is an allegory of life for a man in the 21st century with optimism and enthusiasm followed by disappointment, angst and elation, but ultimately ending back where you started. We say this is bollocks, we were four middle aged blokes who went off on an adventure and when the combined age of the cars and crew was over 300 years it was inevitable that some things were going to creak a little. What we ended up with was a stack load of great memories, and a really competitive performance from both cars which showed that with just a little bit of luck they would have been right at the sharp end at the finish.
Thanks to Steve, Darren and Sam from Wren Classic Sports Car Restoration Maintenance and Race Car Preparation (Wren Sport is a division of Wren Classic Sports Car Restoration Maintenance, and Race Car Preparation) for keeping the cars rolling (just), to Rambo for providing great amusement and logistic support on what was supposedly his driving holiday, and Michael O’Shea and David Hall in another E type for joining in the spirit and fun of our week. Thanks to Tim, the author of these reports, Chris for editorial and pictures, Keith for amusing quotes, “Beer and Berocca is not one of the major food groups” and Richard for providing the cars and letting us go out and play with them. Sorry for the late delivery of our final report, but I fell asleep last night, slumped over the laptop, before I had hit the “send” button. Thank you all for reading this far and following our adventures to the bitter end.