Tour Auto 2015

Biarritz finish  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.

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Tour Auto 2015

Heroism and Heartbreak

Heroism and Heartbreak


After a successful comeback on day two which included the team’s first race win courtesy of Richard at Charade, hopes were high of climbing further up the leader board after Chris and Keith had moved up to 47th overnight with Richard and Tim now back into the top twenty.

Early morning problems, particularly for Huxley, were primarily the result of the French equivalent of haggis which had been served for dinner the previous night. Sitting alongside Meins as he flies through a special stage involves having everything clenched so this was dealt with easily, but Meins was worried at the strange smell his car was emitting, thinking he may have fried the clutch, but later learning it was just the haggis.  Yet another flat battery in the GT40 in the intercom system today meant that Huxley had to shout navigational instructions above the roar of the V8 engine, but anyone who has ever heard him make a speech knows this comes easily to.

Chris and Keith meanwhile motored on serenely, keeping out of trouble and posting hugely improved stage times now that the braking issues on the E type had been addressed.  Both crews tackled the two particularly challenging special stages without drama and setting good times, although Richard had a couple of particularly lurid slides as he went through a farmyard on a fast downhill section.

Lunch in another beautiful chateaux, still no wine, teams were warned that the Gendarme were particularly angry at all the speeding on road sections and that 5 participants had had their driving licences removed and were banned from driving in France for two months.   We decided to drive the afternoon in convoy as the E type had a functioning speedo and the GT40 didn’t and Richard doesn’t have a history of abiding by speed limits even if he did know his speed.
Having negotiated the long road sections without attracting the attention of the increasingly vigilant fuzz, despite running in convoy with  ‘Special Stage God’ Mark Freeman, the cars arrived at the Albi circuit about an hour from Toulouse, home of the Airbus.

Following his win yesterday, Richard was at the sharp end of the grid, although inexplicably , a Frenchman was put on pole position, not a surprise to anyone who has attended this event in the past. Chris was in the middle of the pack and looking to consolidate on Wednesday’s solid performance and not repeat his ‘Magny Cours Madness’. Chris achieved just that, coming in a fantastic 4th position, despite strong opposition.  Not quite sure how this happened, as he seemed to be overtaken by two chasing cars having run wide on the last lap and the last corner,  but the racing gods were on his side today and he was awarded the first non podium position.  Richard meanwhile had set about getting control of the race and by lap four had established a clear lead and looked set to follow up his Charade win with another famous victory. Then disaster struck as the differential exploded and punched a hole in the gearbox casing, leaving a trail of oil around part of the circuit. Out of the race immediately and any chance of a top ten finish gone.   Luckily the team were carrying a spare gearbox and they duly set about the car to get it changed.


Chris and Keith headed off for the formal day’s finish in Toulouse.  A police escort into the city helped avoid the rush hour traffic, a little known fact, but Morris, the airline pilot, has flown here on many occasions to test new Airbus planes before delivery, Morris is a well known celebrity in these parts and a welcome committee was on hand on arrival in parc ferme.  Chris and Matt were here to support us from Hong Kong, a long way to come to see an E-type and  GT40, especially when the GT40 didn’t show up.


Freeman, our other HK driver, was two hours late arriving in the paddock, unusual because the beer was being served and he wouldn’t want to miss that. When he did eventually arrive it transpired that he’d been caught speeding and when the Fuzz tried to stop him he carried on, however, he wasn’t driving, it was his copilot Nigel.  At the track after the race seven uniformed police officers arrived and arrested him, bundled him into a van and took him away.  After a few fines, for over EURO 2,000 all seemed well, but he has subsequently been thrown out of the event along with all other drivers caught speeding today.  They are making an example out of them.


Richard and Tim remain at the track as the hard working Wren team change the gearbox. It’s going to be a long night , but we will try and get both cars to the end if at all possible, we so want to see the Atlantic ocean on Saturday in Biarritz.

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Tour Auto 2015

Magny Cours e  The longest day.  It’s now 19 hours since our alarms went off this morning as the intrepid crews from Hong Kong  set off on the first day of 2015 Tour Auto, and what a day it’s been.  Leaving the centre of Paris at 6.30 this morning, it was car number 205, the red GT40 that was the first to have problems as navigator Tim had a moment of madness and having thought he’d made a mistake instructed Richard to turn around.  Trying to execute a three point turn in Parisian rush hour traffic, Richard suddenly found he didn’t have reverse gear. Tim had to jump out and push.  The following car, the E-Type of Chris and Keith, couldn’t believe their eyes and thinking the worst, carried on.  Was Richard turning around to go back and pick up something he left behind, had he sneezed and hit the curb or just spun pulling away from the traffic lights?  We hadn’t even reached the official start from a chateaux outside Paris.
On arrival at the official start the GT40 had a flat battery, the alternator having packed up.  Bump starting got them underway, followed swiftly by the E-type, performing faultlessly.  Chris and Keith having an unbelievably smooth run without a single mistake on any of the navigational challenges showing the true talents of this Safari rally veteran navigator.

Suddenly we arrived at the first special stage.  The GT40 with a new battery strapped between Tim’s legs set off first.  Another three point turn half way along the stage and the addition of the door flying open around a corner slowed progress but a respectable time was posted.  Meanwhile Chris was building on his experience of two years ago and ensuring a steady time on this first racing test, just 8 seconds behind the GT40.  A special mention to Hong Kong grandee Mark Freeman in his Cobra who was fastest of all competitors.

With the GT40 needing batteries as often as petrol to keep it going (and it’s not a hybrid), on arrival at Magny Cours for the first circuit race the fully charged battery was duly removed from the E-Type to be swapped with the GT40, at least the Jag would charge it up after a bump start.  The race started with a gaggle of Cobras and one GT40 followed by the E-Type.  Richard worked his way towards the front, leading until the last lap, but then overtaken by the French Cobra of Ludovic Caron, who in 2012 drove into the back of Richard and hence was given a wide birth.  Unfortunately the E-Type fared less well.  Running around in 8th place, the second E-Type, dicing with a very quick Lotus, Chris ran wide on the first turn, a very quick double apex left hander, and lost it in style, spinning into the vast gravel trap at high speed like a performer in strictly come dancing… on ice.  Race over with one lap to go and a large time penalty for his poor performance.  This was a repeat of Richard’s 2012 Tour Auto first race also ending in the gravel.  This time, Richard second, Chris DNF.
Just 100km to the night stop, what could go wrong…  The GT40 suspension arm broke. The car was now as useful as Dell boy’s three wheeler. Sam and Darren jumped on the car and managed to replace the broken bits and after an hour or so the GT40 continued.  Meanwhile the E-Type trip meter was now damaged in the off track excursion and wasn’t working, nothing Tim hadn’t dealt with previously, but a new experience for Keith.
Richard arrived over an hour late and earned substantial time penalties.  Having been running in a solid 3rd overall after two stages this was heartbreaking news.  With the E-Type now in 64th position after the off track experience, the fight back starts tomorrow.
We’ll be keeping you posted.
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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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Spa 2013

Please click on the above link to view Chris Jolly/Steve Farthing in the Cooper Monaco FIA Masters Sports Cars pre 66. Class winner and 5th Overall.




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Spa 2013

Wren Classics enjoyed a successful weekend at Spa.

Spa 6 Hours Jaguar E-Type Class Winner in the GTS7.

Aston Martin DB2 PUM 6 3rd in Class Woodcote Trophy.

FIA Masters Sports Car Pre 66 Class winner Cooper Monaco and 5th Overall.

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Barcelona Apr 2013

An amazing weekend at the Catalan Classic Revival, with a 1st in class and 6th overall

with the Cooper Monaco.

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