31st of August, start of the Tour Auto: Having slept at my home with my friends for the night, we have established how we are going to intercept the convoy.
The itinerary states that, after leaving the Palais Éphémère at the end of the Champ de Mars at 6am, they head north to take the Seine banks, pass by the Quai Branly Museum and cross the Seine on the Pont d’Iéna in front of the Eiffel Tower, before leaving the Capital.
Definitely the most incredible event of the year: the Tour Auto Optic 2000…
Imagining a good scenery with the cars under the trees in front of the Quai Branly, we decide to head there.
But as we approach the Pont d’Iéna the other way round, we are suddenly surrounded by a 250 SWB, an E-Type Semi-Lightweight and a Lotus Elan 26R not coming from the way intended.
Ok, let’s forget the scenery with the trees. It’s time to hop out of the car and take pictures!
The atmosphere is special. It is a very calm, pretty cold and still dark morning, but it completely changes at the arrival of any racing car. The sight, the noise, the smell… All these create a real taste of nostalgia, admiration, and pure joy on every normally cramped Parisian’s face.
This year, we have set to ourselves the mission to, first, follow the incredible Porsche 2.8 RSR of Crubilé Sport for my Porsche lover in heart friend Thibaud; and then the absolute “showstoppers” of this year’s edition: the two Matra MS 650 we haven’t even seen or knew the presence of until 2 hours ago on our phones!
Every minute, a little group of 3 to 6 competitors arrive. There is no real order. The first of the pack could be a 356 Speedster, then a comes a Lancia Fulvia, then a Cobra, then a Renault 11 Gordini… For a photographer, it can be difficult to have a good shot in these conditions. It’s because the mechanical crews are really determined to be the first in line behind their car, which results in a lot of otherwise good pictures being completely ruined by a lame white van in the background.
After running around behind practically every car, and telling myself “Why do we have to stand here and wait for the 2.8 RSR? I want to go now and follow (whatever I am watching carefully at the moment)!”
Olivier and Andréï, friends of ours, appear in their Lotus Exige following the Matra, and I think: “Fuck! What am I still doing here?!”
But then comes the Porsche, closely followed by three 3.0 RSRs and a DeTomaso Pantera.
I had forgotten how much presence and elegance this 2.8 has! It’s mindblowingly beautiful.
After a few seconds of the four of us being stuck before it, I suddenly return to reality:
“Guys! LET’S GO!”
We rush to our cars on the other side of the bridge, literally racing the Porsche’s by foot, open the doors, fasten our seatbelts, start the engine… but they are already not in sight.
I think “OK, there is no point on following the same route as them, as we are going to face the same traffic lights as them but with a different rhythm. Let’s take the longer route by the quays and make our time there.
After 20 minutes of running on every red light possible and not encountering any enthusiast car, we begin to feel a little worried we aren’t on the same route as them.
But then, at the top of a hill, we see the two Porsche’s of Crubilé Sport. Great! One last acceleration with our cars, one last C3 Aircross to overtake, and here we are. In the pack!
The rhythm here is much calmer. We are cruising at the speed limit and the scenery isn’t very good, to be honest. And, again, the sky is grey, as it has been all summer…
BUT I DON’T CARE!
Roaring in front of me is one of the sexiest sports/racing cars ever made, with flames and crackles coming out of the exhausts every time Sébastien Crubilé lets of the accelerator. It’s simple, he must be at a maximum of 3000 revs, but I can’t hear anything from the 328ci I am in.
After a few shots, we let Thibaud through to follow the car of his dreams.
I can see his smile in his rear-view mirrors. It is pure joy I see. But, inevitably, the drawback to watching his joy is that there is now a 350Z in all my pictures…
We then leave the highway to get to the official start of the Tour Auto, which is at the Château de Courances. The access is denied for us non-competitors, but we can appreciate the arrival of the next cars in line.
It’s crazy, It is always when you think it is over that another bonkers car arrives.
Alitalia Strato’s, M1 Procar, Porsche 906, Aston Martin DB3… it keeps on coming!
… the end next week in the next episode!