Report and photos by Dirk de Jager
The Zoute Grand Prix and Concours d’Elegance 2012 was held 4-7 October on the coast of Belgium.
Now in its third year the Zoute Grand Prix has firmly settled itself on the Belgian Classic car scene as a force to be reckoned with. For three days in the first weekend of October, there’s a big mix of classic, modern and a luxury lifestyle scene in the posh coastal city of Knokke-Zoute.
What started out as a two-day rally has grown into a full blown car weekend with fifteen high-end car manufacturers present, the original classic rally, a Concours d’Elegance and, new for 2012, a GT Tour for modern sports cars.
With 160 cars at the rally, the coastline and shopping streets were filled with displays of the latest Range Rovers, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys and so on and the rest of the town got an overload of owners who decided to show up with their modern hardware as well.
Unfortunately the first one and a half days of the rally we got more ‘typical’ Belgian weather. Most of the time it rained softly followed by some heavy rain showers that made it tricky for the rally drivers to keep their cars in check on the small, dirty farm roads. There is something about driving behind a 1938 Delahaye and seeing it “powersliding” through some corners.
The Zoute Grand Prix rally is also split up in two categories, one for Regularity, mostly for experienced rally drivers that like the challenge, and one for Ballade, a more relaxing altered route without any timed stages. With the two routes it often shows who is paying attention to his roadbook or even his navigator. The groups can only be distinguished from one and other by the colour of their rally plaques, white with red for regularity and red with white for ballade. The groups do mix between each other, but on a regular basis they get split up again and here you often see the cars turning around again when they realized they are following the wrong car instead of paying the attention to the route.
Even with the flat and overpopulated Flemish countryside the organization managed to find some good scenic driving roads that were more than well received by the entrants. Yet, it was still a joy to head back into the town every evening to enjoy a well-deserved glass of Ruinart Champagne while looking over the nicely dirty, patinated cars after a glorious day of driving.
Luckily the weather took a drastic change and for the Zoute Concours d’Elegance 2012 the sun came out with moderate temperatures. This year Philip Kantor, Head of Bonhams Europe Cars, was responsible for selecting the cars that would fill up the lawn in front of the club house at Royal Zoute Golf Club. With a final selection of 43 cars he managed to get a staggering high quality of cars and, with most coming from within the country, that is more than an impressive number.
How about an Alfa 6C Testa Fissa flanked by the Earl Court Motor Show Riley Imp? While impressive, the two cars that attracted the most attention were the electric Auto Red Bug and its one cylinder powered variant Briggs and Stratton, especially when its happy owner decided to run them across the field from time to time.
Looking over the field you can never go wrong if you see an original Bentley 8 Litre next to a one-off Minerva and even a Bugatti Type 50 Semi-Profilee. Further down we could find one of the very last Bugattis built, the Type 101 bodied by Anthem across from a Delahaye with a coachwork from that same bodybuilder.
Zagato was present as well in the form of a Fiat 8V and a 1948 Ferrari 166 Corsa Spider that received a new body in 1955 and is since then fully original. Yet the entire field seems to be filled with special cars like this.
In the end the Zoute Concours d’Elegance jury awarded Best of Show to the Derby Bentley 4 1/4 Continental Vanden Plas Tourer from 1936 of which, in this rare two door version, only two were made. The presentation of the awards were announced at the golf course during the afternoon lunch, After the awards presentation, the Concours cars went, under police escort, to the main podium located at a square by the ocean to be presented to a fully packed town.
This third edition of the Zoute Grand Prix and Concours d’Elegance proved to be an enormous success and contestants are eagerly looking forward to the next edition in 2013.