The Tour Auto Rally 2016 was held April 18-24 on the secondary roads and race circuits of France. Organized by Peter Auto, the 2016 edition celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Tour de France Automobile retrospective along a handpicked itinerary. This year’s rally also honored a selection of cars that have made the Tour a legend, including the Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, Jaguar MK II 3.8L, Ligier JS2 and Matra MS 650.
Renewed each year, the 2016 Tour Auto finished for the first time in the Peter Auto era with a nighttime run on well-known rally roads in the countryside above the Côte d’Azur, making sure the 25th anniversary event was memorable. Thus, the crews who arrived in Cannes on Saturday afternoon still had another challenge ahead of them. After a few hours rest they headed for the roads in the hinterland on the Côte d’Azur for a night run, punctuated by two special stages, followed by the finish on the Croisette in the night of Saturday and Sunday bringing down the curtain on the 25th Tour Auto Optic 2ooo.
On the final day the drivers left Marseille in the early morning for the first special, the 8.4-km La Coutronne stage. It had all the right features to delight hill climb enthusiasts with a perfect road surface, a winding layout with strings of tight corners as well as beautiful countryside. Victory went to British pair Andrew Smith and James Cottingham in their Ford GT40 who beat the two victory contenders, Jean-Pierre Lajournade in his E-Type Jaguar and Ludovic Caron’s Shelby Cobra by 11 and 16 seconds respectively. After the first stage out of the three on the day’s programme, the field headed for the Le Castellet plateau and the Paul Ricard circuit. The Ford GT40 racked up its second win on the trot from Caron who pulled back 23 seconds on Lajournade. Thus, the latter had a 57-second lead when he started off on the road crossing Sainte Baume and the Esterel Massif, which brought the Tour to Cannes, where the finish took place.
A large enthusiastic crowd turned up in front of the Palais des Festivals to cheer on these stars from the bygone days of the motor car. The drivers had a few hours break to recharge their batteries at the buffet in the Plage du Majectic, after which they set off again to tackle the two night-time stages specially organised for the 25th event.
Unfortunately, the first timed stage in the Col de Vence had to be cancelled for safety reasons. The following (and final) one, the 13.2-km Les Ferres-Roquestron special, was the theatre of the last battles in the 2016 Tour Auto and it also established the definitive result. While Smith and Cottingham made it a clean sweep with their third win of the day 15 seconds in front of Lajournade and Christophe Bouchet, the Parisian driver clinched his third victory in the 2016 Tour Auto. His main rival, Caron in his Shelby Cobra, gave away 1m 23sec in the final stage which sealed victory for the crew in the Jaguar who had led from the first to the last day.
In Group G, Eddy and Jean-Jacques Benezet in their 2.5-litre Porsche 911 ST finally got the better of Arnaud Gaudel and Alexandre Delaye’s BMW 2800 CS in the last stage, and wrapped up victory in the overall classification of their category. In Group H, the win went to Florent Jean and Philippe Talabard in their Group IV Ferrari 308 Michelotto. Jean-François Penillard and Mathieu Verlaine in their Porsche 356 Pre-A triumphed in the Index of Performance, while Argentinean duo Martin H. and Francisco Sucari in their Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta came out on top in the overall classification of the Regularity category on the final day.
Overall, the 25th Tour Auto Optic 2ooo will be remembered as a great vintage with a unique flavor. The 237 competitors who left the Grand Palais in Paris five days earlier have memories of the route that passed through the stopover towns of Beaune, Lyon, Valance and Marseille before reaching Cannes. In this sporting adventure everybody congratulated the winning crew, Jean-Pierre Lajournade and Christophe Bouchet in their E-Type Jaguar, at the finish. Lajourande had already won the event in 2010 in a Lotus Elan and also in 2015 in the Jaguar E-Type.
Similar to 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, Sports Car Digest also documented the 2016 Tour Auto with the following stunning pictures that show the strong field of entrants and stunning views of the French countryside. We split up pictures into two galleries. The first gallery starting below features our favorite images, all displayed in the full-width view of Sports Car Digest, while the second gallery and rally results can be found on the last page of the article and gives a comprehensive view of all the photographs.
Tour Auto Rally 2016 – Featured Photo Gallery
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