The Tour Auto Rally 2017 was held April 24-29 on the secondary roads and race circuits of France. After the traditional start in the Grand Palais, in which the cars were displayed for Parisian enthusiasts, the 26th retrospective of the Tour de France Automobile followed a unique course that was a blend of closed country roads and racing tracks, before the race came to an end in Biarritz.
The Tour Auto Rally is right near the top of our favorite events annually covered at Sports Car Digest. And simple as it sounds, it’s also an event we’d really like to participate in, which makes it much more exciting when Julien Mahiels’ pictures roll in from the field. The Tour showcases the beautiful dynamic between the rolling hills of the French countryside and great entries that include several important cars that participated in the original races.
Organized by Peter Auto, the last two stages of the Tour Auto Rally 2017 took place during the night of Saturday/Sunday in the Basque region of France and the event finished in the seaside resort of Biarritz. A total of 242 crews left the Grand Palais in Paris five days earlier and they followed a route that enabled them to discover Brittany for the first time. From Paris to Biarritz taking in the stopover towns of Saint-Malo, Haute-Goulaine, Limoges and Toulouse they all admired the landscapes and absorbed the history of the famous monuments they visited. Their 2500 km journey was one of the longest of the recent stagings of the event.
Participants included famous racing drivers like Englishman Derek Bell, 5-time winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours, who co-drove a Porsche 911 RS 3.0-litre from 1975 with Carlos Beltran, and Michel Périn, co-driver who won the 1986 Tour de France Automobile with François Chatriot, as well as two French Rally titles and six in the Cross-country Rally World Championship. On the Tour, Périn teamed up with Nicolas Pagano in a 1968 Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV.
British crew Andrew Smith and James Cottingham in their Ford GT40 emerged victorious at the end of the Tour Auto Rally 2017. As the stages unfolded this duo constructed their success by winning eleven out of 15 possible victories — four on the circuits and seven in the special stages. Scottish driver Smith, a regular in modern endurance racing, has racked up an impressive set of results in historic races. He has added to that list with a victory in the Tour Auto that he led from the first to the last timed stage. Only Ludovic Caron and Denis Giraudet in their Shelby Cobra 289 managed to break his domination briefly by winning three special stages. The French duo were in second place in the overall classification for most of the race, but had to retire after an off in the second-last special. Swiss pair Raphael Favaro-Lucien and Charles Nicolet in their 3.8-litre E-Type Jaguar won that particular stage and finished on the second step of the podium in VHC in front of the German team of Olivier Ellerbrock and Olivier Louisoder in another Ford GT40.
Another winner of the 2017 Tour Auto Rally was the French crew Mr. John of B-Sibel in their Ligier JS2 DFV in the H1, H2 and I category. Daniel Viard and Didier Haquette won the Group 1 and G2 class in a Ford Escort MK1 RS 2000. Jean-François Penillard and Carole Verlaine in a Porsche 356 Pre-A came first in the Index of Performance. The battle for victory in the Regularity section went down to the wire, with the Argentinean crew Tomas Hinrichsen and Solange Mayo finally coming out on top in their Maserati 200 SI.
Once again the spirit of the Tour de France Automobile proved popular with enthusiasts as proved by the huge crowd that flocked to the Grand Palais and the end of the legs, as well as Le Mans, Val de Vienne, Albi and Pau Arnos circuits. Spectators also turned up in large numbers on the 11 special stages run on closed roads.
Similar to 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, Sports Car Digest also documented the 2017 Tour Auto with the following stunning pictures from Julien Mahiels that show the strong field of entrants and outstanding views of the French countryside.
Tour Auto Rally 2017 – Photo Gallery (photos: Julien Mahiels)
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[Source: Peter Auto; photos: Julien Mahiels]