Alastair's Blog

2nd win for 2nd Paris-Madrid Rally 2014

- Friday, August 01, 2014

And we're off for a second year aiming for a second win!

Starting the 2nd Paris to Madrid Rally in May with my novice but trusted American navigator, Laurel Smith, in my 1938 Alfa Romeo 6C SS Torpedino, we felt mildly confident having won the inaugural event last year. But of course we also knew that there was another strong field of competitors ready to take that crown from us. But never being one to look for anything other than first place we took off at speed (skip to 1m 18s of the H&H Classics Rally Round video on the left) to see us zooming away!)

The rally ran over four days in May and had an amazing field of veteran, vintage and pre-war machines and their equally competitive and combative drivers and navigators - oh what fun was in store for us over the next few says. The rally took us on a beautiful and evocative route through France and Spain to compete for the prestigious Charles Jarrott Trophy (more of that lower down!!). 

After a flying start the first day was cold and wet but the car ran well and Laurel did a good navigating job under enormous pressure. No results at the end of the day because in the awful weather conditions just finding our way was hard enough - being on time was an added bonus! Coping with the adverse elements in an open car with no weather protection (apart from a sense of humour!) was 'interesting'. We did however have a rare break in the weather when we stopped for lunch and the sun broke through - someone up there took pity on us and let us relax a bit while we were taking on board sustenance. 

On the second day we managed to get a lead going but we managed to damage all four rims at once in a tiny French village where the road got just too narrow for the wide bodied Alfa! The road was wide enough for the body but the wheels were just too much for it. One of the trick pressure sensing tyre valves got ripped off it was that tight. Never thought I'd use the phrase "My what big rims you've got"!! But then you'd expect nothing less from me...

We were still leading the rally after two days as we moved into day three. The car is running well and Laurel is doing a great job navigating, not only having to cope with actually finding the route and the tricky timing but also having to contend with some more horrendous weather (again!).

The car has no weather protection (thanks to Retrospeed Magazine for catching us at a dry point!) at all and at times today we were just swimming inside the car, bad for us and not good for the car either. The Italian name for a car like this is Barchetta which means little boat and it has been!

At the end of the day we stayed in a Pamplona Hotel and as we listened to thunderstorms and the rain lashing down it looked and sounded like the final day was going to be no better weather-wise, but at least we were learning how to cope in our mobile swimming pool.... 

Sadly there are no tests this year because of insurance limitations so rally is not as competitive as last year but at least the road book is working really well (last year there were a few problems which saw some cars going in every direction for the whole rally!) We retired that evening hoping that the storms would wear themselves out during the night and fingers crossed for some glorious Spanish sun to end the rally.

At the end - the final day

Last day turned out to be pretty easy - if you went the right way which lots didn't! Laurel very pleased with herself (as she should have been) as we didn't take one wrong turning. And we did it again, winning in style for a second year running.

And back to that trophy...

The marvellous Charles Jarrott Trophy was presented to us and in my own shy and unassuming way I felt it was time to get a little excited about winning the trophy for a second year!!

What do you think - style icon or slightly over exuberant? Moi?



Photo courtesy of H&H Classic Rallies:


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Vintage Paris-Madrid Rally and the winner is....

- Monday, June 03, 2013

Just a couple of weeks after the London to Lisbon rally I was on the road again at the Paris to Madrid Vintage car rally. This time with the lovely Alfa adorned as usual with my lucky elephant Space Station sticker. 4th place in class and 13th overall in the London to Lisbon rally was good based on all the mechanical problems we had - but I hate not winning (!) so I was determined to do better on this rally.

I thought everything was going to come undone before we'd even started when we discovered a water leak the night before.  So radiator out of the Alfa and into the repair shop overnight and fixed - but it wasn't done until late in the morning! So a late push to the starting line in Paris.  Fortunately for once we had planned to arrive a day early so we had time in hand and arrived in Versailles with plenty to spare and ready for dinner. We even managed a bit of tourist activity walking the Palace Gardens of Versaille which are really beautiful especially at this time of year. Great trees and old statues and some brilliant bronzes all on a theme of full size trees. Well worth a visit and free to enter!

The 52 pre-war cars were flagged away to start the rally from Versailles to commemorate the incredible 1903 Paris-Madrid race - 110 years to the day.  Our rally started well but we had poor brakes to start with, but a bit more fiddling saw them feeling and working better and we finished the day in the lead. A good omen for the days ahead.

The field was full of some fantastic cars that had entered this year's rally. Some really interesting early vintage classic ones. The rally follows the original 1903 route wherever the organisers can arrange. The three day 1300km (815 mile) event reflects the society of the period with the drivers and passengers having fun by dressing up in appropriate clothing for the pre-war period!

To reflect the mix of vehicles the organisers had sorted the field into classes for four, three and two wheeled motor, steam or electric driven vehicles:

 -     Veteran in two classes: Up to 1905 and 1906 to 1919.
 -     Vintage from 1920 to 1929
 -     Pre-war from 1930 to 1940

As with the original schedule the event is made up of three legs, with our first stop Angouleme (instead of Bordeaux in the original rally). Here we were met with locally produced fortified wine and some delicate pastry’s organised by Club Charentals de Belles Voitures.

We left Angouleme on the second day heading south via Saint Emilion (a lovely wine region!) and the Pyrenees Mountains to our overnight stop at Pamplona, famous for its bull run - not just yet though! In Pamploma we were greeted by local classic car enthusiasts, lots of kindred spirits and reveling in the fun of the day. We did well again today and in the top three. After arriving we all enjoyed a marvelous cocktail party and local celebrations.

The third leg takes roads that are much more fun, less traveled across to Navarra and Rioja - it's a wine fest every time we do this run. There was a regularity set on gravel on this last day, which was very hard to do on time. We did well but the chasing Italian driven Aston did slightly better. But any chance of them winning went out the window when they threw it all away with a wrong test which dropped them right down the field. Sad for them but good for us! A really good day today and we were feeling really confident when we arrived in Madrid to take the chequered flag.

And with a major effort and finishing in style the winner is... Us!

Great feeling to going across the finishing line in first place. The evening was rounded off with a a gala dinner and prize giving. I drove the car to the Gala Prize giving at the Madrid Ritz where it was on display for the evening looking both grand and resplendent with it's winners rosette across the bonnet. Catriona Rings my faithful navigator on many events gave a nice speech. At the end of the evening the Alfa stayed at the Ritz... I was in no shape to drive the car back after the dinner and celebrations!

Oh, and I nearly forgot, we met up with Michael Portillo celebrating his 60th birthday. So a good evening was had by all!

There’s more photos on my facebook page. For those of you that don’t already follow, might be an idea to more photos on my facebook page like my page now as there are more rallies coming, you can also see instant comments on my twitter channel so you can follow me there as well.

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