Tour Auto Optic 2ooo – Leg 5 – Marseille / Cannes – 23rd April

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Classic Car Magazine LogoThe fifth and final leg of the 25th Tour Auto Optic 2ooo fulfilled all its promise. It was the longest and the most exciting of all in this year’s anniversary event, which will go down in the annals for all the participants who unanimously voted it a resounding success because of the quality of the itinerary, the choice of the places for lunch and dinner, and the organisation.

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-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, another new addition to the race that delighted the entrants, 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-Cottingham made it a clean sweep with their third win of the day 15 seconds in front of Lajournade-Christophe Bouchet, the Parisian driver clinched his third victory in the 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-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-Philippe Talabard in their Group IV Ferrari 308 Michelotto. Jean-François Penillard-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 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 flavour. The 237 competitors who left the Grand Palais in Paris five days earlier will have unforgettable memories of the new itinerary that passed through the stopover towns of Beaune, Lyon, Valance and Marseille before reaching Cannes. There were victories for some and shared excitement, marvellous places and landscapes for all those taking part. In this human and sporting adventure everybody congratulated the winning crew, Jean-Pierre Lajournade-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 another English car. This was his third victory in the Tour Auto Optic 2ooo, which he sealed after a tough battle with Caron-de Villaucourt in their Shelby Cobra.

Once again the Tour Auto spirit attracted large crowds as proved by the massive number of spectators who flocked to the finish of the legs and to the Dijon-Prenois, Bresse, Lédenon and Paul Ricard circuits. The event also received widespread media coverage and some journalists took part in it to live this unique experience from the inside.

The Peter Auto organisation would like to thank its many faithful partners for their backing which is the guarantee of the long-term future of this famous race, the oldest still being run. Everybody is now looking ahead to 2017 and the 26th running of the Tour Auto Optic 2ooo.

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