The 2nd Alpine Trial 2015

6th - 9th September 2015

The 2nd Alpine Trial 2015 - Rally Reports

Visit the The 2nd Alpine Trial Photo Gallery to find  Gerard Brown's event photographs.

Day Three - Annecy - Col de la Croix Fry - Annecy

Wednesday 9 September - Annecy

The Chain Gang

After our short but very sweet flirtation with the Jura Mountains yesterday we were well and truly back in the bosom of the Alps today. This, the last day of the 2015 Alpine Trial was absolutely jam packed with action from the very beginning. In 254 km there were four Regularities, an Alpine Section and two Special Tests.

With two leaders in two days and the overall classification being shaken up every night this last day of rallying was sure to be as intense as anything that had gone before. Peter Kite and Terry Thorp were sitting pretty in top spot in their Frazer Nash with everyone else snapping at their heels waiting for them to make just one mistake. If they felt the pressure they weren't showing it as they gunned their engine outside the Imperial Hotel and waited for the restart.

The navigators were busy from the off this morning also, as for the first time in three days we turned right as we pulled out of the car park and made our way down the lake and then up to the Col de la Forclaz via a secret check point. With the ink just drying on the time stamp, the crews then set a course for the first Regularity over the Col de Tamie before turning their thoughts to a little refreshment.

The refuge atop the Col de l'Arpettaz was the venue this morning for coffee. We used this lovely and little known hill last year, but today we ran in the opposite direction climbing steeply out of Ugine on a single track road - of variable quality - through dense and ancient woodland before breaking out into the sunshine and continuing to the summit. Walled in on two sides by steep bare cliffs the terrace of the refuge was an idyllic sun drenched spot to take in the 360 degree panorama underneath Mont Charvin.

Soon after though a self start Regularity section gave the crews as much fun going down the other side as they had on the way up but instead of thick woodland this section was played out in full view of the Mont Blanc.

Once over the second Col de la Forclaz of the day the final Alpine Section of the Rally loomed large in the windscreen. As reported yesterday, nobody could actually win an Alpine Cup this year but the way that some of the crews tackled it made us think that they were already practicing for next year. The air around Bisanne rang with the sound of revving engines, the squeal of brakes and the frantically shouted instructions of the navigators.

By now we’d worked up an appetite and headed to the Col de La Croix Fry by way of the Col des Aravis for some lunch, this being the last day there was a slight end of term impression given by some of the crews whilst those still in with a shot at the podium ate with a slightly more deliberate air.

The road back to Annecy and the gala dinner still had some twists and turns for the crews to negotiate. The third Regularity in the Val de Manigod, an entertaining blast round the Kart track in Thones and a final Regularity up the Cote des Glieres to the plateau and a very welcome afternoon tea break.

The results at the end of all of this were close. Almost too close to call so Chris Bruce along with his results team had to check and double check to ensure their accuracy.

Despite this though they were posted in double quick time leading an astounded and delighted Philip Haslam to comment 'that they were posted before the engines had barely cooled down’. He and Yvonne had taken 2nd in class and were rightly proud of their achievement.

Over a fabulous meal of risotto, veal and local cheese the silverware was handed out by Fred Gallagher, Keith Baud and Georgina Clark and a few corks were also popped to mark the occasion.

A full list of winners is listed elsewhere but a few notables include the biggest car in the Rally. The Rolls Royce of Beat and Elizabeth Hirs took a class win whilst the smallest, the Austin 7 Ulster was presented with the Spirit of the Rally Award. Tony & Pauline Mather in their Citroen Traction Avant took the Concours d’Elegance prize.

Peter Kite the winning driver in only his third ever rally offered some words of advice to his competitors. "If you’re serious about winning a Rally then bring a navigator. If you're serious about having fun bring someone else's wife. If you can combine the two you’ve landed in heaven". He went on to thank two people, “Archie Frazer Nash for building the best motorcar in the world and Terry Thorp my navigator".

Even before desert was served three entry forms had been filled in and returned for next year’s event and we look forward to travelling once again with Bob Compiet and Minouche den Doelder,  Lieven van Hoylandt and Dirk van de Velde and Mike Thompson and Julian Riley.

Syd Stelvio


Day Two - Annecy - La Chambotte - Annecy

Tuesday 8 September - Annecy

Bridging the gap.

As dawn broke and the Rally awoke it became obvious that not only had the cars been well and truly lubricated the night before but by the look on some of the faces over the coffee and croissants so had many of the crews. The civilised 8:01 start time was appreciated by many however and gave the mist a bit more of a chance to burn away from the lake and the valley sides where it hung like a veil.

Once down in the carpark engines were coaxed into life with varying degrees of success. The Austin 7 Ulster, the smallest car in the Rally was one which didn’t feel quite as sparky as it needed to be and received a bit of attention from the sweep crew for a problem with the rotor arm. They’d worked the car hard yesterday but had thoroughly enjoyed themselves despite spending most of it in first gear. By day’s end today this story will no doubt have been repeated.

As per the rules the crews had received their route books only 30 minutes before the day’s start so there was some frantic plotting and calculating going on from the navigators while the drivers checked and rechecked those all important staples of motoring life such as tyre pressures, water, oil and washer fluid.

We grabbed one of the drivers, indeed one of the form book favourites, Peter Lovett as he attended to his Fraser Nash BMW to find out why he’d dropped so much time yesterday and he told us that he’d been baulked by a lorry on one of the sections but was hoping to make up the lost time today.

Josephine and Martin Aaldering, the overnight leaders stood at the head of the line of cars waiting to leave with maps and road book spread out on the bonnet of their Alvis. They were obviously enjoying the occasion but did their body language betray a slight nervousness and will this affect their performance? We’ll know soon enough.

Once on the road though and away past the inbound Annecy rush hour traffic we pressed on to the first regularity around Clermont via the old bridge in Seyssel which was first used by Philip Young and the ERA on the very snowy Monte Carlo Challenge in the mid 1990’s.

There are in fact two bridges which cross the Rhone here within close proximity and the sight of the big modern one – the wrong one – proved too much for some crews, but we can report that at the very least Mike Thomson and Julian Riley and Jim Gately and Tony Brooks made the right turn at the right time. Well done gentlemen.

From the bridge there was an exhilarating and steep climb through the meadows to the Auberge de Lyand for coffee in the same restaurant where we took Sunday lunch last year. We can report that this morning break was no less agreeable than the midday meal had proved to be. On the way there we saw Brad Mottier, Bill Cleyndert, Martin Aaldering and Jim Gately trading places through the turns as their engines strained and their gearboxes whined. One missed gear change through a corner was nothing more than an invitation to overtake. Driving old cars is an art and, if I may mix my metaphors, this was poetry in motion.

So, fully re-caffeinated, the Rally took to the road again and was thrown straight into a self start regularity up and over the Col de la Biche, which also featured on that same snowy Monte Carlo Challenge, through early autumn woodland, alpine meadows and short broken Tarmac climbs. This was a tough test of car control and navigation but was nothing in comparison to what was to come.

The Alpine Cup Section, hard on the heels of the Regularity proved very tough once again and the last remaining contender for one of these ‘Holy Grails’ of Alpine motoring, Martin and Josephine Aaldering dropped out of the running as well. After whatever navigational nightmares the crews had suffered through the early part of the morning they had all earned their break at another Time Control with coffee in a small Relais in Virieu le Petit. The ham and cheese sandwiches were superb and the coffee packed more of a punch than Mike Tyson but it was getting close to lunchtime so some restraint had to be exercised.

To get to that lunch it was up the Col de Colombier, the southern tip of the Jura where the views from the top, at 1501 mtrs, were staggering on such a day as this and, as there was no timing through this section many crews took the opportunity to park up and take those all important pictures. Once down the other side of the Colombier it was over the Rhone into the town of Ruffieux and then up a dramatic road cut into the rock for lunch at the Belvedere Restaurant at La Chambotte overlooking the Lac du Bourget, the deepest in France.

This was another superb catering effort and gave the crews a chance to relax and take in their surroundings from the private terrace high above the lake. The sweeps, Andy Inskip, Jamie & Owen Turner and Rob Kitchen never far from the action even managed to sit down and grab a bite to eat themselves and had time to reflect on their workload so far. When pressed to sum it up the response was ‘we haven’t had to work on many cars but we’ve done our fair share of repairing marriages’.

From La Chambotte, the afternoon Regularity Section was a sheer delight. The detailed map books took the Rally through long open corners and the wide sweeping views over Semnoz and the Massif des Bauges were interspersed with tight twisty woodland excursions. We were well and truly into the endgame of the day here but the drive back to Annecy was punctuated with another final Regularity over Cols various, including and in no particular order – because that’s how they were driven – the Sapenay and the Clergeon.

After such a tough day we have a new leaderboard and top of the tree tonight are Peter Kite and Terry Thorpe in the Frazer Nash TT Rep’ who have also tightened their grip on the Chain Drive Cup they so very much covet. Mike Thomson and Julian Riley are still sitting pretty in second in their Bentley Super Sports whilst James Gately and Tony Brooks in the Cadillac Coupe have moved to third. Has a big American cruiser ever been so well placed in an Alpine Rally? Answers on a postcard please.

Martin and Josephine Aaldering slipped a few places to fourth by the end of play but with another day to come with we’re not will to call the result just yet.

Syd Stelvio


Day One - Annecy - Col de la Madeleine - Annecy

Monday 7 September - Annecy

Annecy was cool and clear this morning and as the ERA flag dropped Bill Ainscough and Jason Dearden blasted their way down the driveway of the Imperial Hotel to lead the Rally out of town and up to the Semnoz Ridge where we actually finished the Rally last year. This impressive mountain road saw the crews take on the first test of the day before descending through the rocky hairpins to the Col de Leschaux for a regularity section. Following a swift coffee break in La Carouge one of the highlights of the day reared its head.

The Lacets de Montvernier are a set of 18 hairpins which, coincidentally, were used for the first time this year in both the Tour de France and the 2015 Alpine Trial. With barely 100 mtrs  between the corners the Lacets led the Rally to the little known but very pretty Col de Chaussy and another regularity before lunch atop the mighty Madeleine.

The Col de Madeleine was indeed the high point of the day (and the entire Rally). We were booked for lunch at the Restaurant les Deux Mazots where the lady proprietor was celebrating her birthday. She was probably hoping for a quiet day in the sun with a good book and a glass of wine but then we arrived. She and her team however did us proud and at the dizzying height of 2000 m the Rally refuelled and relaxed with the snow-capped peaks of the versant Tarentaise forming the perfect backdrop. Green salad, tartiflette and good coffee always taste better when they’re well earned.

Disaster befell Bill Ainscough and Jason Dearden though just before they managed to eat when they broke the differential of their Alfa Romeo Zagato whilst pulling into the carpark at the top of the Madeleine. They’ve retired from the Rally as a result and we’re sad to see them go.

Once we were back on the road we plunged down the hill via a Special Test in Celliers to a Regularity on the Cote de Beaufortaine to the north of Albertville. This was a tricky navigational section and caught many crews out on the narrow approach to the Fort du Mont. The final, slightly easier Regularity over the Col de l’Epine was a welcome respite before the run to the hotel along the eastern shores of the Lac d’Annecy.

The carpark was buzzing as the crews pulled in for the night. Everyone had something to say as spanner checks were made and fluid levels were checked. Alan and Tina Beardshaw relayed that they very much enjoyed the open top life today as they toured the highways and by ways around the rally route in a sprightly MG K3. Sensibly stopping when they saw the Italian border looming they rejoined the Rally just in time for lunch.

As far as the leaderboard is concerned, the Marsabit Road effect was very much in evidence today. The notoriously bad Kenyan highway was a severe obstacle to overcome during the ERA’s  London to Cape Town 2012 World Cup Rally and, as such must have been an ideal proving ground for two of our crews.

Dominic Manser drove an MG Rover in the event so he knows what a tough Rally is like, he’s here with his son Jack, in a Bentley 3L Speed and tonight they’re lying in an excellent fourth place. Martin and Josephine Aalderling however were also with us on the London Cape Town Rally in a Volvo but are here in an Alvis Speed 25. Tonight they’re our new leaders and the only crew left who are able to win an Alpine Cup.

The ‘Chain Driven Cup' however, according to Peter Kite and Terry Thorpe should go to them with their Fraser Nash TT Rep’. They’re sitting in third place overall in the only chain driven car in the event. Mike Thomson and Julian Riley in a Bentley Supersports hold third place.

James Gately, benefitting from the services of a top navigator in Tony Brooks was unique today in being early on Reg 1.3 and had a fantastic day ending with his 6th overall place in the Cadillac 60 Series Coupe..

The smallest car in the Rally, the Austin 7 Ulster crewed by Richard and Anthony Joseph is in 13th place whilst the largest car in the Rally, the huge Rolls Royce Phantom II of Beat and Elisabeth Hirs is in a very creditable 24th place. Piloting such a behemoth around these narrow roads is a demanding job and they obviously do it very well.

As the evening light sank lower in the perfect blue sky we noticed a slight commotion in a dark corner of the carpark. Two surgeons were hard at work, clothed in gowns and rubber gloves the crew of car 10 grabbed whatever tools they need to complete the operation. Their patient, an elderly one had been overdoing it slightly over the course of the day and was in need of some attention. Thankfully this story has a happy ending and the Alvis of Dr Ian Fyfe and Dr William Fountain will be up and running tomorrow.

How could the 307.6 kms of the day pass so quickly? A question being asked around the dinner tables and the bar this evening. Tomorrow there’s more of the same but we’ll be taken in a slightly different direction. The sun shone brightly all day and after day one Keith Baud has certainly left them wanting more.

Syd Stelvio


Pre Start - The Grid Assembles

Sunday 6 September - Annecy

Annecy, the capital of Haute Savoie, sits peacefully on the shores of the eponymously named lake at an altitude of something like 450 metres. Dating back to Roman times, it’s fair to say that this charming town has seen more than a bit of history both ancient and modern. Today it saw a bit more and in a slightly sharper relief, as the Endurance Rally Association’s second Alpine Trial rolled into town bringing with it a field of almost 50 vintage motorcars.

The old cobbled streets of Annecy le Vieux were packed with Sunday strollers, roller bladers, cyclists and runners enjoying the warm late summer ambiance. Whatever they were doing though or wherever they were, those very same Annecians took a minute to watch, listen to and appreciate what was rolling along beside them shortly to park up by the lake for the all-important scrutineering checks and any last minute fiddling and fettling which may have become necessary on the way there.

Keith Baud is once again the route master, the course designer, the Alpinist in chief for the event and, as he outlined the Rally to the competitors assembled for his pre-event briefing in the splendid surroundings of the Imperial Hotel there were some nervous glances from the novice crews along with the more knowing nods and mutterings from those who had done the inaugural event last year.

A quick glance at the start list shows that the field is wide open this year. Last year’s winners, Gareth Burnett and Jez Haylock have excused themselves as have the second placed crew of Paul Carter and John Bayliss which means Bill Cleyndert and Matthew Abrey or Bill Ainscough and Jason Dearden – third and fourth respectively – must surely fancy their chances. Both of these crews are vastly experienced and have brought very suitable machinery for what could well be a tight and twisty route to the podium.

Peter and Zoe Lovett will be feeling confident as well having won two ERA long distance rallies this year, the Road to Mandalay and the Trans America Challenge in a couple of their signature Porsches. Now, as last year, though they’re in a nimble little BMW Fraser Nash and have brought along some support in the shape of Peter’s Peking to Paris co driver Tim Smith who’s in Europe helping with the prep for their next P2P car.

James Gateley has teamed up with Tony Brooks, the winning navigator from this year’s Flying Scotsman, to guide his imposing Cadillac through the highways and byways of the Savoie and will be hoping for a better result than last year where he came in 31st.

In addition to the classification prizes there are also the coveted Alpine Cups up for grabs as well. Securing one of these is difficult but well worth the effort. Only one was awarded last year!

The flag drops at 8.01am tomorrow mornng, with Rally Director Fred Gallagher sending the cars on their way.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, the philosopher, is one of Annecy’s more famous sons and we can't help but wonder what he’d think of all of this.

Syd Stelvio




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