The Blue Train Challenge 2017

18  -  22 September,  2017

SEPTEMBER 17, 2017  -  Deauville, France

Deauville Pre Start

The inaugural Blue Train Challenge is raising a head of steam today in the charming French seaside resort of Deauville where forty five elegant and mature voitures, have assembled at the suitably impressive Hotel du Golf on a hill on the outskirts of the town.

There are two categories running this Rally, the first being for the pre war ‘vintage’ motorcar and a second one for sports cars originating from the 1950s and early 1960s. This latter group will compete for their very own Riviera Cup.

Keith Baud and Anthony Preston,  (of Alpine Trial fame) are no strangers to creating demanding French events, and together they have devised this five day route to the Riviera resort of Cannes, which will surely both delight and challenge the crews here assembled.

We have with us, the usual eclectic mix of machinery ranging from a skeletal 1030 cc, MG PBQ driven by the popular Czech duo of Jan and Dana Hradecky, through a sumptuous, 4168cc Railton Fairmile III crewed by Denis and Penny Robson to an unusual 1954 Arnoldt Bristol Bolide with Gerard and Janet Bas in the cockpit.

The low slung, powder blue, 1939 Talbot Lago T120 of Max and  Andrea Sowerby meanwhile certainly turned heads in the carpark as it growled up the drive. The first time one of these French, Italian and British creations has ever graced an ERA event we think.

Whilst the cars might be very old but there are some among the crews who are, to put it bluntly, very young. Olivia Holroyd for example is only 19 and in her first ever rally, is looking to keep her father Bill and their 1927 - Bentley 4½ VDP Tourer on the right road at the right time. Similarly, another teenage navigator, Thomas Townsend is here with his father Chris who describes them as being ‘total rally virgins’ along with their bright red 1949 - Bentley Special.

Dominic and Jack Manser who were last seen in France in an ‘unusual’ diesel powered Bentley during last years Alpine Trial have today arrived in another replacement vehicle. A 1960’s AC Cobra, having suffered another setback in the preparation of their 1924 - Bentley 3-4½. We’re told however that it will be worth waiting for.

The renowned ERA sweep team comprising Andy Inskip, Jamie Turner, Tony Jones and Bob Harrod lined the vehicles up in the car park where safety and compliance issues were sorted and checked. The Little Blue MG of Kate and Sophie Wickham, which has already pleased crowds of rally fans in the Flying Scotsman and the Alpine Trial is also here and today it received some attention of a different sort due to a malfunctioning trip meter. The four sweeps and one fellow Geordie - Brian Spearman - soon had it sorted though so if they’re not on the top step of the podium by Friday ……..

Bjorn Schage, last seen in the swimming Morgan during the 2016 Peking to Paris, has brought his wife Anne along to the Blue Train and a new car, an Alvis Speed 25. Likewise, his compatriot and fellow Peking to Paris veteran, Alex Vassbotten has brought his wife Anne along with another Alvis, a Speed 20. The only troubles they seemed to be having were getting their numbers accurately aligned on the car doors.

Back in the hotel itself, Eleonora Piccolo, the Rally Office manager, manned the Rally check in desk and ensured that the necessary paperwork and protocols were correctly completed before neck danglers were assigned and routebooks were issued. Soon after, knots of anxious looking navigators were found in dark nooks and shady crannies poring over the pages of instructions and notes, and looking out for anything which might trip them up later on along the route.

Tomorrow at 8.01 the talking stops and the clock starts ticking when the Mayor of Deauville will wave us off towards a fantastic five day adventure.

Syd Stelvio



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