The Classic Grand Tour: celebrating Le Mans in the fanciest way possible!
Last weekend I was lucky enough to tag along for a small event called Classic Grand Tour. The name will inevitably sound very cool to many Drivetribers, but boy, it's even better than what you can imagine.
It's not a very well-known event; in fact, I'd be tempted to say that this is by design. While the Classic Grand Tour does welcome the public, it is first and foremost a reunion of crazy people (some very, very rich – but not all) and their insanely cool cars. Despite what its name might suggest, it also welcomes more modern machinery. And nobody was complaining when a brand-new Ford GT or a Ferrari Enzo tagged along.
So now that I've described what it isn't, what actually is Classic Grand Tour? In short, it's a unique occasion to celebrate cool cars near Le Mans, a week before the 24 Hours. The cars are gathered at a nice resort near Le Mans itself on Friday night, and then the festivities begin.
Sometimes, "festivities" involve using your Diablo's wing as a dinner table for you and your dog. And that's cool.
On Saturday, a 170km-long trip takes the cars through La Sarthe, the French Region around Le Mans. In fact, the route mostly follows the path of the first ever Grand Prix, the Grand Prix de l'ACF from 1906.
Because this "track" formed a mostly straight-sided triangle with long, straight roads through some deep countryside, the road-book took us to some really cool locations not very far from the original route.
It has to be said, French countryside probably hasn't changed much there in the past 50 years. And that's a good thing: I can't describe how cool it felt to travel through these picturesque roads, surrounded by incredible cars. Plus, we were mostly shielded from modern diesel smelly traffic, but not from very enthusiastic locals: whoever tries to pretend French people don't like cars needs to do a classic rally through France. All day, we would see people of all ages sat by the side of the road, waving, taking pictures, and, more importantly, smiling.
The detours were awesome too. La Sarthe has to have one of the highest concentration of castles in the world – but most of them are hidden from view. Which makes discovering them with Classic Grand Tour that much more special.
I won't lie though: the cars were even better. Even though there were "only" fifty or so cars, the spread and quality of the field was quite incredible. From an actual Le Mans winning Lorraine-Dietrich with an absurdly cool patina to the latest Ford GT in Gulf colors, it was a car lover's wet dream.
Quite literally wet too: at the end of Saturday's trip, the heavens that had been menacing all day long open in quite the dramatic fashion, forcing the convoy to disperse and skip the last few kilometers of closed roads. Some villages nearby registered 1+ meter of water pooling up in the streets. And in the car I was, a beautiful 1934 Rolls-Royce 20/25, it wasn't exactly a relaxing experience. Not so much the rain itself – the wipers, while not exactly efficient, are serviceable – but the mist completely covering the windscreen was a big issue. You obviously can't open the car up to let it disappear, or all you'll get is a wooden aquarium. So you have to wipe it every 20-odd seconds. And visibility will never be even ok.
Still, everyone made it safely back to base, just in time for the sun to return.
On Sunday, the Classic Grand Tour honored something of a Le Mans 24 tradition: Hotel de France, which was the base of operations of many teams during the race's history: Aston Martin or Ford stored and serviced their cars there during their heydays, driving them to the track and back for the race. Seeing all the cars of our convoy in such a historic location, a week before the race itself, was quite emotional.
Then it was time to get home. With such old lady, travel times are always going to be a bit longer. But that's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.
Plus, I wasn't truly sad, knowing I'd be back to Le Mans for the 24 Hours a few days later. And for Le Mans Classic in July, too! I'll be sure to keep Drivetribe updated about that!
If you think that those pictures were decent enough, and want to see more of this event, you can follow me on Instagram, where I'll be posting more pics from this beautiful weekend!