Caledonian Classic & Historic Motorsport Club
Home | About | Events | News | For Sale | Links



Too many lost men at Tyne Cot near Passendale

Bartniczek Alfa, Campbell Ferrari, Spence Rover75 at Tinqueux
Sprite and Alfa at Reims Gueux GP circuit

The '"Sprite / Mazda" gang

Massie Jaguar under appropriate sign at Reims

view over the Volcans or route to Mauriac

Stop for lunch, french style

Simon and Jim Paterson with Sprite

Cars cool down after tough climb

Sunny Salers at end of the day

top of Col du Portalet

Lunch at the Col du Portalet

Graeme Gallaoway's Anglia
Montagnes de France  - 24 September to 7 October 2015
Premier Étape - Through France to the Pyrenees
Story Jim Paterson. Photos Jim Paterson, Mags Campbell, Dave Spence

2500 miles through France, Spain, Andorra and Italy crossing countless 'cols' and driving great roads. This was Montagnes de France 2015.

Our biannual continental tour started in Reims on 24 September when seven of our eight crews held a start gala dinner. The seven crews had traveled from the UK with organiser Dave Spence with Maureen in the Rover 75,  replacing the planned Ford Capri which was very ill, Donald and Mags Campbell in the Ferrari 328, and Richard and Yvonne Bartniczek in the 1986 Alfa Spider all from Inverness heading for the channel crossing and tunnel. Meanwhile Duncan Massie and Jenny Mackay in the Jaguar 4.2 litre XK8, Ron and Jan Adam in a Golf Cabriolet, a late change from the planned BMW Z3, Simon Paterson and Rachel Mawdsley in the 1970 Austin Healey Sprite, and myself Jim with Rona Paterson in my Mazda MX5, headed for the Hull Zeebrugge ferry crossing. We would meet our final entrants CCHMSC members Ranald Bruce and Louise Wall in their Fiat Barchetta at our first stopover, Chateau Chinon, after Reims, being nearer to their current home in France.

The Western Front

Rather than drive straight from Zeebrugge to Reims on the 24th the Hull crews took the 'western front' route following the WW1 front line and visiting someone the areas that we had all read about in our history lesson days. First stop was Passendale for coffee, noting how the town had been completely flattened during the many battles to secure the high ground. Close by was Tyne Cot memorial and war grave cemetery. This was a very emotional experience and worth a visit if you are in that area.

Out of Belgium and into France we visited the Newfoundland Trenches and Thiepval monument, where a heavy downpour soaked the Sprite in the car park, which had been left top down! Oops. We ran out of time to visit the nearby Lochnagar Crater this time and headed straight to Reims for our gala dinner.

Reims to Chateau Chinon

Friday 25th we rose bushy tailed and fuelled up for a quick run out to the Reims Gueux GP circuit for the obligatory photo line up, before starting the 185 mile run heading south west toward Chateau Chinon. We passed field upon field of vines, as we passed through the Champagne wine region, spotting names such as Moët Chandon and other well known names painted on farm buildings. Our route passed through Sezanne, a passage control on the 2012 Monte Historique, on our way to Troyes. This area has some typical straight French roads so keeping up a good
average was not are problem, though the French drivers will always overtake, no matter how fast you go. It seems our number plates are a magnet to them, a must get by at any cost type of thing! We found later that even some truck drivers were infected with the same culture.

We were now heading into the Burgundy region, passing Tonnere and Avallon into the Morvan massif north of the great Massif Central, to reach Chateau Chinon and meet Ranald and Louise. We dined well and drank the local wines made from the grapes grown in the fields we had seen during the day.

Chateau Chinon to Mauriac

Saturday 26th would be the first of the long drives. 255 miles to Mauriac, via Bourbon Lancy, Digion, and Vichy, the latter being known for its connection in WW2 as the free French seat of government. We were passing through the Massif Central as we drove by Thuret and Clermont Ferrand, reaching the Parc Naturel Regional Volcans d'Auvergne, and the town of Volvic. Everyone knows the name on bottled water sourced from the region.

Some of us tried to drive up the Puy de Dome, at 4890 feet high. The Campbell's took their Ferrari but found the road closed to traffic with the option to walk up or take the train, neither of which attracted them. We did take in some of the views further on when we all regrouped.

Lineup for the view on the volcans
We all did climb the Col de la Croix Morand at just over 3200ft, as we headed down the Volcans on our way to the overnight in our case at Salers, just south of Mauriac. A long day but more was to come.

Mauriac to Auch

Shorter day on Sunday 27th, at 185 miles to Auch. Dave Spence organised a bit of easy driving to make up for yesterday. We headed to Aurillac at some 600 metres above sea level, Figeac and into Causses du Quercy, where we experienced some magnificent scenery, including buildings that appeared to be built into the cliff sides, finally reaching Cahors, another name seen on many wine bottles.

Still a bit to go reaching Caussade, famous as the 'hat city' where the famous 'straw boater' was made. Skirting round Montauban we entered the Armagnac vineyard region, famous for the liqueur of the same name. We slept well as the following day would see us challenging the Pyrenees, crossing into Spain.

Auch to the Pyrenees
Monday 28th saw us all head south west to Tarbes in the Haute Pyrenees region, starting our 150 mile run, to our first sight of snow capped mountains. From Tarbes it was a short drive to Pau, with its GP circuit, not dissimilar to the Monaco layout. Some took the opportunity to visit Lourdes, just off our route and rejoin us further on.

Line up at the top of col du Portalet
The Pyrenees were calling and we passed the Pic du Midi d'Ossau at 9461 ft, (no road to the top unfortunately) to our first peak, the Col du Pourtalet on the Spanish border, where we pulled in at the 1794m point (over 5800 ft), one of the highest passes on our tour. Richard's Alfa sounded like a boiling kettle at the top, after the hard climb. An electric radiator fan added to the post event todo list.  

Updated 19 October 2015