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Signing On

Last checks before start

Twin Alpines

Car No1 Renault 1958 4CV

 '72 Lancia Fulvia on start line

Chased by BMW 2002

Cimbing the alps

catching the French.

Into the tunnel

looking down to Menton

Lineup at Contes coffee stop

GT6 heading up the Alps

Caught the Opel Kadett

 Fast and French
Graeme Gallaoway's Anglia
Montagnes de France  - 24 September to 7 October 2015
Nuit du Mentonnais
Story and photos Jim Paterson.

After a well earned rest it was time to prepare for the Nuit du Mentonnais on Saturday 3rd October, organised by Club Automobile de Menton.

Line up at Sospel start
The weather forecast was not good. Heavy rain and thunderstorms for late afternoon were all over the TV as we sat down to breakfast. Three of our crews, Dave and Don, Ranald and Louise, Simon and myself had entered. Dave and Don were to have driven Dave's 5 litre Capri which was still in bits back in Inverness, so had thought of using Don's Ferrari. All that water would not be good for the car. Similarly Ranald did not feel confident taking the Fiat Barchetta. Simon said he had come all the way from Australia and no way was he going to miss out. This was going to be exciting.

Simon and I headed up to Sospel for the start in the Sprite. In France lunch takes priority and all the crews sat down for a refuel before setting off as Car No 20 of some 60 entries on the first stage at 2.00pm. We were the only soft top down car and it was fine, sun shining. Thunderstorms, what thunderstorms?

Stage 1 took us some 120km (75 miles), starting with an easy climb up the col de Castillon at 728 metres (about 2400 ft) through Monti toward St. Agnes, the start of the 2011 event.  We could see the Mediterranean as we drove west to La Turbie and the Col de la Madone 925m (3035 feet) over some pretty narrow roads.

Though we were car number 20 it did not take the following cars long to catch us. French drivers are fast at the best of times, but these guys were not hanging about, going insanely fast downhill, at least it seemed that way to us, round endless lacets (hairpins). We pulled over if it looked like they were right up behind us. This always got us a 'merci' blast on the horn and a wave. I think they thought we were mad, when in fact it was the other way round!

We continued around the lower reaches of the Maritimes through La Trinité, then due north through Drap to Contes, some 58km (37 miles) under our belt, where we all pulled in for an arranged refreshment break of cake and coffee awaited, welcomed by the local townsfolk. It was then that the umbrellas appeared and we had to put up the hood on the Sprite. Though we managed to drop the top once more it would not be long before it went up and stayed up.

Continuing north through Bendejun, Coaraze to Col Saint Roch, a steady climb with plenty hairpins to the summit at just short of 1000m. From there we passed over more alpine peaks to reach the master, Col de Turini at 1670m (5272 ft). By now the rain had really started in earnest. As the clouds thickened and the light faded the lightning started to light the sky.

From the top of the Turini it was down through Piera-Cava and Moulinet to Sospel for the half way break, and yes, more refreshments. We took the opportunity to refuel the sprite, as mpg is not too good going up and down the Alps.

Stage 2 was 78km (around 50 miles).We left Sospel in what appeared to be the same route we had arrived, back up through Moulinet, over the Turini, where
thunderstorms had really arrived and it was teaming down with rain and flashes of lightning lit up the sky, onward to Piera-Cava.

The original second stage was to have taken us into Italy but I think the weather forecast had influenced th organisers to make a late change in the roadbook, keeping us in France for the whole event.

South of Piera-Cava we turned off over the Col de l'Orme, near Lucéram, at some 1000m, on our way to the Col de Braus at similar height, though the route did reach nearly 1200m (almost 4000 ft). It was here that disaster struck. All our auxiliary lights went out, probably fused, but no way was I going to raise the bonnet in a thunderstorm.  That would attract more problems if the engine bay got soaked. The additional driving lights, and more useful the two fog lights which I twist to point round the hairpin corners on this event, are invaluable. With only the standard headlights we had to be extra careful.

Bad enough but there were many fallen small rocks on the roads which are best not run over! on one occasion we came across one the size of a small brick in the middle of the road, with a red triangle in front of it. how thoughtful we thought, but why? Around the corner was why. A huge rock covering half the road was the reason. Hit that and it would be end of event and hope you don't go over the side!  

Not finished yet, the Col de Castillon, a mere 707m, just north of Menton signaled our last climb. By now we were starting to limp, due to poor light, pouring rain and water flowing like rivers across the roads south into Menton. I also noticed the water temp rising. Great!

By time we reached the finish venue in Menton the temperature was at top of the scale. We pushed the car into the car park and left it to cool. I was pretty sure the fused lights had also taken out the radiator fan, and only the downhill speed kept the radiator air flowing and engine cool.

A hearty meal was provided by the Club de Menton and prizes presented for all finishers, Yipee. We received a cup for our club, being farthest travelled.

Post Event

Being only a mile from our hotel we drove back, the water temp having cooled down while we were enjoying ourselves. Fortunately the Sprite had a space in the underground hotel car park. I quickly found one of the few fuses in the old girl well well and truly fried. A change was greeted with the radiator fan quickly spinning up to full speed unitl the temperature dropped back to normal. Apparently no harm done.

Simon mopped out the footwells and we removed the carpet mats to dry, the soft top not being the most waterproof in a storm!

Those that had not joined us on the event had gone out for a meal and they got caught in the storm as well, see the next stage report for their experience.

Updated 29 October 2015