Tour Auto 2019 - Carreras Colombia

2019 marked the first year in ten that Tour Auto finished on the North coast instead of the South. Like usual, cars arrived in central Paris on the Sunday afternoon, ahead of their display and scrutineering in the Grand Palais on the Monday. The route would take the entrants from Paris, through Dijon and Lyon before looping back up through Vichy, Tours and finishing in Deaville.

Along the route, the cars would see four circuit visits and ten flat out special stages. An 1,800 mile week; the Tour Auto is as much an endurance race for the cars as the drivers and co-pilots! The Tour Auto is split into two categories, Competition and Regularity. The competition cars attend each track with a qualifying session and then an 8 lap race, the special stages armed with limited pace notes by the organisers are completed against the clock. The pre-66 car with the most amount of time left at the end will win the event overall.

The other option is Regularity. An easier introduction to the event, the regularity class sees cars also on track and special stages but this time driving to maintain an average speed. Points are given if the car is too fast or too slow.

Fresh from restoration and with limited testing as a result of a faulty gearbox, this year James and Smithy entered the ex-Colombian Shelby Cobra. Restored over the past two years the car had more than its fair share of ups and downs over the rally. Whilst the first day started well, placing 1st in the pre- 66 category and 3rd overall at lunchtime, unfortunately, success didn’t stick around. A minor oil leak caused by a faulty new minor gasket meant a black and orange flag in the race and therefore finishing the race some 8 minutes down. Day two was unfortunately cut short too as a lack of drive left 27PE at the side of the road. A roadside clutch swap and several Instagram updates later saw no progress; finally the issue was diagnosed as a broken input shaft bolt on the freshly overhauled differential; the only part that had been already overhauled at the point of purchase of the car!

Our media team hot-footed it back to Paris from Magny Cours, collecting a borrowed differential from the kind folk at Equipe Europe. Arriving in Lyon later that evening and the team worked through the night to get the car back on the road for day three. From here it was plain sailing. Unable to make up the lost time, instead the event would be used to further test, develop and improve the car. Even a small glance with the barrier on a tricky special stage didn’t hamper the pace of our Cobra over the remainder of the rally! Out of eleven special stages contested, the team came away with six special stage wins, thus showing the cars potential and meaning a repeat attempt next year is a must for Carreras Colombia.

Whilst this year wasn’t to be, the car has now covered a good number of miles since restoration. It’ll be back, ready to race in a few weeks time at Spa and back on Tour Auto next year, hopefully, more successfully!

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