Anyone who has ever driven through the vast French countryside will testify as to the sheer pleasure of travelling along its smooth-as-glass surfaces. Imagine doing so in a classic Ferrari – or a powerful modern-day equivalent - along set routes that take you all the way from central Paris down to the far 'sud' of France in a five-day rally, and you have an idea of what it is to participate in the annual France Tour Auto event.
After a presentation day at Paris' Grand Palais last Monday, five days of hard driving saw some three hundred cars snake their way down the length of France, reaching the famed racetrack, Circuit Paul Ricard near Le Castellet in between Marseille and Toulon, on the Saturday. Featuring overnight pit-stops at cities such as Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges and Toulouse, the spectacular event provided a marvellous mobile showcase for an enchanting series of beloved Classic models from days gone by, as well as presenting to a broad roadside public almost the entire gamut of today's Ferrari models, the latter category participating as part of a parallel event - the Ferrari Tribute to Tour Auto, organised by Ferrari West Europe.
Totalling some 2,000 kilometres, the rally's daily legs averaged around twelve hours of driving, each covering around 400 kilometres, thrilling thousands of roadside fans eager to glimpse an astonishing range of Classic Ferrari models. These included a 250 GT Lusso from 1963; a 250 GT Boano from 1957; a 1962 250 GT Berlinetta; as well as a 1977 308 Gr IV Facetti, and a whole series of 308 Michelotto models dating from 1976 to 1982.
Julien Diez, Editor of Motorsport magazine, was fortunate enough to take part at the wheel of an F8 Tributo. “For me, the Tour Auto is an extraordinary event,” he enthused. “This year, it was especially extraordinary to see these works of Art out on the roads, like an enchanted parenthesis in this very particular year.” He described his experience in the F8 Tributo as unforgettable, and admitted that the five days of hard driving had left him “exhausted, but so happy”.
Amongst the various sports celebrities taking part was French skiing champion, Sacha Theocharis. "The Tour Auto is a unique opportunity to enjoy the most beautiful roads of France”, he said enthusiastically. “And to see the smiles on the faces of passionate people along the roadside, at the entrance to the towns, at the roundabouts. Of course, I too was smiling during the whole event.”
He revelled in the chance to get up close and personal with so many different models when they were presented at the Grand Palais. “During the year, there are very few occasions when we can see incredible cars on the road and on the circuit. The Tour Auto gives us this incredible opportunity to see them driven in a competitive way. The atmosphere at the Grand Palais was also one of my best memories.”
No wonder. The range of today's models included a 488 Pista, a trio of Pista Spiders, an F8 Tributo, a 599 GTB and a 458 Italia. A trio of 812 Superfasts took part, as did a trio of Portofino and a pair of California and a couple of F8 Spiders. Plus two F12 Berlinetta.
Andrea Modena, Regional Manager of Ferrari West Europe, declared himself delighted: “For us, as Ferrari, the Tour Auto is an unmissable appointment each year, as are the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio. I personally see in these three historical events the expression of automotive passion at its highest level, connecting our heritage, our present and our future. They are a special chapter in the Ferrari racing history.”
Being staged in such a difficult year made the event all the more appreciated. “In this unusual year of 2020, I would like to thank Peter Auto and all the team of the Tour Auto, for making it happen. With a very high level of safety measures they managed to organise a very successful edition,” said Modena.
Set against an enchanting backdrop of beautiful chateaux in rolling countryside that changes its features from region to region, car enthusiasts could not have hoped for a richer Ferrari showcase. A kind of Tour de France on four wheels.