The 2009 Beaujolais Run

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Wine, a woman navigator and the song of a lotus twin-cam on empty roads

I’ve been given the freedom of the road. In this new column I’ll be visiting places all over Britain and abroad where people who love cars get together, or build cars, modify them or race them. And to get there I’ve got the keys to the Motor Sport Lotus Elise.

Given our title it may seem odd to start with the Beaujolais Run, as it doesn’t involve any racing. It does, however, involve a distance trial, and often plays host to Anthony ‘tin-top’ Reid.

Early on a Tuesday morning we set off from Brooklands with 35 other teams which included other Lotuses, an MGB (that didn’t break down), an E-type (that did), a D-type, an F430, a Daytona and a handful of modern Aston Martins. Most of us headed for the ferry, but not John Surtees, who became the first person to drive a private car – an electric Ginetta G50 – under the English Channel, through the 31-mile access tunnel.

After a straightforward first-day run to Reims and the Taittinger caves, the competition started in earnest. From Reims to Mâcon the aim was to cover the shortest distance possible via checkpoints. Driving sans navigator I opted for the GT2 class, which would allow me to use Jane (the TomTom). But through a category of errors on both my part and Jane’s, the Elise covered enough ground to have made it to Romania. I think heading straight for checkpoint five rather than four was probably my gravest mistake, but thankfully I retraced my steps, as checkpoint four consisted of a handful of laps around Dijon-Prenois – a proper Formula 1 circuit that today plays host to the DTM, historical events and motorbike racing.

The opening of the Beaujolais Nouveau was as impressive as always (unlike the wine itself) and the last night featured a special appearance by Eddie Jordan and his ‘Robbers’ band, while the total raised for children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent and the Richard Burns Foundation was over £100,000. It’s hard to put into words how much organisation goes into this event, but it’s certainly clear when you take part. If you fancy a jaunt to France to stock up on drink, then just make sure it coincides with the Beaujolais Run in 2010.