Wide open for 'driller' Sheldon

Le Mans veteran John Sheldon will be the man to beat when the 15th Tour Auto heads away from the Fontaines du Trocadero in Paris on Tuesday April 25.

Ahead of 'Driller' and his 120 rivals lie five days of races and timed stages on closed public roads en route to the finish in Cannes on Saturday afternoon. The balance of the 200-strong entry will run in the concurrent regularity event.

Sheldon won both the Tour Auto and the Tour of Spain last year in his 1965 Lotus Elan, using the car's race pace to good effect and then hammering home his advantage on the challenging closed road sections where the more powerful cars can prove less effective.

The locations of the closed public road sections remain guarded secrets until the start of the event, but the circuits to be visited are well known. Dijon comes first as the route heads for the overnight halt in Beaune, while Magny-Cours is on Wednesday before the halt in Vichy. Charade at Clermont-Ferrand features on Thursday and the final race is at Ledenon on Saturday before the run to the finish.

As last year, Sheldon can expect a big challenge from the AC Cobras and Jaguar E-types, and the partnering of Frank Sytner and Simon Hadfield in a Cobra could be strongest of all. Ludovic Caron's AC was a major threat in 2005, while Frédéric Puren will be determined to go one better than second place last year in his E-type.