A stunning field of pre-war Bugattis was the highlight of the 17th running of the Circuit des Remparts historic race weekend around the tortuous streets of Angouleme, in the Charente district of France. Of 24 entries, 22 practiced and 18 made the start, encompassing Type 35, 37 and 51 variants. Although technically a demonstration, Frenchman Pierre Rageys emerged victorious with his narrow-tyred, and very ‘proper looking 35T, revelling in the damp conditions to head home the yellow 351 of Michael Steele after a spirited drive, with another Englishman, Richard Wills, taking third with his Type 35. Last year’s winner, Jean-Louis Duret, found the slippery surface not to the liking of his supercharged 35B, being unable to get on terms with the leaders and coming home fourth. Exemplifying the spirit in which the whole event is run, Francois Melcion drove the entire distance with a cigar clamped between his lips!
If Bugattis were the star cars, Frank Lagorce was the star driver; the Ligier tester and former F3000 racer handled the brutish AC Cobra of the French ATS concern with considerable aplomb, quickly adapting to the required technique in a brief practice session, and hurling it through the trio of hairpins with armfuls of opposite-lock to the great enjoyment of the crowd, winning comfortably from the Healey 3000 of Eric Perou and Gourrad’s well-driven Elva Courier. The replica Daytona Cobra Coupe could be seen to be something of a handful but Alain Filhol did a sterling job to finish on the same lap as the winner.
British interest was strong in the race for MG TA to TF Types, with George Edney leading from start to finish with his ‘Team Rosbif’ TB from Dutchman Karl Goumans’ TC and Fleet Street photographer Neville Marriner’s TF.
Angouleme resident Marc Hevia, with his Alvis ‘Brutus’, had a spirited fight with Guy Dubrelle’s Alvis Type 25 Special in the ’30s Sportscar event, narrowly leading until scraping the tyres on the top hairpin exit allowing Dubrelle through into the lead but managing to hold on to second from another Alvis of Zimmer.
The rear-engined Formula 1 and 2 race was thinly supported, but Paul Alexander’s ex-Revson Lotus-BRM 24 made a fine sound as it coped with the tricky conditions overcoming a surfeit of wheelspin to head the Cooper 145 of Briar. Jolliffe with a fastclosing Cooper 151 of Rod Jolley making up ground after fluffing the start and displacing Fiesta racer Rob Hall on the last lap after his Lotus 24 experienced gearbox difficulties.
Strangely, Trichet’s Lotus 7 came out on top in the Prototype encounter from Phillipe Harper’s Elva VHS, while Jacques Laffite languished way down the order with his Lotus 23, after three spins at the bottom hairpin, on his first visit to Angouleme.
As is now customary, the weekend kicks off with an entertaining Concours d’Elegance held under floodlights on the Friday evening, with the Rallye de la Charente, taking in lunch at the Chateau de 1,2 Rochefoucauld, and with entries ranging from a 1918 Morgan Darmont to a 1994 Bugatti EB110 (which failed to mount the starting ramp!), whilst the evening proceedings begin with a Concours d’Etat in the grounds of the Hotel de Ville and conclude with a gargantuan cold buffet in the town’s covered market hall, at which the winner of the Concours d’Etat, Englishman Christian Hueber with his 1954 Bentley Continental R, won his weight in Hennessy Cognac (61 bottles) which he generously distributed amongst the revellers!