21.06.2013 - 22.06.2013 82 °F
An 8am start from Du Palais des Congres today saw us get a free run down the 1924m of twists and turns of Alpe d'Huez. Pretty soon we were "punching above our weight," as we kept pace with an orange 1973 2.4S Porsche 911 and grey 1965 350 GT Lamborghini en route to the Col du Lautaret; a Pass rising to 2058m. Waiting at temporary traffic lights Bianca gives me a bit of a scare as we seemed to be surrounded by steam. "It's just the oil breather," says Ben from under her bonnet.
The Coupe des Alpes is not a race we keep being told. Ha! Ha! It's obviously just human nature that makes a driver's right foot head south then is it? I can tell you one thing though...IT'S HELLISH GOOD FUN! There are no time checks, regulations or driving skill tests but most of the drivers push themselves almost to the limit. Take the guy in his red Mercedes Gullwing.
We slowed to let him pass. It must have made his concentration waiver as he almost took a 200m dive when he misjudged a turn, spraying gravel, his back end twitching and swinging like Kylie Minogue's butt. As his gorgeous motor already has two huge dents, he is obviously someone who wants to actually 'drive' his classic car rather than have it on blocks in a garage appreciating in value but bored out of its shiny mind!
A few klms further we spotted a bewildered crook-holding shepherd keeping his large flock from crossing the narrow road. It doesn't bear thinking about if they made a run for it.
And again we catch up with the Lamborghini. HOW DOES OUR GIRL DO IT? But my emotions at that point are nothing to what we both feel as she takes on a Ferrari Testarossa and the Audi Quattro. "SHE'S REALLY PLAYING WITH THE BIG BOYS NOW," shouts Ben above the screams and roars of engines. "I love that smell," my driver grins. Apparently it's a kind of oil high-powered cars use that sends out a 'special scent' of vegetable oil. Who knew? Perhaps I should bottle it?
Honey and goats cheese are being produced among the hairpins leading us up to the Col de la Bonette National Park.
We later learn from Fred and Vincent that one of our Marshalls was clearing the route with his snow shovel just moments before our arrival. Certainly it's a tight fit at one point and with the navigator being on the drop side I am feeling a bit jittery. No matter. Bianca and her driver are in full control and negotiating proper Nordic walkers and what seem like hundreds of cyclists we start the descent from what had seemed like the TOP OF THE WORLD!
A picnic hamper is handed through the window at our check-point complete with fresh bread, cheese, fruit etc. A veritable French feast. There's even a sharp Coupe des Alpes knife each. I know they're sharp because Ben cut his finger in his excitement to get at the foie gras pâté!!
Now it's time to follow the tulips to Nice on the Cote d'Azur. 320klms from the start we are driving along the Croisette to our finishing arch at the Palais des Festivals. Disappointingly there are no hugs of congratulation, bottle of champagne or photographer aka The Winter Trial, and certainly nothing like the swell of emotion we both felt (and witnessed) on that occasion. This Rally was more about spectacular scenery and from a Navigator's point of view it was a piece of cake although I did have to concentrate all day and not just on not being sick! Ben says he feels a bit weary but that the driving, although fast, was nothing like as challenging due to the good conditions.
For the first time during the Rally we pull up after Fred and Vincent's yellow Porsche. Seems it was Fred's turn to get his north and south mixed up today!
After checking into The Carlton Hotel, which is celebrating its centenary this year we head back to start the celebrations!
Too many (small plastic) glasses later we head back to 'scrub-up' for the Gala. We've been upgraded due to dodgy a/c. This is our view...
Back at the party the fizz is now in glasses and enormous cups are being awarded for things like youngest navigator, women's teams (I admire them as some of those mountain roads would have left me jabbering if I was driving but I do wish they'd make more effort with their lip gloss!), organiser's favourite car (awarded to the shorts wearing blonde who 100% deserved it as I even saw her cleaning the tyres of their Alpha Romeo Giulietta SZ Codatronca, which means long tail!)
But in our eyes there was only ONE WINNER and that was our BEAUTIFUL BIANCA!!
At our 'Horse Power' table (think vets and cars) talk obviously turned to, "where next?" Dear Reader...could it be Corsica or Morocco in October?