The Tour Auto had a touch of the South-West about it today on the fourth leg of the event! This morning the competitors left the Bordeaux parc fermé for a journey across Occitania with grids 1 and 2 in the regularity section leading the way through the Bordeaux vineyards. They were followed by those of the Gascony region before headed on to Nogaro and the Paul Armagnac circuit, which has become part of French motor racing history as it is the first permanent track built on French soil! There was a no-holds-barred battle out on the asphalt as the drivers tackled the 14 corners of the track in the Gers region in the final circuit event in the 31st Tour Auto.
Driver to be followed! There were a lot of upsets on the fourth day. Thierry Boutsen in #218 who had started off with a 2-minute lead over his main rival, Raphaël Favaro in #211, saw it reduced to only 10 seconds when the cars checked in at midday after the first timed stage of the morning. He tells us what happened. “A bit of a debutante’s error, really! A rally is both difficult and very special. I’m still finding my feet as it’s only my third.
Doing the Tour Auto with a Cobra is a real challenge as it’s a real monster to tame on the road. In the stage we were taking a gentle right-hand corner and we were doing around 150-160 km/h. I just clipped the verge where there was some grass. The car immediately spun and went backwards into the grape vines. My co-driver and I were afraid that we’d remain stuck on the spot given the time it took us to restart and rejoin. We realised there was a problem with the exhaust so I had to drive very carefully till the end of the stage. The mechanics worked for 20 minutes to clean up and put things back into shape.” Luckily, it all ended well for this crew that continues to surprise us!
This afternoon on the Nogaro circuit the three victory contenders in the VHC category followed one another pretty closely as shown by their times. Thierry Boutsen finished first in 14m 23s followed by Daniel Kohler in #212 in 14m 31s and Raphaël Favaro in #211 in 15m 04s.
In the last timed stage of the day, Boutsen had no problems on the minor roads in the Gascony hills finishing only a second behind his rival, Favaro.
More to come tomorrow in the final leg of the rally, and not the least, with a run from Pau to Andorra that includes three special stages in the Pyrenees!