Interview with Patrick Peter for the 30th running of the Tour Auto

The 30th Tour Auto Optic 2000 should be just about to be finishing! But good news, it has been postponed and will now take place between 30th August and 4th September. Peter Auto’s social networks have been celebrating the week during which the event should have been held with a #TourAutoReco that helps viewers discover the towns and circuits that will be visited by the 2021 rally. This also gives Patrick Peter an opportunity to answer a few questions that are frequently asked on social media.

What memories do you have of the first event run in 1992?

Patrick Peter: To be quite honest with you we didn’t know if it would be a one-shot or if it would last for 30 years!  But as things turned out everything gelled very quickly. I think we were the first ones to mix competition and regularity categories. Indeed, this enabled many collectors who weren’t used to racing to come and take part without being frightened off by the presence of 40 hotly-competitive crews on the starting line! At the beginning there were around 60 % in regularity and 40 % in competition. And then gradually this proportion was reversed. Of course, everything was a lot smaller than now. We had around a hundred cars compared to 230 today. But the quality of the field was always top notch with first-class cars and big names like Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Stéphane Collaro. The rest is better to be forgotten! I think we would be classified as amateurs if we would organise a Tour Auto today like we did 30 years ago. We had to cancel a fair number of special stages as we hadn’t taken the right administrative steps!

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to take part in the Tour Auto Optic 2000, but who doesn’t have a car yet?

First of all, contact us! It’s always very annoying and embarrassing to get a call from someone who tells us he’s just bought a car to do the Tour Auto Optic 2000, and have to answer that it’s not eligible. It’s a good idea not to go for a car that has been entered by too many people as having 25 identical models doesn’t hold much interest for the spectators. We try to offer as much diversity as possible. And there are always unusual cars at pretty reasonable prices.

Why are certain regions of France less visited than others by the Tour Auto Optic 2000? even though the route is renewed every year.

It’s a challenging equation. We have to find towns big enough to provide 700 hotel rooms. We need circuits and special stages so, it’s obvious that some regions are more suitable for rallies than others. Personally, I love Brittany where I spend more than 50 % of my time, but it’s true that it’s not the most car-oriented region in the country. When we go to the Ardèche, for example, there’s a much stronger tradition. This being said, we went to Brittany in 2019 and everybody thought it was absolutely wonderful!

How’s the 30th event shaping up?

It’s looking good. For over one year now, events have been postponed or cancelled and we can feel that there’s a real urge among collectors and drivers to get out there and start racing again. We’ve received a lot of entries; so numerous countries will be well represented. Obviously, we’re still a bit worried about competitors from South American countries. I just hope that conditions will allow them to travel. We’re still confident. One of the novelties will be the day when the cars will be on display at the Grand Palais Éphémère, a lovely spot. The Champ de Mars is a marvelous place and furthermore, the Eiffel Tower is a symbolic monument as for a long time the Tour Auto started from the facing Trocadéro Fountains.

Will the Tour Auto Optic 2000 still exist in 30 years? 

The Tour Auto is a non-stop procession of spectators along the roadsides. We see teachers who line up their classes in front of the schools and who cheer on the rally as it passes by. People love cars because they’re a means of transport and in particular, they love the older machines as they revive a host of memories. New laws are foreseen to limit pollution in towns and it’s a good thing, but historic cars represent nothing as they are driven very little. The FFVE* is doing a remarkable job and there are many elected officials in all the regions of France who are particularly sensitive to the patrimonial aspect of these cars; they also perfectly understand that their responsibility in terms of pollution is so infinitesimal that it would be ridiculous to block them. So yes, I’m pretty optimistic that the Tour Auto Optic 2000 will still exist in 30 years!

*FFVE: Fédération Française des Véhicules d’Époque (French Federation for classic cars)