Event // France’s Tour Auto

Event // France’s Tour Auto

Words and photography by Andrew Coles

You hear it long before you see it. Slicing through traffic, it’s not that the driver is driving erratically or irresponsibly, it’s just that racing engines don’t cope with Saturday afternoon traffic very well. Revs up and down, a blip here and there, the ungodly bark on over run.

And then it pops into frame, and all sitting on the pavement of the roadside Tabac put down their beers and lower their glasses. You don’t have to know about cars to know that a BMW M1 Procar has no business being on the public roads. Yet here we are.

One after another, they come. A Ligier JS2, factory fitted with a Cosworth DFV Formula One engine, stops at the pedestrian crossing to allow some children to cross. Porsche 911s and Cobras and three (!) Ferrari 275s roll by. A BMW 507 fights the traffic, a Ferrari 308 rally car does the same.

This is what makes Peter Auto’s famous Tour Auto so damn brilliant. That it doesn’t really have a place on the public road, yet here we are.

Make no mistake, Tour Auto is no leisurely drive through the French countryside. It is pure competition, a test of driver and machine on a weeklong adventure of closed road hill climbs and wheel-to-wheel circuit racing spread across the country.

Helmets on, pace notes out, attack a section of closed road. Then a touring stage to a circuit, then it’s qualifying and a race. Back onto the road for a tour to dinner… repeat for another five days.

The story of how we came to see Tour Auto’s finish in the northern French seaside spa town of Deauville is one of extreme serendipity. We’d had an AirBnB booked in the French countryside for weeks for a weekend getaway, and through nothing more than sheer luck, it happened to be located about an hour’s drive away.

Our attendance this year was rather social. Sipping a few beers in said roadside Tabac, we captured the cars as they toured through the city and across the finish line next to la plage. And that’s where that street driven M1 Procar came into the picture.

Our brief glimpse of the magic that is Tour Auto has well and truly whet our appetites, and make no mistake, in 2020 we’ll make sure to see these wonderful machines in competitive anger.

But until then… enjoy.