Early rise wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated and Geetak asked me to navigate – perhaps my frustration had shown through the previous night? Lady luck seems to have changed for the southern contingent this morning 3 people couldn’t get their cars out of the car park – the barriers seemed to be broken…it turns out right hand drivers have to set their cars at a different angle to get the ticket machine to recognise the weight of the car properly for the sensor to raise the barrier (as it expects left hand drivers to be putting tickets in from their seats), you also have to be very close to the ticket machine and we eventually set off a little late at about 7:00am.
Yet another fill-up – I’m beginning to think GTROC should buy shares in Total petrol – their profits will be high this year!!!
More straight motorways – easy driving, but boring. 2 familiar sights developed:
After a momentary miss of the sign, when we arrived in Ladoux we parked up with all the other R35s & Z cars. The 2 R34s had some inquisitive looks, though Shaun’s more than mine (probably due to that Gumball badging)and after checking in, we parked and waited for our English briefing, during which time there were lots of pictures being taken and lots of Frenchmen asking “is it 4 wheel drive”. Sue got more attention than the car…apparently French women don’t change tyres and act as your pit crew on track days? Having explained to my French fellow men that it was all in the training, I left her to be photographed, videod and generally admired for her hard work and technical abilities…or those cute pink mechanic gloves she wears!
As this was all Z cars and R35s we were the only car to change wheels and although I wanted to be safe and enjoy the track time, on reflection I would not do so again – a lot of time could be spent on the wet handling circuit and semi slicks made that difficult – lots of understeer, not easily corrected with power. Funnily enough nobody overtook Shaun on the wet handling circuit in his R34?????
On the dry, however, the R35’s handling prowess shows through and I was regularly overtaken…not by huge margins, but enough to remind me what superb driving machines they are. For those “old skoolers” who think RB26 and V6 don’t mix well, it was often a very pleasant compliment to hear R35 owners tell me how they thought the R34 was much better looking (but not quicker!).
The mornings activities comprised of two 1.5hr sessions. The first session let you split your time between dry handling circuit and wet control “hoop”, the second session allowed you to split time between a wet handling circuit and a skid pan. After a typical French 2 hour lunch (full 3 course meal and so much better than any burger van you get in the UK) the morning’s format was repeated.
Not dissimilar to Millbrook, but without the excitement of the alpine circuit – the facilities were excellent – the wet handling circuit was enjoyed by everyone, gave great training on how to handle the car and is something I do not think you could ever get in the UK on a training day.
Some interesting cars were there (for show and for hot rides):
All too soon, the day was over and as the weather had followed us all day – rain then sun, then rain, then cloud – the heavens opened and with some assistance from Bony Automobiles staff, we put our road wheels back on, re-loaded the car and headed back to the hotel, rather damp and tired, but looking forward to dinner in the hotel with our fellow attendees – UK and French!
Sue will kill me for this, but this is the result of a day of rain, some drizzle and more rain, while changing tyres:
Back at the hotel, some susceptible bar service left us drinkless for a while, but quickly we were shown to our champagne reception followed by a superb 3 course meal with wine. We did try to improve on anglo-french relations (as did Bruno from Bonny Automobiles, but as they couldn’t speak much Englsih (though much better and much more French than we could speak!!) it was difficult…poor John & Helen ended on a separate table with a large French group and we didn’t notice, but they said they had a nice time, despite the language barrier.
Geetak and a few others hit the late night bars in Vichy (they can tell you their story when you see them!) and we all went to bed, tired, happy and a little tipsy.