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RALLYE VAL DE LOIRE 2002 - 8 to 15 September

The Rally packs had been sent out in the middle of August, as planned, but to date Ron and Barbara Stainer have still not received the pack sent in the post! (A replacement pack was quickly assembled and collected by hand on 3 September). Unfortunately Peter and Grace Jupe had to cancel at the last minute but Peter and Barbara Waller were able to take their place.

Club cars began arriving at the P&O terminal from around 7.30pm. BW2 distributed rally plates and fixings, BW1 distributed ferry tickets, rally pens and updated complement lists. After loading was completed our ferry sailed on time at 22.15 on the Sunday evening.

Monday. All too soon the cabin wake up call came at 05.45 and in due course we disembarked and assembled our thirty Club cars just before the exit to the le Havre terminal. During the assembling Ian Burt's Silver Shadow decided to put on a 'sound display' but there was no need to worry, Captain Scarlet (alias Mark Taylor) was immediately on hand with the necessary expertise and spares. After only a very short delay we all set off south to Montreuil-Bellay. Only one motor car problem on the way down, Bill Bradford's 1934 Bentley 3 1/2 experienced some cooling problems but once again Captain Scarlet was on hand.

Awaiting us at the Relais du Bellay were our hosts, the Berville family and a buffet lunch. After settling in we all strolled across the Place des Ormeaux to the Château de Montreuil-Bellay for a short tour and walk around the gardens. At around 7.20pm everybody gathered on the hotel terrace and then we made our way (strolling again!) to the sister Splendid Hotel for our evening meal in the function room. After the meal we returned to the Relais du Bellay at the end of a very long day.

Tuesday saw us off in loose convoy to the Château d'Angers. Parking in the city of Angers is not plentiful but we had arranged to drive over the drawbridge and park, on display, in the courtyard. Whilst members explored the confines and visited the displays, the local television and press inspected our motor cars and took interviews. Just after midday BW2 set off for Bouchemaine/la Pointe to put up R-REC direction signs. At around 12.30 we all set off and made our way out of Angers to park on the Loire foreshore at la Pointe. La Terrasse Restaurant Panoramique had not really changed since our rally visit in 1994 and M Bernard Proust again made us welcome and served an excellent lunch. For the afternoon it was comme vous voulez and then dinner at the Splendid in the evening.


Château d'Angers   Parking by the Loire
Within the beautiful grounds of Château d'Angers.   Parking by the Loire prior to our lunch at la Terrasse Restaurant.
Wednesday morning saw us off in loose convoy to a landing point on the south bank of the Loire approximately half way between Saumur and Angers. Here we parked up and then enjoyed a very pleasant boat trip upstream with commentary by our jovial guide. Our guide was aware that on returning to the landing point we were booked for lunch at the adjacent restaurant. As we approached the bank she teased BW1 that the restaurant was not open. She proved to be right! We had paid a deposit and were booked at the restaurant that her company had recommended, but it turned out to be the restaurant half a mile away not the one on the riverbank. We soon made our way to the village where there was ample parking and had a very good lunch in the courtyard of the Bar-Restaurant de la Mairie. Unfortunately it was during this period of time that around one Rolls-Royce and ten Bentley sets of valve caps disappeared. In the afternoon a few members partook of a tour and tasting at a local winery. In the evening dinner was at the Splendid.

The Loire at Saumur   Loire boat trip
The Loire at Saumur.   Enjoying the riverboat trip.
Thursday was an earlier start to travel the short distance to Château de Brézé where we parked most of the cars on the lawns in front of the château. The three oldest Club cars were taken over the drawbridge and displayed in front of the part of the château occupied by Bernard de Colberg, le Comte de Brézé. We then all enjoyed the tours of the underground château and then part of the above ground château. After a dégustation photographs were taken by Andrew and Ian from the tower, firstly of everyone gathered on the steps to the residence and secondly by the side of their motor cars on the lawns. A splendid (no pun intended) buffet lunch was set out for us in the dining room after which many members enjoyed the house wine tasting and purchasing. Again the rest of the afternoon was comme vous voulez with the same format for dinner.

On display at Château Brézé
Our motor cars displayed on the lawns and viewed from the tower at Château de Brézé.
Friday was a 'free' day. The weather all week had been dry, warm and sunny and many members took advantage of the hotel swimming pool and the sun terrace. During the week the cooling problems with Bill's Bentley continued and so further work had to be carried out by Mark. In the evening Jean-Franciose Berville roasted, displayed and carved a whole pig. The meat and the rest of the meal where absolutely delicious complemented by a continuous supply of the house wine. In the weeks before the rally Jean and Ralph Taylor had been accumulating prizes for a raffle. Paul Capper also offered his services to conduct the raffle and it was decided that the proceeds would go to the worthy cause, the Wessex Cancer Trust. During the previous days Jean and Paul had been selling raffle tickets and several additional prizes had been donated. The raffle was drawn this evening and in addition there were two separate auctions for prizes generously donated by Paul Capper and Mark Taylor. The net result was £1,080.00 and this figure could possibly be further enhanced. A most enjoyable and worthwhile evening all round.

Le Mans Circuit   Dunlop bridge, le Mans
Part of the line up at le Mans.   The Dunlop bridge, a landmark of the famous Bugatti Circuit.
Saturday. Everyone was ready, all weighed and all paid by 8.45am the next morning, but we had to wait a few minutes for our packed lunches to arrive. Farewells were said and we all made our way to le Mans. Unfortunately there were a couple of punctures on the way, but soon sorted with the help of other rally members. After parking, members inspected the incredible display of motoring in the Musée Automobile de la Sarthe. Shortly we were called back to our motor cars and lined up for our drive on the Bugatti circuit. We were led around the circuit by M Guyomard, the track manager, in a Cadillac with what sounded like a straight through exhaust system. After our drive we lined up all thirty Club cars for a le Mans start, firstly with the men running across the track and partners taking photographs, then vice versa. Picnic lunches were finished and we then made our way to Cabourg on the north coast. We were booked into the Hippodrome hotel and later in the evening we had dinner in the adjacent restaurant. During the dinner Section Chairman Tony Leach presented BW1 and BW2 with pastel colour paintings of Montreuil-Bellay. They were also presented with mounted photographs by Andrew Honour (BW1's 20/25 at Petworth and BW2's Mk Vl at Mottisfont).

No rush on Sunday, some members walked into Cabourg, some drove to Honfleur. Those sailing were present at le Havre by the ferry loading time and at six o'clock most of us sat down to dinner in the Goodwood Restaurant. We docked on time and members made their way home. Our grateful thanks to Mark Taylor for his invaluable assistance on a number of occasions and to Harwoods for supplying a large number of spares on sale or return. Also many thanks to Mrs BW1 and Mrs BW2 for their assistance and support before and during the rally.

Ted Meachem - Section Secretary


Party at Château de Brézé
Our party at Château de Brézé, with the motor cars of Bill Bradford, Ian Niblett and Teddy Nash in the foreground.   Photos: Ian Burt