Rallye de Paris - March 2008

The TOPS team of Trisha + Richard Pilkington (Aceca) John + Carolyn Venables-Llewelyn (C type), Chris + Sandy Wilson (Stratos), Adrian and Joanna van der Kroft (Mustang 350 Shelby GT), Mike and Spike Milligan (3.8 E type) met up for a good pre-rally dinner in Paris.
An early start under the Eiffel Tower saw the Welsh C type having the distinction of carrying No 2 out of the 200 entrants and we all followed fairly closely behind. It was interesting to see from the entry list that 75% of the cars were post-1980. 
Spike M had never seen a “Tulip” road book before, so a quick lesson was given on the start line – along with a French lesson as well! 
The regularity tests at Magny-Cours on the Saturday were luckily held in the dry. It was here that someone from the excellent RallyStory organisation stuck a microphone through my window and asked me what I liked best about this Rally. There is no question, I said, it is first and foremost the friendly company and banter. Everything else in my opinion was relatively incidental. There were many memorable moments during the four days.
The cross-country drive from Magny-Cours to Val de Vienne through very heavy hail storms where we all felt sorry for Carolyn in the open C.
Richard constantly referring to my “pride and joy” as a mass-produced car!
Adrian vin de Pays – becoming our group’s Master of Wine.
The Plaza hotel where we stayed on Saturday night at the Futuroscope near Poitiers, where we all discovered that each of our bathrooms had a “voyeur” window into the bedroom!
The regularity tests at the tight and twisty Val de Vienne circuit were enjoyable after the track had dried.
Prize giving followed with Trisha being presented with an enormous Easter Egg for her efforts in bringing the TOPS team, and, thanks to Richard’s intervention, the writer received a large Trophy for the competitor who had travelled the further distance (d’Ecosse).
The rest of the prizes developed into a “Porsche” benefit day with most of the podiums being filled by drivers of the German Marque.
A lovely drive to our hotel near Tours along empty “D” roads saw the red Stratos lose the rest of us (at a refuelling stop). Thinking we were all in front of them, the Wilsons averaged 100 mph for half an hour before they realised. The “Stealth” shape of the Stratos even flew under a mobile radar trap along a straight much to the amazement of the local Gendarmerie. 
Just when we were all dreaming of a pre-dinner drink (or two), we entered Tours to find we were held up for ¾ hour by the compulsory Sunday afternoon French occupation of a cycle race! Hundreds of fluorescent Lycra clad thin Frenchmen seemingly being chased by Renaults with 50 spare wheels on their roof racks.
Just when Trisha’s sense of humour was to evaporate (at the third road block), we were allowed to drive up the lane to our Relais du Silence Chateau – which was duly shattered by the bark of the Welsh C type.
At the excellent dinner (where we consumed the Easter Egg) in a private room, the banter continued.
Out of the 200 competitors, there were only 10 cars from Grande Bretagne, of which 5 made up the TOPS team (a credit to Trisha for keeping the Union Flag flying – thank you for all your organisation).