We line up at the holding point and when there is about 10 cars, and a suitable gap after the last group, we set off following a chequered flag waving roller skater into the melee of Parisian traffic. At most of the major junctions the roller skaters switch in a sort of relay race and we are waved along the correct route.
We are hoping that the Paris traffic lights are not all fitted with cameras as we cross quite a few red lights to make sure that we keep up with the convoy. There is a certain invulnerable feeling as with headlights on and heavy tooting of the horn we head over the red lights and given the journey we have done makes it all right! Not sure the gendarmes agree.
Just 20 minutes from Reims are the old grandstands and pit boxes of the old Reims Grand Prix circuit. Racing took place on this old road circuit from 1926 up until the last Grand Prix in 1966 and these old structures are now looked after and partially restored, although the fact that they are left faded and slightly decayed adds hugely to the charm and atmosphere.
Despite countless drives through France I’ve never been here and so was grateful that it was chosen as a Passage Control – good choice.
We are waved off from the start in Reims and only 177km left to go. Not sure exactly when we arrive in Place Vendome as we know that we have to first head to a holding point where we will be grouped into small batches and releases with a roller skating escort!
The cars left Reims in place order so that the top 3 in both categories can arrive in Paris first. As expected but a bit of a shame that we don’t get to see the celebrations.
Our autoroute decision was a good one as we arrive relaxed in Reims at 3.45 rather than a scheduled 7.20. We are about the 4th car to arrive (that has not happened anywhere) and the parking is not ready in the pedestrianised, cafe lined Place Drouet d’Erlon. There is a champagne reception and a more formal dinner at 7.30 sharp and our decision is confirmed by the cars still coming into the parking area at 7.30.
We are not very far from the magnificent, 800 year old, Reims Cathedral but unfortunately the well known main facade is draped in scaffolding undergoing cleaning.
Returning to the Place Drouet d’Erlon the parking is ready and there is a very detailed ‘architects’ plan drawn up for the parking layout – sadly they have given it to a medic so any hope of the draughtsmans work being utilised properly is in vain!
Matt goes off in search of the hotel and when he finds it at the very far end of the Place Drouet d’Erlon from where we are parked he very sensibly asks the hotel if we can park right outside – which they agree to – so we leave the meidcs and there parking plan and head for the VIP parking a la the Rolls.
After the dinner the Place is the place to stroll with the cars lined up between the numerous cafes on both sides.
180km to go tomorrow and a very controlled entry into Paris – led by the podium places in both categories and then the cars in place order. We leave Reims at 10.05 and are scheduled to arrive in Place Vendome at around 1pm.
All the posts are now heavily leaning towards ‘the last of’ whatever it is – much as, despite Matt’s sterling work on the rear suspension, the Jag is still heavily leaning to one side. Actually it’s not ‘heavily’ but it is noticeable as is the fact that we are getting more comments on ground clearance (or lack of it). All the shocks have been changed (some more than once) and adjusted, one of the rear springs has been changed and Matt and I alternate between driving and navigating so it can’t be put down to a heavy navigator. It is unbelievable that we got this car, with relatively few issues compared to many of the other crews, to this point so we accept a little gentle settling with good grace.
Despite the plan there is not a direct autoroute from Lausanne so we do stick to the route book for the first 100km and we are treated to more beautiful countryside and pretty farming villages on both sides of the border. The roads are smooth and fast, it’s always been a shame that the Swiss authorities don’t seem to like cars and definitely don’t like any possibility of speeding as they have some fantastic and frequently empty sweeping country roads. The threat of the Swiss police is always severe and we do take it easy but the roar of a Swiss registered 911 disappearing fast into the distance implies a certain laissez-faire attitude amongst some of the locals.