The 2005 Winter Challenge Route
The Route to the Winter Sun
Sunday 27th February UK to Le Touquet
From the start in the UK at the 2nd International Historic Motorsport Show at Stoneleigh it is but a few hours run to the English Channel and the crossing to France. About an hour south of Calais, Le Touquet has long been a favourite watering hole for the English and as such has a number of fine hotels in which to spend the first night together with your fellow competitors from Europe.
Monday 28th February Le Touquet to Auxerre
Inland from Le Touquet, a maze of lanes provides ideal competition territory as the route heads south-east towards Amiens. Skirting north of Paris we will hopefully take in a private race circuit before heading south through the fringes of Champagne country. More regularities in the rolling Brie countryside takes competitors south across the Seine before reaching the valley of the Yonne and the overnight halt at Auxerre.
Tuesday 1st March Auxerre to Vichy
It is action from the word "GO" this morning!
South of Auxerre lie the hills of the Morvan, an extensive area of wooded upland hiding a maze of lanes and sleepy villages. When we have been this way before we have encountered our first snow of the event so you can expect the driving to get tougher.
By lunchtime you should be clear of these hills and into the rolling pastureland of the Charolais - where the famous cattle come from. But ahead lie another, even higher, range of hills - the Monts de la Madelaine. Which precede a final run into the overnight halt in the famous spa town of Vichy.
However, those electing to do the "Masters" category will not get much rest for after an early dinner they will back out in the mountains again for a four hour night loop in the maze of mountain roads surrounding the town.
Wednesday 2nd March Vichy to Le Puy
Today we first head west, and then south to bypass Clermont Ferrand before heading into the snow capped peaks of the Massif Central around le Mont-Dore. We first used this area in the mid nineties and have visited it little since so these remote roads should prove a fresh challenge for many.
Continuing south past the extinct volcanoes of the Auvergne our route brings us into the network of lanes along the Gorge of the Truyere before turning east into the Montagne de la Margeride. If you think that this area has little to do with rallies of old think again. Several Monte Carlo Rallies in the 50's almost came to a complete stop in the deep snow of these hills. You will be glad to reach the warmth of your hotel in le Puy tonight…
Thursday 3rd March le Puy to Digne-les-Bains
Probably the toughest day of the event…
The pretty valley of the Allier river takes us south towards the hills of the Cevennes. Anyone who has been into the Cevennes on previous events will know why it is justifiably feared as one of the toughest rallying areas in France.
There is no pattern to these hills. A maze of tiny lanes twist and turn around endless bends, hugging the sides of steep wooded valleys as they thread their tortuous way through stone villages still set in a 19c time warp. When you finally emerge from this maze, particularly if the weather is bad, you will be relieved to see the broad valley of the Rhone ahead. But it is not over yet… Once across the Rhone, Club competitors continue east to the overnight halt at Digne-les-Bains, but the Masters have supper and await a night section in a famous "Monte" area where we have not run a night section before. Never will your bed in Digne feel as welcome as it will tonight.
Friday 4th March Digne to Monte Carlo
Whilst the area between Digne and Monte Carlo contains some of the best rallying roads in the world, quite frankly, over the years it has been "done to death"! Whilst you will still be following in the wheel tracks of history as you head for the sunshine of the Mediterranean, this mornings run will be a more relaxed affair than usual, to give you time to enjoy the extraordinary scenery of the Alpes Maritime, and to ready yourself for the welcome at that most famous and historic motor sport finish of all - Monte-Carlo. The luxury of the Hotel Hermitage awaits us and then the grand finale of a prize giving dinner at the famous Hotel de Paris.
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