• Le Mans icon gives Jaguar its first Rally the Globe win
• 11 days of epic competition and camaraderie in La Belle France
• From the English Channel to the Mediterranean via the Atlantic coast and Alps
• Fraser Nash-BMW 328 pairing claim back-to-back Carrera wins in vintage category
• Next up? Two Marathons: Alaska to Mexico and the Road to Hanoi
Jaguar’s legendary C-type just keeps winning and winning! Its latest victory came on Rally the Globe’s highly-acclaimed Carrera Riviera – an epic 11-day driving adventure through the ever-changing realms of France.
It was a hard-fought, historic and opportune victory for the iconic British sports racer, too. The C-type’s triumph not only celebrated the very first time a Jaguar had ever won a Rally the Globe event but also came exactly 70 years after one of the sublime sports racer’s most famous triumphs. It was in June 1953 that Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt famously won the Le Mans 24 Hours race… but only after a last-minute reprieve from the French organisers allowed the British crew to take the start.
Seven decades on, Carrera Riviera (4-15 June) was an incredible escapade set on some of France’s greatest traffic-free roads taking intrepid participants from the shores of the English Channel to the Mediterranean via the Atlantic coast and Alps.
When the very well-travelled crews finally reached the Côte d’Azur, it was the rare and desirable Jaguar crewed by father and son team Simon and Jack Brien that took top honours in the fiercely-fought Classic category, thus adding yet another prized trophy to the C-type’s never-ending roll of honour. Just 53 C-type sportscars were produced in period and this was chassis number XKC 030.
Remarkably after such an incredible 2,060-mile (3,300km) journey showcasing the very best La Belle France has to offer, the Brien duo actually finished tied at the top of the results with the 1973 MGB GT of Tomasz Dzitko and Beata Siwek. Both crews celebrated under the finishing arch but the Polish pair lost out on a tie-breaker based on the age of the vehicle which awarded the final spoils to the more venerable 1953 Jaguar.
The battle in the Pre-war class (pre-1946) was almost as dramatic with the 1937 Fraser Nash-BMW 328 of Martin and Olivia Hunt just pipping the 1925 Bentley Supersports shared by Graham and Marina Goodwin to the post by the smallest of margins. It was a second successive Carrera victory for the Hunts who also won last year’s Carrera España in the same car.
Running to Rally the Globe’s much-loved ‘Carrera’ format, the Gallic adventure boasted a superb all-asphalt itinerary with visits to private racetracks and circuits during 11 days of great camaraderie and wonderful hospitality set against stunning landscapes.
The outstanding quality of the trip was, perhaps, of no surprise as it had been devised by Rally the Globe’s distinguished Rally Director, Fred Gallagher. What’s more he was ably assisted by Denis Giraudet, a fellow experienced navigator of considerable repute from the upper echelons of the World Rally Championship.
In readiness for the start, a fully subscribed entry of 42 vintage and classic cars (all pre-1977) – plus their excited crews – assembled in delightful Deauville, the most chic and glamorous seaside resort in Normandy. Ahead lay a truly memorable journey through 31 mostly sun-drenched French departments with off-road Speed Tests and other controls along the way to provide the competitive element.
Underlying Rally the Globe’s ever-widening international appeal, the top class entry came from throughout Europe as well as Kenya, Canada, USA and Australia.
From Deauville, the route took participants via the magnificent Chateaux of the Loire valley to La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast, then through the wine regions of Cognac and Bordeaux for a well-earned rest day in Saint-Émilion.
Fully rejuvenated, the cavalcade then headed towards the famous mediaeval city of Carcassonne. From there it was into more serious rally country – notably roads made famous by the legendary Monte Carlo Rally – concluding with a short, twisty descent to the Mediterranean Riviera and the seafront finish in opulent Cannes.
First away from Deauville was the mighty 1917 La France Roadster of John and Catherine Harrison – not only the oldest but by far the biggest of the cars on the entry list. With a vast 14,500cc engine under its long bonnet, the chain-driven monster had more than nine times the capacity of the two smallest engine 1600cc cars (1964 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider and 1973 Ford Escort Mexico) on the entry and was fully 57 years older than the 1974 MGB GT of Philip and Lynda Blunden.
Among the Classics the 1966 Ford Mustang of Rob Collinge and Tony Brooks was among the early pacesetters, however, the American pony car was quickly usurped by the orange MGB GT of Dzitko and Siwek which briefly led before the incredibly rare and desirable C-type rose to the top.
Rally the Globe regulars Graham and Marina Goodwin led the pre-war category in their 1925 Bentley Supersports but the Hunt’s Fraser Nash-BMW was never far behind as the crews sped through the vineyards under bright blue skies on some of France’s finest country roads.
After the summer sunshine, the weather turned wet and misty as the Rally the Globe convoy reached the Courchevel ski resort nestling in the Alps with torrential rain in the mountains forcing a couple of re-routes. As ever, though, the experienced Rally the Globe team came up trumps and kept the show on the road and the celebrations at the finish on La Croisette, Cannes’ world-famous shoreline boulevard.
Although the valiant MG mounted a last-gasp challenge and drew level on the leader-board with the pace-setting C-type as the cars descended from Courchevel, the plucky Poles just couldn’t get in front of the Coventry cat.
As well as Jaguar’s first Rally the Globe victory, it was also Simon Brien’s first win on his first Carrera. “The C-type was just the dream car to drive – it’s absolutely stunning and has so much heritage,” enthused the understandably delighted victor. “Rally the Globe produced an unbelievable route with some fabulous Tests to keep us on our toes. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the 11 amazing days we’ve had – everyone just had a fantastic ball.”
After posting back-to-back Carrera wins among those in pre-war cars, Martin Hunt was equally appreciative. “We’ve had another fantastic event with Rally the Globe,” he said. “Of course it’s always nice to win but much more than that we are all winners as it’s such a delight and privilege just to be a small part of these wondrous driving adventures. We are now already looking at our diaries to book our place on the next Carrera in 2024!”
As well as the sporting awards, two discretionary prizes were also presented. The Spirit of the Rally accolade went to Ean and Alison Lewin in their Escort Mexico while the Against all Odds trophy was handed to John and Catherine Harrison in recognition of their sterling efforts crewing the almighty La France Roadster. The award for the best driver on the Tests went to Neil Smith and Irene Dubs was named as the best navigator.
As the awards were handed out, the ever-gracious Gallagher paid tribute to all who had made the event such a success with a special mention going to Denis Giraudet who’d worked so hard to weave all of those minor roads and Test venues into one rich tapestry.
“Deauville seems such a long time ago but what a great time we’ve had,” admitted Rally the Globe’s Rally Director. “This has been another incredible Carrera and we’ve been delighted with the way it’s been received. A lot of hard work went into the organisation and to see so many people having such a great time makes it all worthwhile. The roads have been amazing, the venues were incredible and the hospitality was sensational. There were some challenges with the weather in the Alps but these only added to the experience and I think we’ll all remember Carrera Riviera for a very long time”.
While harbouring all those great memories, the busy Rally the Globe team has two long-distance Marathon category escapades appearing quickly on the horizon.
First up is the Alaska to Mexico Marathon (27 August-26 September) which is swiftly followed by The Road to Hanoi Marathon (27 January–23 February) early in the new year.
With a sense of real adventure, the former takes participants across 38 lines of latitude from snow-capped mountains to the hot sandy beaches of the Baja Peninsula. The latter promises to be an equally seminal journey through the wonders of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.
For those keen to experience either – or, indeed, both – one final place remains available on the North American expedition after a late withdrawal and there are few remaining places on the South East Asian trip that follows.