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Hello 2019 - and hello Drive Guide's fifth season

Hello 2019 – and Drive Guide's fifth season
It’s amazing to think that this is already the fifth season since the first edition of France: The Essential Guide for Car Enthusiasts was published. Thanks to all of you who have bought a copy and who follow the Drive Guide posts on Facebook and Twitter! I have enjoyed meeting many of you at events over the past few years.

Despite the 'gilets jaunes' protests in France in recent weeks, and the lower speed limits introduced last July, the classic car movement in France remains as vibrant as ever. Although, inevitably, some of the venues included in the 2017 edition of the guide have now closed (often due to high city centre rents and rates), there are plenty more new events springing up around the country. These are often inexpensive to take part in: why not sign up for one in an area you’ll be visiting during 2019?

Major events and anniversaries in 2019

Listing all the make and model anniversaries due in 2019 would take a blog of its own, but for Francophiles, one anniversary stands out above all others: Citroën’s centenary. Citroën itself and the many model-specific clubs are planning a huge number of celebrations, beginning at Rétromobile in Paris from 6-10 February and culminating from 19-21 July with Le Rassemblement du Siècle at La Ferté-Vidame, where 5000 cars and 50,000 visitors are expected!

Citroën rightly taking the honours at this year’s Rétromobile. (Courtesy Comexposium)
Citroën rightly taking the honours at this year’s Rétromobile. (Courtesy Comexposium)

Exceptional Citroën SM four-door convertible seen at Chantilly in 2017.
Exceptional Citroën SM four-door convertible seen at Chantilly in 2017.

La Ferté-Vidame is only about 70 miles from Le Mans. With 2019 an 'odd' year, Le Mans Classic will not be taking place. To make up for this, Classic Days – which has been a huge success at Magny-Cours over the past decade – will be coming to the Circuit Bugatti in the Sarthe. By mid-January, 600 cars were already enrolled, with the grids for single-seaters and pre-war cars already full. Gérard Larrousse will be the guest of honour and there will be a special celebration of Bentley’s centenary too.

Classic Days event poster


This very Bentley, seen here at Tours, will be coming to Classic Days in 2019.
This very Bentley, seen here at Tours, will be coming to Classic Days in 2019.

Peter Auto is now alternating Le Mans Classic with France’s top concours d’élégance, Chantilly Arts et Elégance, taking place this year on June 30. Special classes already confirmed for this year include Japanese sports cars and Facel-Vega.

Prize-winning 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa at the last edition of the Chantilly show.
Prize-winning 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa at the last edition of the Chantilly show.

1962 Facel Vega HK II seen at Chantilly in 2015.
1962 Facel Vega HK II seen at Chantilly in 2015.

Also returning in 2019 is the Grand Prix Historique de France, holding its second edition at the Circuit de Magny-Cours on the weekend of 28-30 June with grids featuring all types of single-seaters right up to Formula 1 …

Some of the Ligier F1 cars on permanent display at Magny-Cours.
Some of the Ligier F1 cars on permanent display at Magny-Cours.

Personal highlights

As well as attending a large number of shows and historic races across the country, you will often find me with a microphone in my hand, interpreting at prestigious occasions like the Festival Automobile International or providing commentary for some of the events in France popular with English-speaking visitors or with a British theme.

Kia Proceed Concept styling buck on show during the 2018 Festival Automobile International.
Kia Proceed Concept styling buck on show during the 2018 Festival Automobile International.

The commentary season begins for me on 23 March, when I will be at the historic Autodrome at Montlhéry, just south of Paris, for God Save the Car and the Motorcycle, an irreverent celebration of everything British on two or four wheels! The first edition last year was a great success, and this year we’ll be marking two big birthdays: the 50th anniversary of the French Jaguar Drivers’ Club and 60 years of the ever-popular Mini.

Perfectly attired for Montlhéry’s British day! (Courtesy Paris Auto Events)
One of the participants perfectly attired for Montlhéry’s British day! (Courtesy Paris Auto Events)

This British-themed day is one of several events throughout the year on the banked track at Montlhéry devoted to cars from a particular country: click here for more details of the events for fans of American, French, German, Italian and Japanese cars. Other meetings during 2019 are reserved for Jaguar, Land Rover and Lotus owners and for owners of modern classics (known in France as 'Youngtimers'). At the other extreme, the Vintage Revival – held in odd years – is one of the top events in Europe for pre-war cars, motorbikes and three-wheelers.

Riley TT Sprite on the banked track at Montlhéry during an earlier Vintage Revival.
Riley TT Sprite on the banked track at Montlhéry during an earlier Vintage Revival.

The following weekend – from 17-20 May – I will be joining friends in Brittany for the 25th anniversary of the Rallye International du Pays de Fougères, which always attracts many British participants, some taking part in pre-war models.

This 1966 Graber-bodied Alvis TF21 won a prize from FIVA at the 2018 Fougères rally. (Courtesy Guillaume Nédélec)
This 1966 Graber-bodied Alvis TF21 won a prize from FIVA at the 2018 Fougères rally. (Courtesy Guillaume Nédélec)

At the end of May, you’ll find me providing commentary on another racetrack, this time the Circuit du Val de Vienne, not far from Poitiers, for Sport et Collection – 500 Ferraris Against Cancer. This tremendous event attracts a wonderful range of sports cars (not just Ferraris) and has raised more than €4M for cancer research and treatment at the regional hospital. This year will mark the event’s 25th anniversary, with a tremendous line-up of cars expected, including many former contenders at Le Mans.

Ferrari 430 and 599 safety cars at a previous edition of Sport et Collection.
Ferrari 430 and 599 safety cars at a previous edition of Sport et Collection.

Soon afterwards, I will be heading to northern France, to commentate at the Circuit Historique de Laon, where at least half the 750 or more participants each year are from the UK. English luxury cars and French makes with a racing history share the spotlight this year.

Bentley R-Type seen at Laon in 2017.
Bentley R-Type seen at Laon in 2017.

The following week, I’ll be heading for the Alps for the start of this year’s Coupe des Alpes on the shores of Lake Geneva. Also known as the Alpine Rally, this long-distance mountain rally enjoyed its heyday from 1946 to 1971. In 1988, Rallystory revived it as a prestigious touring rally, which will this year celebrate its 30th anniversary. One of the greatest drivers to compete in the Coupe des Alpes after the war was Ian Appleyard, driving a Jaguar XK 120, and Jaguar will be back in 2019 to launch its F-Type Chequered Flag Limited Edition.

The Alpine Rally-winning XK 120 with F-Type descendants. (Courtesy Jaguar)
The Alpine Rally-winning XK 120 with F-Type descendants. (Courtesy Jaguar)

Before France takes its usual summer break, there is one more event where I’ll be providing commentary (as usual in English and French): the Grand Prix Historique de Bressuire, with Matra cars and pre-war motorbikes the guests of honour this year. Come and join me there on 29/30 June!

Matra 530s and Bagheeras on show at the Musée Matra. (Courtesy Musée Matra)
Matra 530s and Bagheeras on show at the Musée Matra. (Courtesy Musée Matra)

The author (on the left) with fellow commentators Eric and Jacky. (Courtesy Ville de Bressuire)
The author (on the left) with fellow commentators Eric and Jacky. (Courtesy Ville de Bressuire)

Extra information online


Finally, don’t forget that on this website you’ll also find an event calendar, showing exact dates for this year’s shows, together with a set of downloadable files containing all the addresses of the venues in the guide, ready for you to download to your satnav as ‘Points of Interest’ or view on Google Maps.

Throughout the year, you can follow news from the classic car scene in France on Drive Guide’s Facebook page.

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