Skip to main content

The Circuit Historique de Laon is one of, if not the largest classic car pilgrimages into to Europe from the UK with over 700 cars attending this event in previous years.  It is a non-competitive event dedicated to any type of vintage, classic and sports cars.  The city of Laon, situated North East of Paris and temptingly only a lovely forty minute drive from Reims hosts this classic car parade of cars from all over Europe.

For this year, the 33rd Circuit Historique de Laon, we saw the largest entry ever with 839 cars and 42 motorbikes registered to take part.  Porsche and TVR were the Marques of Honour, with 170 Porsches and 20 TVRs in the lineup.

Whilst I was navigating for a friend of mine in his Triumph Stag (more of that later!), it was great to meet up with a great many Porsche owners and chat about their cars, and more importantly perhaps, their trips and memories in their cars.  Perhaps most telling of all to us who delight in our Porsches, we had dinner one evening with a couple who had a number of cars in their collection, with one having been a McLaren which gave them no end of trouble and ended up selling it and replacing it with a 992 as they knew it would be immense fun and reliable.

On Saturday morning, the 9am meeting point was the Parc Foch in Laon to collect rally plate and goody bag before the start of a 115km Tulip style roadbook rally to the Circuit de Chimay in Belgium for lunch and a drive around the historic circuit.   The roads were open and flowing and it was a real joy just to be out on the open road, without potholes, in the company of people from a wide array of backgrounds and happy to delight in each other’s company regardless of the car owned or money in the bank.  This truly was a collection of “car people”, all of whom would help any other should there be trouble with the car.

Lunch consisted of Belgian beer (just the one) and the inevitable ham and cheese baguette as well as a very pleasant, yet indescribable desert: Must have been a Belgian delicacy.  My friend Mark and I wandered around the “paddock” enjoying the sights and the sounds and talking to many Porsche owners, amongst whom were Belinda and James with their car, Splash, and reg number RN11 SEA.  They are gong to be visiting every one of the 238 RNLI lifeboat stations in the UK, Ireland and the Islands in 911 hours driving 8500 miles and on 36 ferries in that car.  It was here that we conceived the idea to meet them on their last day in the UK before transferring to the Isle of Man for the finale.  Watch out for the upcoming date for us to meet them on the Fylde Coast on September 28th, or let us know if your appetite has already been whetted.

The return journey to Parc Foch was a slightly more technical route, with a few of the cars losing their way a little (did I mention the beer?), and at the destination there was food, drink and music from the Wolfpack. Well for some….remember I mentioned that Stag?….

On Sunday morning, all the participating cars assembled in the old town ready for the “closed street run”. As the name suggests, all of the streets are closed to traffic. The route extends over 6 km and includes a hill climb with hairpin bends as you make your way to the old town centre. Spectators line the streets to watch the biggest cavalcade of classic cars and sports cars in Europe.  This year, the motorbikes lead off, followed very gently by a steam powered car!  The initial laps are rather slow affairs, and as the numbers participating drops with the driver and passengers heading off for further *ahem* coffee in the bars, the speeds of those remaining increases – on the hill climb section at least.  Crowds of onlookers turned out, cheering everyone on, especially the 2CV of course!

For us, we went around a couple of times and then having finally found a way off the course, made our way over to Reims to visit the famous pit complex.  I was expecting to have to just drive past a couple of times as I had heard that one is no longer allowed to stop, and was delighted when this was not the case and we could stop, get out of the car and have a good look around.  Needless to say, a few folks decided that they were indeed Sir Stirling Moss (old advert, bear with me), and hurtled down the road at ever increasing speeds.  Some good sounds though!

This year, Monday’s Tulip based rally took us to Fresnoy-Le-Grand, where we were warmly welcomed by the town’s festivities committee, it’s businesses (Le Bourget & Le Creuset) and a brass band playing Rolling Stones numbers.  I kid you not.  This was a French bank holiday, and many of the Brits had chosen to head for the ferry and miss out on the day, making it a much calmer, and indeed French affair – did I mention Keith Richards on the trombone?  Anyway, we managed to find an open restaurant en route back to Laon, had a smashing lunch and then back to the hotel to head back to Le Havre ourselves the following day.

So, the Stag.

My buddy had spent days prepping the car for the trip, even re-packing the front wheel bearings with grease.  He had driven it daily and we went to bed the night before heading out from Portsmouth feeling confident.  What could possibly go wrong?…..

The moment we started the car at in his garage to head out to France, with just an hour and a half to go before sailing, the ignition light stayed on!  I won’t bore you with the details, but we did learn just how far you can drive a Triumph Stag on a 50 amp hour battery, the cost of a new one in France and how to remove and replace the power steering pump every time the battery needed changing at the side of the road / in the hotel car park.  In the end, one of the four – yes four! – other cars in the hotel who’s Lucas 18LCR alternators failed, managed to secure a new one from a person with a GT6 carrying a spare, we made one good one out of two.  The trip home was rather less painful, given the lack of need to now burn hands on hot engines whilst changing a battery.

The irony of it all……we chose to take the Stag instead of his 997 Turbo.  That’ll teach us.