Last Sunday we made the short trip over to Reims in Northern France for the 4th L’Excellence De Reims auto show, a sort of mini-Goodwood hosted at the old GP circuit made famous by Fangio and Hawthorn in the ‘50s.
It was my third time in 4 years and every time before I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable day, soaking in the ambiance of this historic French circuit and imagining what it would have been like to dice with death along its super-fast straights. But what a disappointment it was this year!
Reims is a stunning venue which exudes the kind of danger, pedigree and glory that many modern-day tracks can only hope to aspire to. Its layout is essentially a large triangle consisting of public highway with a fabulous 1+mile home straight, where even the grand prix cars of 60 years ago exceeded 180mph.
The morning didn’t get off to a particularly auspicious start when we arrived to the sound of an English gimp giving an ‘elf and safety dressing down over the PA system. There may have been a shunt the day before, so ‘this is a demonstration not a race’ and ‘we won’t hesitate to stop the event if your driving is questionable’ were delivered with the cadence only a public sector employee can provide.[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”left”]..we arrived to the sound of an English gimp giving an ‘elf and safety dressing down over the PA system.[/blockquote]
There were, admittedly, a few nice pieces in the shape of a 250 Testarossa and some Group B rally monsters, but I sensed a half-hearted attempt by the organisers who seemed determined to stifle the vantage points of punters who just wanted to see a high-speed flyby or two. Oh, and the weather was much better back in Blighty.
After maybe 90 minutes we decided it was time to leave and seek out a good restaurant showing the Italian Grand Prix on TV. Fortunately, Reims is a bit of gastro capital and to sit back and watch what was clearly an uneventful race in the company of some good food and Champagne concluded the afternoon on a high note. Not listening to Jonathan Legard also heightened the enjoyment.
I don’t wish to be too churlish because I have a lot of affection for the region. It’s probably best, though, to skip L’Excellence De Reims in future and go on a normal day where you can actually drive along the pit straight, take some great photos and revel in its peaceful nostalgia.
And if you listen closely you might even hear Stirling Moss in a Mercedes W196 Streamliner going flat-chat along the N31..