Claret and Classics 2000

Colin and Susan Mills
Geneva (Luins) , Switzerland
1 – 7 July 2000

Day 6, Thursday, July 6, 2000
At the Mercure Bourbon in Bourges. 1925 Sunbeam in foreground, then Mini, TR3a, XK 150 and Lagonda M45.
Bourges - Beaune

Thursday turned out to be our best day, with scores of 3, 12 and 3 – a total of 18 penalty points, giving us second place on the day. The first stage was almost two hours long, so three seconds late was – even if we say it ourselves – pretty good. The second stage included a section of over 10 miles between tulips. After a couple of miles, you begin to have doubts. "Have we missed the turn? Was the sign post hidden?" After eight miles or so, you are getting really worried and trying hard to convince yourselves that you have not yet arrived at the next junction. When you eventually spot it, you both breathe a sigh of relief!

The run into Beaune took us through the heart of the Burgundy (Bourgogne) wine region, past many vineyards offering passers by the opportunity to stop and taste their produce, hopefully being convinced to buy some, too. Beaune itself is a really pretty place, full of good restaurants – and wine shops.

Day 7, Friday, July 7, 2000

The last day was spent around the area, with a second night at the same hotel in Beaune. On stage one, we got stuck behind a farm tractor and, despite great fun trying to make up time, came in some two and a half minutes late. We improved on stages two and three, scoring a creditable 16 points on both, but completely messed up the last stage and came in with a maximum, being over 14 minutes late. The reason for this disaster was that we broke the golden rule - never follow the car in front. We knew the couple in the Healey 100/6 had been doing well, and, being on a slower average speed, we were not surprised to catch them up. At one complicated junction in a village, they proceeded confidently and we assumed – fatal mistake – they knew where they were going. We ended up in a field of vines, doing 10-point turns to backtrack to the village. Total for the day – 484 points, which was to place us 15th overall at the end of the event.

The awards dinner (optional black tie evening) took place at a 17th century converted convent in the centre of Beaune, now the headquarters of the wine merchant, Patriarche et Fils. We were welcomed to the building by one of the directors and then taken down below to the cellars. There are five kilometres of passageways and cellars which run below the city, these cellars being home to over four million bottles of wine, the earliest dating from 1904. Somewhere down there, we were invited to taste up to 19 different wines – and, of course, to buy some of them! In one area of the cellars was a locked grill behind which were over 2,200 bottles of the 1954 vintage. These are to be offered for sale at this year's annual auction which takes place in November.

The awards dinner also took place in the cellars, where the company has a first class restaurant. And who won? Well, the first prize to be presented was that for last overall – which went to the two Americans in the rented Alfa. During the week, they had frequently been seen overtaking other competitors who had set off after them! The second award went to the car and crew who were in the middle of those who finished – and, guess what, that was us! We now have a pair of engraved wine glasses for being fair to middling.

First overall was the Frogeye Sprite, whose crew received a large glass chalice, which would later be engraved with their names and an illustration of their car. There were also prizes for the winner of the knockout competition, best in class, the winning team crews, and best on each day – unless that was an entry which had won a prize in another category. Finally, spreading prizes amongst as many participants as possible, Roger Deeley awarded a prize for "best nose gear" – an Austin Healy driver who had fashioned a nose guard out of card to attach to his sun glasses.

After a wonderful evening, we struggled through candlelit cellars to find our way out and return (on foot) to our hotels. A lie-in and late, leisurely breakfast on Saturday morning before bidding farewell to all the friends we had made during the week.

What did it cost us? Well, the outlay to the organiser was £745 per head, i.e. £1,490. This included all the literature and rally material, all hotel accommodation (seven nights), breakfasts, visits to various attractions, tastings, receptions, pre- and post-rally dinners. It also included ferry crossings from the UK to France, which we didn't need. In addition, we had to pay for fuel, lunches, other meals and refreshments.

For more information about Deeley Classics, visit the web site at http://freespace.virgin.net/deeley.classics. We will keep an eye on it in order to plan for our next rally.

ż bientŁt, Tigers,

Colin and Susan

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