Vercors’ impenetrable fortress
The spectacular view literally takes your breath away. Climbing out of a solid blanket of fog, the white chalky peaks towering over Rousset Pass seem to float above the lake. Cascading down the rocky face of the slope like a roaring snake from the Vercors plateau, the caravan attacked the Diois region during this first leg of the 64th Snow & Ice Rally. After a warm up session on the slippery Lans en Vercors ice track, the teams wound their way through the Menée Pass to reach the lovely luncheon in Chatillon-en-Diois. For dessert, the nearby Miscon Pass was served, coated in pristine snow. And as the grand finale of this kickoff, the breathtaking fortress perched atop the Vercors plateau, via the legendary Combe Laval and Echarasson Pass. A hefty first day brimming with motor sport challenges. At the end of the day, back at Villard de Lans, the leaders of the 4WD category were Arnaud Euvrard and Adeline Paquiers (BMW 325 IX #3), whilst in the Historic 2WD category, the Belgians Marc Van Dalen and Julien Minguet (Ford Escort #35) were in the lead.
Ice track: a Belgian treat! With the thermometer gleefully reading a brisk -8°C at dawn, the Lans en Vercors ice track offered prime conditions for a day of slippery thrills on the 800-metre loop in the sky. Eight laps on the agenda, including a reconnaissance lap and a reference lap to be replicated as closely as possible five times. The masters of this little game were all Belgians: Chaidron-Nicolas (Ford Escort #41), Marc and Henri Vervisch (Porsche 911 #93), the father-son team that signed the top score with just one penalty point, in front of Yves and Hugo Sgubbi (Autobianchi Abarth #52).
BMW or Kalachnikov? An onslaught of firecrackers and suddenly silence. Before immobilizing their BMW 2002 TII on the Lens en Vercors ice track, Robert Poux and Nathalie Gengler must have wondered what on Earth was happening to them. Luckily the team, who was rescued by one of the track’s bulldozers, was only on their reconnaissance lap. After fixing this ‘slight’ issue with their starter, they were able to jump back into the RZ1.
Tail spins galore … Mind-boggling tail-spins and out of control slides! This morning’s show by the 64th Snow & Ice Rally’s classic cars was nothing like that of the race cars in this weekend’s Trophée Andros. Nonetheless, today’s many spectators had their fill of thrilling performances amidst the snow walls that dappled the slick ice track.
The Alpine made a comeback at lunch. The winners of this Sunday night’s prelude, Hervé and Isabelle Courbis, were full of enthusiasm for their Alpine, until their radiator hose started to act up on their way off the ice track. Luckily, they were able to fix it!
Amazon with a tractor’s axel? Jean-Pierre Ansiaux and Benjamin Javaux, (Volvo Amazon #29) opened the road for the slow average speeds on this first leg of the event. An avid fan of slippery driving, the Belgian star of the Dinant Classic Club delivered a dazzling performance on the Lans-en-Vercors ice track before breaking his front axle!
A potential catastrophe that turned into a beautiful story when the help team managed to unearth a perfect replacement part in Chatillon-en-Diois… at a tractor dealership! Just what the doctor ordered for the Amazon to get back on the road first thing tomorrow morning for Leg 2 of this adventure.
No muffler for the Fulvia. A muffler lost whilst crossing through Menée Pass right before lunch forced Dominique Hauri and Maxime Hericault to pull their Lancia Fulvia #82 out of the afternoon roster. Slowly but surely, they managed to get back to Villard-de-Lans and should be back in action tomorrow morning.
Boundless beamers take the lead! Competing in the category reserved for integral transmissions, we witnessed a full-on assault by the BMW 325 IX. Tonight, Arnaud Evrard and his Princess of a co-pilot Adeline Pasquiers in their BMW 325 IX #3 who topped the overall ranking, followed by the Franco-Belgian team of Figuière-Pirotte in their Lancia Delta Integrale #1. The other BMW 325 IX #16 driven by Daniel and Alexandre Thoreau competes the preliminary podium.
Van Dalen in dire need of roadside assistance… The head of Kronos Racing, Marc Van Dalen, is still stunned. For the past three years, he and Julien Minguet have consistently pulled their Ford Escort RS2000 up to the top of the Historic category’s rankings. However, today was complicated for the man whose team brought Sébastien Loeb his 3rd WRC title in 2006. Lacking in roadside assistance, he drove all day with Burzet tyres and go a hand from his fellow countrymen Van Rompuy and Chaidron in terms of refuelling. Tonight, back at Villard-de-Lans, Van Dalen is ahead of Dirk Van Rompuy and Jens Vanoverschelde’s Opel Ascona, who are neck and neck (at 98 points each) with the impressive Flemish team’s Mercedes 300SEL AMG driven by Carlo Mylle and Emmanuel Titeca.
Bernard Figuière (French/Lancia Delta #1): “This was a magnificent day! A genuine Snow & Ice day, combining motor sport challenges and beautiful landscapes along a brilliantly plotted route. Regrettably for us, a few bumps in the road and local residents’ cars cost us quite a few points. But that’s all part of the game…”
Marc Van Dalen (Belgian/Ford Escort #35): “Julien and I promised ourselves not to be in the lead at the end of the first day! I am frankly shocked at our ranking. We had to drive all day on the same tyres because our assistance team had trouble with their radiator. On our way down Pennes Pass, I was afraid we’d be overtaken by more experienced drivers. But in the end, I managed pretty well. Although I have rubbed shoulders with many a motor sport champ, I’m no pro, so I’m particularly proud tonight.”
Henri Pescarolo (French/Porsche 911 #37): “Despite my advanced age, this rally still gives me the same incomparable thrills as ever. This morning, I was so excited that I actually managed a tail spin on the ice track. And the rest of the morning was not too bad, at least until lunch. Michel (Périn) always ensures flawless navigation. I hope I’m be up to par because our goal is naturally to beat the Belgian contingent…”
Jean-Michel Arlaud (French/Citroën DS #83): “Along with a group of friends, we decided to test our luck in this Snow & Ice Rally. The Citroën DS is a surprising vehicle. For years I drove a Porsche, but the pleasure is peerless!”