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Tour Auto 2017 boasts a big Ferrari contingent

The first highlight of the spring for classic car lovers in Europe is the Tour Auto. The rally is being held for the 26th time this year, with competitors gathering for registration at the Grand Palais in Paris on April 24 (see gallery below for pictures). For the first few days the rally heads west from Paris and into Brittany. It makes a stop at the Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans before turning south towards this year’s finish in Biarritz.

As is traditional, the event features a number of rare French cars. Several Renault 8 Gordinis, 12 Gordinis and Alpine Renault A 110s are racing this year. Organizer Patrick Peter is particularly proud that the 2017 field includes classics produced by small French sports car manufacturers, including several Deutsch Bonnet HBRs from the 1950s. In their day, these vehicles, equipped with little Panhard and Renault engines, were very successful, thanks in part to the way races often used to group cars into different displacement classes.

There are also several Jidés taking part – mid-engine racers built in the 1970s using Renault 1300 and 1600 engines – as well as a 1971 BSH Berlinette. One of the oldest cars in the rally is a little less sporty. The 864 Artois S49 is a classic 1930s-style limousine made by Hotchkiss, a French brand known only to experts these days.

Tour Auto 2017 – Focus on Ferrari

With Ferrari celebrating its 70th birthday this year, the 2017 Tour Auto is putting a special focus on cars made by the legendary Italian sports car maker. The oldest Ferrari in the rally is a 1949 166 MM Barchetta, driven by Juan Quintano. The President of Ferrari Espanola regularly brings early Ferraris to compete in rallies.

Several examples of the Ferrari 250 and its successor, the 275, will also be lining up at the start. The Ferrari 250 GT has a particular connection with the original Tour de France Automobile, securing a place on the podium every year from 1956 to 1964. These cars are now rare collectors’ pieces. In 2015, RM Sotheby’s sold an early Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione for USD 13.2 million at auction in Monterey. The vehicle, with an authentic light blue paint job, won the Tour de France in 1956 and was once owned by legendary Spanish gentleman racer Marquis Alfonso de Portago.

Among the younger cars competing are numerous Ferrari Dinos from the 1970s, and an armada of Ferrari 308 Gruppo IV Michelottos from the 1970s and ‘80s. The Michelotto supercar, in rally livery, was created by the Ferrari dealer of the same name in Padua. Ferrari only supplied the chassis, which Michelotto used to build a rally car with an optimized engine, a light body and a spartan interior with fire extinguisher and roll bars. It was never really successful owing to its enormous thirst, but the 308 still attracts admiring glances at any car event.

Tour Auto runs until April 30, 2017. We’ll be showing the latest photos on Facebook.

Photos © Julien Mahiels.

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