But first a little of what 2011 brought! Classic Grand Touring was formed in November 2010 and only three months later we were running our first tour to the Retromobile exhibition in Paris. It is a huge testament to the loyalty of our clients and the friends we have made over the years that we have been able to make 2011 such a success.
After Retromobile I flew off to the -300 temps of Sweden for our annual ice driving trip. I still maintain this is the best fun one can have on four wheels as well as being invaluable in learning and mastering the art of car control.
Then came May! Pau and Mille Miglia clashed which left me with the tough job of leading the Mille Miglia trip, someone had to do it! This was an event I have been operating for over five years but previously it was always my father Nick who had escorted the clients. Happily we had beautiful sunshine for all ten days – and what a ten days they were. With superb hotels carefully selected and honed over the years the daily distances were sensible enough to allow us plenty of time to enjoy the hotel facilities and relax before settling in for some superb food. On arrival in Italy we spent three nights at our hotel overlooking Lake Iseo which then allowed a day on the lake followed by a superb day in Brescia enjoying the Mille Miglia start. We then drove into Tuscany to watch the competitors on the Futa and Raticosa passes, after which we spent a night in Modena. The return journey was just as pleasant with a real highlight being our luxury hotel overlooking Lake Luzern.
Pau gets better and better every year, with good sized grids, a club enclosure for our clients to display their cars in, parade laps of the circuit and not forgetting the lunch we organise in the Paddock on both Saturday and Sunday.
We hope you can join us in 2012 when the feature race is the Porsche Trophy for flat four engine models. We take two nights to drive down through France and we return via the Brittany Ferries cruise sailing from Santander to Portsmouth.
No sooner had Nick returned from Pau it was time for him to fly out to Bologna to meet the first of two Ferrari Owners Club groups for their Factory visits. These two night tours are non-stop action and filled with interesting visits including the Maserati, Pagani and Lamborghini Factories as well as many private collections and museums. These tours are very popular; we have one client who shall remain nameless who is rebooking for 2012 which will put him into double figures on his tally for Ferrari Factory visits!
Come the last week of May and it was an early morning Eurotunnel with Ferrari Owners once more for the drive to the inaugural Spa Classic. A superb weekend starting with Parade laps of the circuit, I was little surprised to find I was the lead car! After a few exhilarating laps I pulled off the circuit to let the Ferrari’s carry on the fun. We spent two very enjoyable nights in the centre of Spa and during the day had parking for our cars in the Paddock plus a second session on the circuit. A top weekend and we can expect the 2012 running to be even bigger and better.
Only a week or so on after our return from Spa and I was boarding the Eurotunnel once more for the journey down to the Mont Ventoux hillclimb. This was another ten day tour with everyday being scorching hot (shame I only had a black VW Golf available to me at the time in which the climate control packed up half way through!) The drive down included a two night stay in Annecy, with a superb lake trip on a RIB allowing us enough access to explore the shallows and caves on this magnificent lake. We then had a lakeside lunch stop where we enjoyed a couple of magnums of Rosé wine safe in the knowledge that we had the boat to motor us home! The Hillclimb itself was fantastic and we had an exhilarating run up the hill on closed roads. Our friend Andrew Green was particularly happy that word had reached back to the paddock about just how good his Maserati Quatroporte sounded with the Sport button depressed! Feeling a little sad to leave the beauty of Provence we spent our finale evening in Chablis where the tour ended on a gastronomic high note!
Thankfully July gave us time to catch our breath and enjoy being at home for a while! In August we had our two day track event at the Circuit de Bretagne near Nantes. Again scorching weather, a great social atmosphere, a brilliant circuit with a good mix of corners all made for a great event.
September always means Angouleme and the ‘Circuit des Remparts’. We had 80 clients with us whilst in Angouleme and close to 20 cars for the driving tour down. We always have a fun welcome party on the Friday night which heightens the excitement before the rally on Saturday. The rally took us through the beautiful Cognac countryside including passing through La Magdeleine which as many of you will know is the village where Nick lives and runs the Logis du Paradis. The highlight is usually the lunch and again it did not disappoint, held at the Hennessey headquarters on the quayside at Cognac and supplied by Michelin stared restaurant La Ribaudiere; all three courses served to the table were fantastic.
It was another quick turnaround post the Remparts when I met the Aston Martin Owners Club at Plymouth for the Brittany Ferries sailing out to Santander. This tour took us through the Picos Mountains, Asturias, Leon and Rioja where we had an excellent Bodega visit. We then had two nights in San Sebastian again in beautiful sunshine to enjoy the Pintxos, the beach and the free time in this fantastic city. The tour then took in Bordeaux, Cognac and Brittany en route home. This is an excellent tour for a car club or group of friends that can be run at any time of the year; however we recommend a good time of year to travel is September or October as the roads are practically empty.
The last tour of the year was the Algarve Historic Festival. We take four nights to drive to the Algarve. The event itself is phenomenal as all the racers bring their best cars to this fantastic new circuit to end their season of racing. So grids are huge and the weather is generally still very good. We had access to the paddock with our cars and entry to the driver’s VIP hospitality lounge. The only blip in weather for the whole year was the very last night in northern Spain, however subsequently a smooth crossing was enjoyed by our enthusiastic group, back to Portsmouth.