Ludovic Parayre, owner of the renouned UK-based classic car dealers, LAP 63, and supporter of the Museum, champions the Jensen FF. French-born Parayre is the first to enter a four-wheel-drive Jensen FF in the 2016 endurance rally, La Coupe Des Alpes. Parayre gives us a short diary of the event, which as he describes is not for the faint hearted.
Tuesday 14thJune 2016 /London to Dijon = 500 miles
First stage of our journey involves a reasonably eventless journey from the centre of London to Folkstone, in order to catch our early afternoon shuttle to “Fromage Land” better known as France. In order to keep us focused and fully awake, my son Douglas makes me aware that he does not have his passport. Being the ever optimistic, I tell him that we should be able to travel using his driving license. So now we are at Folkestone, and awaiting UK custom. We are allowed through. Next we face the ever smiling French custom officer, I am obviously being sarcastic. Sacre bleu, they refuse our entry, or I should say, they refuse Douglas’ entry. So we urgently need a plan B.
I decide to drive back into Folkestone to drop Douglas to the train station so he can travel back to London, collect his passport and return to Folkestone. While he enjoys the best of British rail services, I spend the afternoon admiring my home country from the cliffs of Folkestone.
After 5 hours delay against our original schedule, Douglas rejoins me, so we can resume our journey to Calais. We finally “land” on French soil 5 hours late !
It is now 10pm and we are facing a 5 hour drive to Dijon, so the Jensen needs to capture back some time for us. Douglas is driving, and gets his right foot down, the Jensen effortlessly propels us along the roads. The heavens have opened, and it is torrential rain. That is fine, we have the spectacular Ferguson four-wheel-drive looking after us. The car glides smoothly along the rain washed roads as though it is a train on rails. Douglas should feel at home after his train journeys.
Half an hour into our journey, the wipers decide to go on strike (national sport in France) so more than ever we are relying on the Ferguson system to keep us on the road. Tired but safe, we arrive in Talant (in the outskirt of Dijon) at 5am in the morning.
Wednesday 15th June 2016
After a shorter than wanted 5 hours sleep, I drive the Jensen to Dijon Prenois race track, which hosted in 1979 the now iconic race between Gilles Villneuve Ferrari 312 T4 and Rene Arnoux turbo aspirated Renault.
We spend an interesting few hours driving on this remarkably preserved race track (not using our FF by the way). After this exilerating time, my son and I resume our journey into French territory. We are now driving to Evian in order to join another 125 classic car collectors for La Coupe des Alpes, a gentlemen rallying event organised each year by Herve Charbonneaux (a retired rally driver from the 70s), owner of Rallystory.
Today has been another relaxing drive. I am starting to fall in love with my new Jensen FF MK.I, with its simple and well-shaped seats, and panel of wonderful flick switches. The car is a pleasure in ever respect, and I find myself questioning the logic of spending so much money on a car such as an Aston Martin.
Thursday 16th of June 2016
Evian, nous voila. We have arrived early in www.punapharmacy.com the morning for the welcome & scrutineering. Our Jensen FF makes a remarkable entry. It is the first time ever that Rallystory has welcomed “such a beauty” in one of its events. Many of the other entrants walk over to view the Jensen and are keen and inquisitive to learn more. It surprised me that even today, there was those classic car enthusiasts that didn’t know about the four-wheel-drive Jensen FF – incredible !
At 11.0 clock entrants have a briefing, and at 12.0 clock we take lunch at the Royal Casino, Evian.
Menu of the day: 166 kms to Megeve, via 6 mountains passes with Aravis pass (1600 meters) being the highlight.
We start our first leg at 2.0 clock with excitement and apprehension. Soon discovering that despite the rain and the cold weather, our accent up the mountains is causing the Jensen to run hot. It was not a great surprise to me, the decision to take the Jensen was last minute, and the car had been quickly prepared for this event. Ideally a complete program of work would have been undertaken to the mechanics before such an endurance test. In order to avoid unnecessary surprises, I decide to remove the front grill in order “to stimulate” air flow. In addition, I leave the bonnet ajar, an old trick which allows a lot of the hot air to escape. We finish our journey safe and sound.
We are tired, but happy to reach the top. There had been some some bad rain fall, which was more problematic for some of the other entrants than us. The Jensen drove with ease in these conditions. We stay overnight in the beautiful village of Megeve.
Friday 17th of June 2016
Menu of the day: Megeve to Col De La Madeleine, and then Col De La Madeleine to Serre Chevalier. 352 kms with 5 passes including Le Col Du Galibier (2770 meters) which is one of the Tour de France known difficuly. It will be the longest day of all.
Having learned the hard way that the higher mountain passes are leading our Jensen to new territories, I decide to further ‘modify’ my FF. I remove the air filter, as at times, the carburettor suffers from air starvation. In addition, I also incorporate into our climbs occasional stops in order to ‘dissipate’ the hot air which ‘baptise’ each of our runs.
Because of the high level of participation, the passes are often busy, we need to drive fast, but with care. I had been told that the car might suffer from brake fade on some of these passes, so both Douglas and myself give advance thought to any situations which might require heavy braking.
At the top of Col du Galibier we are surrounded by cyclists bemused by the presence of a dinosaur (our FF). Temperatures are chilly, with just 7 degrees.
We finish the rally by motoring into Serre Chevalier, where we stay overnight. My son and I, celebrate our achievements with a particularly fine bottle of Margaux.
Saturday 18th June 2016
While other entrants continue to Cannes, for us, our gentleman rally is over, as I have other commitments. We are now on our way to Lyon St Exupery, with our head full of amazing moments and pictures. Jensen FF chassis number 119/069 has served us well. An event such as La Coupe des Alpes gives us both the joy, and the challenge of owning a classic car. We leave the Jensen in Lyon, and fly back to the UK.
We look forward to 2017!!!
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Ludovic Parayre for preparing this article.
COPYRIGHTS: All images and text copyright of Ludovic Parayre.
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