Dunes et Marais 2012

Things didn’t seem to be starting well, Brittany Ferries had been striking for the past week, so I was keeping an eye on their website in the days prior to travelling – Thursday morning confirmed it – our ferry on Friday night had been cancelled – so a quick change of plan – instead of leaving from work at 4.30 on Friday to travel to Portsmouth for the overnighter to Caen, we left at lunch time and travelled down to Dover and managed to get on the 18.35 crossing to Calais – by 9pm we were in France – after a 2 hour drive we arrived at the cheap hotel in Abbeville, the less said about that the better.

Setting of early the next morning we had a steady drive down to our chalet in Saint Palais sur la mer, near Royan on the west coast, which was to be home for the next 9 days, we arrived about 6 after a quick dash into the local cave (to stock up on the local grog ‘pineau’ a white or red wine blended with cognac).  Once sorted, we had food and drink and early to bed.

After 3 days of holiday – the ‘job‘starts….

Wednesday morning we sorted the trailer ready for recceing then set off to the Avis garage near Grezac  to collect the road book which would be available from 1pm onwards.

So after finding somewhere central to park the trailer we set off on Fred our trusty quad, to make our notes – by 6 o’clock we had noted 3 of the 5 stages and ridden 2 of them twice.

Thursday we woke to rain, which gradually got heavier as we arrived at the service area in Grezac.  So we decided to leave the trailer and drive the road liaisons in the shogun – by 10 the rain had cleared so we decided to go out on Fred.  We made notes for the 4th stage, then rode all 4 with the notes until we had done each 3 times (max allowed)  – fortunately the rain stayed off for the rest of the day, and we could see the fields drying up as all the quads and bikes were going round.  We were not allowed to do the final stage Cozes/Grezac until Friday for some reason.

So back at the chalet showered and fed, we waited for the arrival of our service crew ‘Conor’ and our suspension guru, Paul and his wife Hazel – they arrived about 9.30pm and in need of food, so down to the infamous ‘Chez Bobs’ they ate and we drank, and met up with some of our fellow Brits!

Friday started very dewy with bright sunshine, it was going to be a hot day, so of to Grezac again and got the notes done for the final stage – we did it a couple of times and then decided to go back to the ‘St Andre de Lidon’ stage for a final run through – unfortunately ¼ of the way round – Fred got a puncture – that was it – we had to call for international rescue – 40 minutes later Conor arrived in the hire car, took Rick back to the trailer so that he could recover Fred and myself.  Then it was back to camp to prepare for the afternoon Rick getting the car ready, myself writing up the notes and arranging neatly into my folder.

At 4pm we drove down into Palais in the racer, where it was all going to start, our sign on time was 16.59 hrs at the Salle de fete in Palais, it was then out into the car park to sticker up, numbers and sponsers, the check point was in the square in front of the beach with the exit on to the beach, so checked out and a quick drive on to the beach.

And we were off to the LeClerc in Royan where scrutteneering would take place – a quick check of the car and then off to the port in Royan to Parc Fermee.  We arrived there about 7pm,  there was a drivers briefing at 8pm, which lasted for about 20 mins in French, then a quick briefing in English that took about 3 mins, then a mad scramble to get our start time for Saturday and off for something to eat.

Saturday saw us surface at 6am and down to Parc Fermee for 1st car off at 07.45hrs, we were out at 08.38hrs 9th car on the road after the production cars – of which there were 26 started.  In total, 124 cars started the rally including the new cyclone engine rivet.


A Small service by the beach, at St George de Diddionne, everything was OK, so off to 1st stage.

ES1 – Sumussac– Very dewy and slippery, starting on grass – our time 7:51.7 – 11th – 21.2 seconds behind  scatch – Favy  Not the best start, but as an excuse we haven’t raced since July!

ES2 – St Andre de Lidon– About 300m into stage we met a little blue van coming towards us on a square corner, fortunately we saw him on the outside and were able to take the corner tight, so as to avoid him, but it shuck us both up and hence the time for this stage wasn’t the best.  8:51.4 – 8th – 26.6 seconds behind scratch – Favy.

ES3 – Arces -Changed to rally tyres, had a better result, but was given a 60 second penalty for early arrival at the check point – at the end of the stage we protested this and after visiting the race director at the end of the day we managed to get it lifted as it was a misunderstanding.  8:47.8 – 3rd – 7.7 behind scratch Favy

ES4 – Sumussac – Still on rally’s we were getting in to it now, and yes – 7:03.5 We scratched the stage beating Favy by 1 second.

ES5 – St Andre de Lidon –No car on course this time, we had a great run thru.  Our time 8:24.2 – 2nd – 9.3 behind scratch Favy

ES6 – Arces – It started to rain just as we went out on this stage, making it quite slippery again, we had a couple of incidents, nearly losing the backend down a steep off camber slop, and on tarmac at a square left with a tree on the outside, decided it would be better to go straight on rather than smash into the tree, it was interesting watching the people scatter as we came careering towards them at warp speed.  Our time 8:54.4 – 5th – 5.9 behind scratch Favy

Once back at service we checked the car over, changed back on to aggressive tyres and drove into Parc Fermee, which was at the side of the service area.

On checking the times – we were running 2nd overall at the end of day 1.

We helped Conor pack everything away, left the trailer, as we were to use the same site for service on Sunday.  And set of home for the evening.  When we went to bed it was still raining.

Sunday 6am start and it was still raining, got ready and set off for Grezac, we hadn’t got our start time, so we needed to be there for 7.45 when the first car would be off.  What I hadn’t reckoned on was that there would still be 26 production cars in the rally and that there was a 30 minute gap between them and the first car.  Our time was 8.43, second on the road after the production cars.  OK we could have had an extra half an hour in bed, but never mind – we helped Conor get everything set up for Service, then had a bit of a wander around service – where we saw Jean-Claude from Technospeed with his kit – the shiny new sharp tyres attracted Rick attention, like a handbag shop grabs mine!  Next thing, he’s done the deal on 2 new tyres – so back up to our pits to get 2 wheels to change.  As soon as we can get in to Parc Fermee, in we go, wipe the water from the inside of the car.  Check out and drive to our pits for a 25 minute service – the two new tyres went on the back, and we were ready.  The rain was intermittent now, only 5 stages today the first stage we were to do three times ES7, 9 & 11 this was close to the service area.  The second stage, the longest we have done 21km, was to be done twice (ES8 & 10).

So a short liason to 1st stage, it was so wet, there was standing water everywhere.  And off we go.

ES7 – Cozes/Grezac – The start was on grass, 100m in a 4 right –whoops that grass was slippy, a quick reverse and we’re back on track, half way round the stage we were on a grass track with a 4 right at the end into the field, we had checked this when recceing and decided we could cut the bank about 5m before the corner and make it a smoother line, as we did this a marshal waves ‘no’ to us – we were not the first to take this line.  Our time 7:21.6 – 7th – 19.5 behind scratch Favy

ES8 – Meschers/Semussac – The long stage, again started on grass, and was very slippy on the tarmac and the fields were sticky, and again we had problems with over shooting, once I thought we were going to see inside a ‘teepee’ – there was a camp site at the end of a grass track with only a small hedge with a 5’ drop on the other side and a wigwam about 10’ away from the hedge – we managed to stop at the hedge, the in-car shows the hedge move!  A bit further round a 3 left tight on to tarmac with a ditch on the outside – in we went, again we weren’t the first or last!  Hence our time 17:23.2 – 9th – 1:03.9 behind scratch Favy

We had a quick re-groupment after this stage, as we took the car in, we were told the race directors wanted to see us…. As there was nowhere official to be seen they took us into the ambulance, where we were given a 30 second penalty for cutting the course on ES7, as we knew about it we signed and took the penalty – along with 7 other competitors!

ES9 – Cozes/Grezac – The rain had stopped and the field was drying up, no incidents on this run, at the end of the stage we had beaten Favy by 0. 1 second, but as the top five cars came in, each was faster than the one in front.  Our time 7:01.6 – 4th – 10.6 behind scratch Pierrine

ES10 – Meschers/Semussac – Definitely a lot dryer than last time, but there was so much mud on the tarmac that we ended up sideways in a big ditch, I think we would have gone over but the hedge pushed us back, Rick was able to keep the power on and managed to drive it out, fortunately really as the next car did exactly the same – we suffered a bit of body damage but nothing mechanical.  Looking at a clip of video later it seems like we had quite a lot of shrubbery attached when we came out.  Our time 15:28.9 – 3rd – 22.0 behind scratch Pierrine

ES11– Cozes/Grezac – Last stage – we couldn’t believe how this had dried up – we were running 3rd by 16 seconds then disaster, 500m into stage a front drive shaft broke, damaging the steering as it came out, this made the car incredibly difficult to drive in a straight line – by the time we got back to service we were missing the CV and tulip from the diff.  Our time 6:59.9 – 12th – 19.3 behind scratch Pierrine and worse still we had lost our 3rd place by 1.2 seconds.

Back into service Rick & Conor patched the car up as best they could as we had a 27km drive back to Parc Fermee in Palais, the rest of the guys followed us in, which was really nice as we had told them to overtake us as we didn’t know if we would get back.

Back into Parc Fermee was such a relief – it’s a fantastic feeling to finish after 2 full days racing – so straight to the bar to celebrate!

Final result

1st           Favy/Fauconnet                1h41:40.5             Fouquet/Nissan

2nd          Pierrine/Buisson              1h42:51.0             Fouquet/Nissan

3rd          Poincelet/Riviere             1hr44:36.3           Fouquet/Honda

4th           Mann/Mann                      1hr44:37.4           Dirtstar/Jaguar

Incidently the above are, in order, 2011 Champion of France, 2010 Champion of France and ‘could be with the results fo far this year’ 2012 Champion of France.

This year there were only 5 British entries and only 3 finished, on the whole 70 cars finished the rally from an entry of 124.    Favy dominated the entire race and won the Dunes and Marais Rallye for the 5th consecutive year.



Start Slide Show with PicLens Lite PicLens

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