An event which proved immensely successful among the general public, with some superb motor cars on display. Rétromobile and the Grandes Heures Automobiles have a great deal in common.
The difference is that we are here, at one of automotive history’s most iconic locations. The Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry motor racing circuit in Essonne. From 1924 onwards, it was the setting for some of France's largest car manufacturers’ attempts to set new records: international races pitting the French against the Germans, world motorsports championships and even the Bol d'or motorcycle endurance race. And since the early 2000s, it has hosted a huge number of classic car events.
The cars on show here are superb. The paddocks are completely open to the general public and are an utter delight. People can go and take close-up photos of classic cars, and ask the drivers and mechanics any questions they might have. They can even enjoy a proper deafening courtesy of the huge engines as they start up.
In one of the first sections, the legendary sports cars on show from the 1950s through to the 1980s hark back to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Racing driver David Piper and his cars are among the attractions on display. He has brought with him a Porsche 917, a Lola T70 MkIII B, a Ferrari 250 LM and a 365 P2, all to the delight of spectators. Behind, a rare Inaltera serves as a reminder that France's "amateurs" have always been forces to be reckoned with in motorsports.
The Le Mans aspect is counterbalanced by a well-stocked selection of single-seaters. The F2s and F3s from the 1960s and 1970s are superb. They also decked out in lively colours and remind the enthusiasts – who are often greying – of their younger days.
Opposite is evidence that the Grandes Heures Automobiles is not just about cars. There are many motorcycles. A number of Grand Prix and other endurance motorcycles have come to the event. These motorcycle drivers – just like the car drivers – have spent the best years of their lives astride these racing machines.
Further along, the two other paddocks are magnificent. The first is for sports cars of all ages. It features everything from pre-war antiques through to 1970s sports car. Here, the professionals are outnumbered by enthusiasts – who seize the opportunity to enjoy an experience they will never forget at the wheels of these machines.
The last is extremely powerful. The Group Bs are there. Almost all of them are there – the 205 T16, the Audi Quattro and the Lancia. Next to them are the modern supercars, with their own special stage.
There are numerous exhibitors all around these paddocks. People specialised in interior trim, car parts and car builders have all made the trip. Peugeot, one of the event's partners is very much in evidence. It has brought its prestigious rally cars, together with some legendary drivers, including Gilles Panizzi and Sebastien Loeb!
The clubs have not been left out either – they are there in force. They've also brought lots of Peugeots with them, as well as Tractions and Clio V6s!
But the real show is on the racing circuit. They are not races, but they are not parades either. The drivers are generous and are utterly involved. You can see some overtaking and hear the engines revving up. It's showtime, and spectators should feel free to take (half) trip around the circuit to admire the cars on the ring.
In any case, everybody enjoyed themselves thoroughly at the 2017 Grandes Heures Automobiles. Like many of the enthusiasts in attendance, we will see them again at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre from 7 to 11 February 2018 on a stage that will include some of the magnificent cars that we can see in these photos.
Text and Photos: Benjamin and Bertrand from News d’Anciennes