What do a classic car rally, handmade hunting rifles and mechanical replica watches have in common? The answer is Lebeau-Courally. The company was founded in 1805 and is well known in Royal families for its handmade hunting rifles and has moved into the field of haute-horlogerie by acquiring Le Locle based IMH. Lebeau-Courally is a platinum sponsor of the Zoute Grand Prix Rally. In part 2 of this article we will focus on Lebeau-Courally and their newest timepiece, the beautiful Phase de Lune with 18 layers of enamel. However first we’re going to have a look at the Zoute Grand Prix event, in particular the rally.
Those of you who have read the articles about Goodwood, know that at Monochrome we love events that involve (classic) cars and replica watches. So when we were invited to the Zoute Grand Prix Rally, we didn’t hesitate to say yes. This rally has a unique atmosphere! What is the same? What is different? I’m curious to find out more!
The Zoute Grand Prix rally (shortly ZGP) belongs to the premier and advanced rally events together with the Paris-Dakar, Mille Miglia and the Tulpenrally. The cars have to pass rigorous tests to be able to participate. You have to be an experienced and highly qualified driver and/or navigator to be able to compete in the pace-based race, called “regularity rally”. Time, or more precisely pace, is a vital criterium next to driving the correct roads and getting your marks at the checkpoints. The event requires great skill and therefore appeals to many drivers. Everyone is able to understand a tulip diagram for navigation, but often it is not exactly clear if a road is a paved road, what the sign is, etc… Or what if local farmers remove signs? This happened in this year’s ZGP, confusing (annoying) the drivers.
It does not mean you can’t participate as a casual driver; there is also a casual tour (called Ballad) that allows participants to choose their own pace and enjoy the view. The Ballad follow a shorter road in the same region as the rally drivers. The fee of € 3,395 Euro to participate is high enough to appeal only to the passionate. See here for more information.
A thing that struck me was how fast cars have to drive to meet the average speeds. Traffic lights, tractors, other traffic all slow down substantially, requiring drivers to drive quite fast whenever there’s no tractor blocking the road! Another thing that struck is the care the owners take of their cars. Everything looks tip-top. And we are talking here of 195 cars that were first registered between 1920 and 1965. You would think that they are very careful while driving. But no, some put their cars to their limits in corners and on the small roads. The bumps could easily transform the car into an airplane. For a short while of course.
The drivers leave the boulevard one by one with intervals of a couple of minutes. A tracking device that is attached to the car constantly monitors their position and average speed. Besides breaks and checks it is driving, getting frustrated when taking a wrong turn or when a small accident blocks the road, being happy if you are still on the right track, and enjoying the scenery. It is an absolute joy to drive in a classic (performance) car on a beautiful day in the beautiful landscape of West Flanders. Driving in a classic car in the country-side gives an immense sense of freedom and joy that cannot be matched otherwise.
At the end of the day it is time to relax and enjoy the Filliers & Fever Tree cocktail in the Zoute Drivers Club, sponsored by Lebeau-Courally.
Or stroll at the Boulevard and admire the modern cars. The Top Marques “open air” display of prestigious and high-performance modern cars (see here) from Lamborghini, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar, Land-Rover, Maserati, McLaren, Rolls Royce and Bentley fills you with awe at the Boulevard.
Unfortunately I was only able to visit one day of the four-day event. Whenever you decide to go, make sure you also see the GT Tour and the Concours d’Elegance. The latter displays around 50 gorgeous classic cars. A jury selects a group of extra special cars each year. See this link for this year’s winners. The Bonham Auction is also worth a visit. This year’s top selling car was a 1955 Porsche 356 that sold for € 586,500 Euro.
So, coming back to my initial curiosity about the uniqueness of this event. The Zoute Grand Prix offers a unique mix of classic and modern cars as well as competitive driving and casual driving. When possible, I will be back next year.
Interested to see more photos? See: visualcue.photography/zgp2016