“It’s an educational trip” I explained, when my wife asked why I was “buggering off abroad again” (her words) with my youngest daughter as co-driver. Junior’s French and maths are good, but would be even better after a weekend of rallying in France. I should have been driving a Morgan but due to a paperwork faff was in my 968 Sport on this year’s Rallye de Jonquilles. All the rally notes are in written in French and distances are expressed in meters, not miles. French and maths, see?

The ‘rally of the daffodils’ starts in the main square of the pretty town of Béthune in Northern France. There are three groups, my car being one of the newer ones there was lumped with it’s late ‘80s to early ‘90s Coupe contemporaries. Cars like the Alpine A610, Ferrari 328 and Audi Quattro. There was also a large group of TVRs. I think the collective noun is a Trevor. The rally is three stage navigational event over c.75 miles in distance with a few ‘I spy’ type challenges thrown in to prevent cheating. Participants range from experienced MGB beards to happy amateurs wanting to give their modern classic a bit of a weekend workout. Like me. The language barrier wasn’t an issue, entrants and the crowd mingled enthusiastically in the spring sunshine as 160 cars made ready.

My preparation consisted of applying our allotted number onto some magnetic roundels for the doors, checking the ‘best before’ date on my can of tyre weld (does anyone trust that old compressor and collapsible spare?) and packing a DMF relay. Béthune is a busy little town and there was quite a crowd to greet us. Setting off at intervals I was given a rude reminder of how little grip wet cobbles offer, and further rude reminder from my co-driver that I was already going the wrong way. Tacking our way out of town we found that the route took us along narrow, sandy b-roads and open fields where it was possible to bomb along at quite a speed. Some on the hoof maths was needed to spot the right turn, at the right time. The biggest challenges lay in the many hamlets where tight turns through gateways and farmyards meant junior needed to calculate with great accuracy. We quickly established a system of shouting and gesticulating and were quite happy to be one of the first at the end of stage one, a beautiful manor house and courtyard, getting our papers stamped.

Over a quick refreshment we had time to look at some of the other Porsches that had joined us. Most were French or Belgian registered. The quickest of which was a white 997 GT3 and it’s easy to imagine his front splitter needing repairs after skimming the weeds growing through the broken tarmac we’d traversed. A pair of 993s had come from Belgium, and I spent a few miles tucked behind a tidy 964 and wishing my water-cooled four was it’s air-cooled six. It’s my only bugbear, really, because as accomplished as the 968 is, that engine sounds a bit humdrum. As a tourer, and track car, it really excels, but I wouldn’t want to throw it around a French farmyard too often. Drivers of transaxled cars will be familiar with the sensation of feeling as if you are almost sitting on the rear axle, having to turn in early and neatly because although the car is 10cm shorter than a contemporary 911, from behind the wheel it seems like that gorgeous snout goes on forever. The busy Parc fermé was brightened by a Sunflower yellow 914 and a French lad and Dad team in a 924S. No 944s here, surprisingly, but nearly every other sporting Porsche, new and old, was represented. So, refreshed, we hit stage two. And a problem.

action from rally des jonquilles france (7)

After barely a Kilometer into stage two (that’s 0.621 of a mile, students of maths) I noticed my co-driver had nodded off. This surprised me. The 968 on this suspension gives a rock-hard ride and the road surface was scabby at best. Driving, reading notes and marking off waypoints was more than I could comfortably multi-task. Junior is tall for her age and (it later transpired) at our last stop had innocently been offered a flute of what she described as “fizzy acidic French pop”. I do hope her Mother isn’t reading this.

SatNav found the end of stage two, which was a fantastic restaurant called Catherinette where an excellent three course meal was served. Only on an event like this would you find such diverse classics being driven so enthusiastically; An Alfa-Romeo Montreal, looking tall on it’s suspension. Fulvias,  GT Juniors and every kind of Alpine. A Lamborghini Espada was popular, a car where the individual lines all swoop the wrong way, yet manage to combine to make the most elegant silhouette.

This year the organiser was celebrating TVRs, an S2 owner himself, Bruno had attracted a fantastic line up of Tuscans, Cerberas, Chimeras, T350s and Sagaris (Sagari? Sagarises?) which were all driven enthusiastically for the benefit of the crowds. TVRs, driven hard, seem to make kids smile like no other marque.

The third and final stage was a 25 mile zig-zag back to Béthune.  Thankfully we’d filled up before departure as 75 miles of hard-driving soon drains the tank, much of the stage was spent in 2nd or 3rd gear and we really focussed on our performance. We squeezed past a befuddled Elise driver, briefly held up a very enthusiastic Alpine A110, and had great fun trying to accurately stay on the pace. Smiles all round as we returned. What a day! We didn’t win, but Junior now knows a 997 from a 996 and that a 924 is a sort of skinny old 968. She has broadened her French vocabulary with important phrases as ralentissez and Parc fermé. She also learned that Navigators should avoid mid-morning champagne, especially when they have school in the morning, back in England. It really was an educational trip.

 

Pics; Duisberg (senior) and Duisberg (junior).

6 Responses

  1. Tony Hart

    Nice write up sir.

    But one small bugbear – thousands & thousands of pictures of Porsches & the only pic of my car is tightly cropped around the GoPros?????

    Reply
    • Rich Duisberg
      Rich Duisberg

      Sorry, I had swine fever (swine, pork, Porsche – geddit?) oh never mind. Yes, yours was the yellow Fisher, wasn’t it? Sorry I didn’t get any more pics but I’m sure I got some good shots in 2015 or 2014 of your car, I recall the 205gti alloys!

      See you next year?

      Reply
  2. mick matthews

    Hello Rich, nice write up and photos, we had a great time and the Mussie goes better with fuel!! Met Graham from Kent Classic Car Club they are putting a similar Rally on July 17 which we are going to. About a week ago there were ten places left. Cheers mickmatt and Nathan

    Reply

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