Rosalie the Renault 4 goes to Chamonix

Wolf Barnato famously raced the French Blue Train from Cannes to Calais, and won.

We tried racing a scheduled airline from Bedford to Chamonix in a Renault 4. And lost by about 5 hours.

We had excellent fun getting there and stopped off at the old Reims racing circuit on the way back.

Rosalie the Renault 4 set off with very little preparation, other than being fitted with a set of snow tyres.

The journey to Chamonix was quite uneventful. The weather was fine and the roads were clear so we made good time. The trip from Bedford to Chamonix took 13 hours, and a tail wind allowed us to cruise at 80mph (130km/h) on the flat.

Rosalie in the Alpes at sunset    

The temperature was unusually low at the start of the week. It was -15C in Chamonix at 8:00 on Sunday morning when we dropped Chris off for an off-piste marathon starting from the top of the Aiguille du Midi (where it was -25C).

The skies remained clear, although the snow was a little firm, so John (pictured) and myself hired skis for most of the week.

John skiing through the haze    

It is possible to fit four people and one cat in a Renault 4 together with ski and snowboarding equipment, although only once the rear seat has been removed. Even then it takes the mindpower of Chris and John (pictured) to organise packing, and it can't have been very comfortable back there.

Fortunately Chris and John made their way to Chamonix by aeroplane so only had to suffer the confines of the Renault on the way to the ski lifts in the morning.

John and Chris in the back of the Renault 4    

The Chamonix resort consists of 3 unconnected ski areas. La Flegere/Brevent is accessible from Chamonix itself and has many interesting slopes, but a long queue for the cable car at the end of the day.

Just up the valley is Argentiere and Les Grands Montets. This area has a great deal of off piste and would be wonderful for boarding after a heavy snow fall. At the end of the valley, Les Tour has a number of shallower slopes, and some nice runs through trees into the next valley.

The photo was taken in Les Grands Montets where Chris, Mike, Robert and Claire ski down a powdery slope in formation.

skiing group        

Clementine le Chat and Mike relax with beer and a cup of Chocolate Choux after a hard days skiing.

Clementine enjoys a hot chocolate    

Team Renault - From left to right: John, Robert, Chris, and Clementine the Cat.

Robert, Chris and myself departed from Chamonix at 5am to avoid the mass of skiing traffic that jams the roads throughout Europe at this time of year. The road down the mountain was covered in about 3 inches of overnight snow.

Chris was going on a further skiing holiday so we dropped him off at a hotel in the middle of nowhere. The hotel was closed as it was 6:30am, and it was dark and raining outside.

Team Renault    

A short detour on the way home found us at the old grand prix circuit in Reims. Reims was a very fast road circuit that passed through a number of nearby villages. The grandstands and pit buildings are still standing, and dense undergrowth that once covered the site has now been cleared away. It is possible to drive around the circuit as the public roads once used by the circuit still exist.

Here Rosalie the Renault 4 roars down the main straight to the applause of the crowd (having just overtaken Fangio).

Main Straight at Reims    

The pits building and grandstand at Reims are covered in the original advertising lettering which is now very faded.

We naughtily went through the Club Class channel in Eurotunnel on the way home, and were promptly stopped by both French and UK passport control. The French were very pleased that we had taken our holiday in a little old French car, and wanted to look at the dash mounted gear change. The British were more suspicious and wanted to know how we had paid for the channel crossing!

Rosalie in front of the pits at Reims
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