La Cité Ponote and the 17th edition of the Grand Prix Retro

grand Prix Retro 2013, Le Puy Notre Dame

This year’s poster for the Grand Prix Retro in Le Puy Notre Dame.

Well it’s  surprising how the years  go by isn’t it and this weekend (it’s always the last Sunday in July) we’ve just had the 17th edition of the classic car event the Grand Prix Retro  in Le Puy Notre Dame. Always an amazing day to remember on the Le Puy calendar!

As usual well over 100 pre-1935 classic cars arrived for the weekend rally and race with about 40 motorbikes and motorbike-sidecar combinations of the same vintage to entertain our visitors and thousands of tourists who flood into the village as they race around the the narrow street circuit of this historic village and the surrounding vineyards, (sorry that is the cars race through the vineyards, not the visitors and tourists)!.

In fact we were lucky to view the rally tour on Saturday morning as it passed by Le Clos des Guyons in la rue du Moulin (route du vignoble) travelling on its way through the vineyards and countryside to Doué la Fontaine.  Our guests Jenni and Lee and ourselves were giving them all a friendly wave as they turned the corner, especially so when  our other guests Keith and Rita  arrived in their MG!

The first Le Grand Prix Retro , 1997

The programe from the first Grand Prix Retro in 1997 showing all the named car drivers. – All six of them!

It’s interesting to compare this year with the very 1st Grand Prix Retro!  Keith Herkes and his wife Rita who are frequent visitors to Le Clos des Guyons, always with one of their two vintage MGs, have told us that they came to the very first Grand Prix Retro  which was held on the 10th August 1997 and have the programme to prove it (priced at 10 francs incidentally)!  Amazingly there were just six cars then and the owners of every one got a mention in the text!

In what is becoming almost as much of a tradition as the Grand Prix itself we had our fun BBQ for friends, guests and neighbours and a good time was had by all.  Thanks to Robert Guyon for providing his superb 1994 Chenin and to the Domaine de la Paleine for a delectable 2011 Saumur Rouge.  We started off with aperitifs and flutes of refreshing sparkling Saumur Brut and Rose, then sat down to an array of pates and crudities, etc., moved on to barbecued sardines followed by a home-made pasta and Sheila’s sauce of tomatoes and basil from the garden along with meatballs, mushrooms and chorizo.  (I finished making the pasta at 03:00 in the morning). All of which was much appreciated by our 20 or so guests!

Grand Prix Retro, Le Puy Notre Dame

Classic cars passing the entrance to Le Clos des Guyons.

The weather was perfect that is until right at the end when a sudden, violent, squall arrived from nowhere, stripping the fabric fom the parasols and which resulted in much scurrying around, retrieving plates, glasses, wine bottles, hats, chairs and other assorted objects.  One of the fabric covers which got ripped from the parasol, left a face size hole and which, all in all, then made a perfect burka – although Sheila refused to wear it!   Mais, c’est la vie, life is full of problems but normal service was soon resumed albeit minus the parasols and the painstakingly erected, shade providing sheets!  Having said that we were, as usual, quite lucky because the neighbouring village of Montreuil-Bellay had an awful rainstorm whilst, north of the Loire and down in the south-west the wind and rain  was generally atrocious and severe hailstorms caused such extensive damage that several parts of the Champagne region lost up to half the potential 2013 crop!

The range of vehicles taking part is truly amazing going from Morgan, MG and Darmont to Amlicar whilst the motobIkes  featured Monet Goyan, Saroléa, New Map, Alycon and Norton.

Grand Prix Retro 2013, Le Puy Notre Dame

Me, modelling the mark 1 burka – parasol combo.

The vast majority of drivers are from France, the UK and Belgium.

Reading the local paper on the Monday there was a little muted criticism that every year is the same.  I find this rather odd in that, what do you expect from motor-cars?  They drive around a track, they can’t fly or burrow into the ground?!!  It’s rather like saying that formula one is boring because the cars drive around the circuit.  Strange that!  I believe that next year the nocturnal Saturday evening race is going to be organised.

Anyway, when I finally got away after the BBQ had finished and had a walk around the village, everyone seemed to be enjoying it immensely, the bar and the two restaurants were both full and the village was full of laughing, contented people.

Long may it continue and I raise my glass to the classic car Grand Prix Retro of Le Puy Notre Dame!

We enjoyed another very memorable day!

MG and BBQ

Keith and Rita’s MG and BBQ at Le Clos des Guyons.

à plus


Gites and vacation lets in the Loire Valley