This Monday, 20th April, the 24th edition of the Tour Auto was launched under the nave of the Grand Palais in Paris. It was a day dedicated to official unveilings and last-minute technical testing before the tarmac and dust of the road in this highly anticipated competition, departing from Paris on the 21st and set to arrive in Biarritz on the 25th.
The 20th April also saw a series of firsts for Zenith! It represented the announcement of its first year as the official timekeeper of the challenge, the first time it participated as a competitor with three drivers and one co-pilot, as well as the unveiling of its new chronograph, produced specially for the event, the El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Tour Auto Edition
ZENITH ENTERS INTO THE LEGEND OF AN ICONIC RACE
With its first edition in 1899, the Tour Auto is the oldest automotive challenge still running today. Bringing vintage sports cars together side-by-side, this endurance event includes circuit races, relay rallies and pack racing, among other challenges. The competition is a must-see event in the international sporting calendar and is particularly admired by fans for its 'golden era' from 1951 to 1986. From 1992 onwards, Peter Auto has taken on the role of organiser with the Tour Auto Optic 2ooo. Since this date, the route has been revised each year to allow the public from all four corners of France to witness this great spectacle.
On 20th April 2015, all were reunited to reflect on the authenticity and prestige of this legendary race.
First of all, there was the setting. Majestic. The Grand Palais and its breath-taking canopy, an architectural marvel, was also the historic backdrop to the Salon de l’Automobile from its first edition in 1901 until 1961.
There were some 233 vintage sports cars lined up on the grid: BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar, Renault, Citroën, Lancia and Ford; all the biggest names were represented by their most fabled models. All were brands that took part in the Tour Auto between 1951 and 1979 – a condition for being accepted to participate.
There were also a number of guest stars. Each year, the organisers invite a particular type of car to race. For 2015, the roadster was chosen; a racing car that is instantly recognisable for its open, roofless and windscreen-free design. In total, five roadsters would form the starting pack; a 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondiale, a 1954 Osca 1500, a 1956 Porsche 550 A, a 1956 Lotus Eleven 1500 and a 1957 Maserati 200 SI no less – a true highlight for car enthusiasts!
Also present were the competitors. Among the private challengers in their own vehicles, there were well-known faces and former champions, Yannick Dalmas and Gérard Larrousse at the wheel of a BMW M4, with six wins between them at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, Olivier Panis and his two seasons driving Formula 1, and German nationals Jürgen Barth and Jochen Mass... not forgetting Félix Baumgartner, driver under the Zenith star, at the wheel of his 1955 Mercedes 300 SL.
Above all, there was the ambience! The vibrations and roar of the engines, the cheers of the spectators and enthusiasts, all brought together in one. Excited, amazed and intoxicated by the moment and the indescribable feeling of being there, in the middle of all this hubbub, conscious of being part of a truly unique experience together. A magical event!
ZENITH AND FELIX BAUMGARTNER – STARS OF THE EVENT
Felix joined Aldo Magada, CEO of the brand, on the Zenith Pop Up stage for an official presentation. Aldo Magada expressed his pride and happiness at the brand being named as the official timekeeper of the competition and at having the opportunity to race with three champions (he would be participating himself as a co-pilot), thereby entering into the legend of the Tour Auto.
Alongside him, Felix asserted his enthusiasm and delight at taking the wheel for Zenith: My main priority is to have fun and enkjoy the ride”.
A final highlight included the presentation of the El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Tour Auto Edition, specially designed for the event. This luxury model with a sporty feel and automotive inspiration embodies all the expertise of Zenith. Designed to be a benchmark chronograph for drivers and classic car enthusiasts alike, the El Primero Chronomaster 1969 Tour Auto Edition is produced as a limited edition of only 500 pieces.
Just a few of the highlights of this truly amazing day! Organisers, partners, competitors and cars alike are ready at last and roaring with impatience to set off on the road!
So, on your marks for this spectacular race, which will feature stages in Vichy (21 April), Clermont-Ferrance (22 April), Toulouse (23 April), Pau (24 April) and Biarritz (25 April).