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Euro-Balade - 19th Oct 2013

EURO-BALADE - Saturday 19th October 2013
Welcome to our report on the 4-ième Euro-Balade event, jointly organised by the Belgian Kemmel Historic Comite and the French Legend Car Organisation teams. As in the past, these two clubs shared the responsibilities for this October event that runs half in Belgium and half in France and the start venue was the Café Hostelerie Place in the small Belgian town of Ploegsteert, close to the French border

The market square was taken over by the 70+ entrants from France and Belgium, with just ourselves from England. The wide variety of classic cars was quite an attraction for the local people who were going about their business on this warm October morning. After signing on, it was time to take breakfast and check out the paperwork for the first half of the event. Once again, the road book - produced in Flemish, French and English - was of the ‘tulip style’ that is now familiar on tour events, but - an extra touch - the distances were shown in both miles and kilometres. 

At 09.30, the first car was flagged away from the start for Leg 1, which would be 50kms in length. To make sure the entrants follow the prescribed route, we were given two sheets of photographs of signs and items we would pass en route and the code for each one was to be recorded in order on the time card as they were passed. Also, at certain junctions, the first three letters of the road name were also needed on the card. We were soon into the swing of things - eyes everywhere looking for the clues - with a lot of success! 

You may remember that our report on this event last year contained frequent references to the word ‘modder’ - the Flemish for mud. It is that time of the year when the farmers cut the maize - and their vehicles do leave a large portion of the field on the road! Good practice for winter driving though! 

The roads chosen for Leg 1 were just perfect - very quiet and mostly traffic-free. Despite the ‘modder’, we passed through some very nice forest areas and, after 56 tulip diagrams, we arrived in the charming town of Dadizele for the first rest halt of the day. 

Café De Kroon was the venue to refresh the crews and prepare them for Leg 2 - another 50kms. Once again, the cars, parked in the main street, did make a wonderful sight for the locals. Break over, it was now time to get back to the route and look for more clues and road names. Leg 2 included some more superb roads, still heading in a north-easterly direction towards Ypres. We passed by a number of the memorable World War 1 sites - Tyne Cot and Hill 60 being two that we thought were particularly impressive. A few kilometres east of Ypres lies the Restaurant De Palingbeek - a wonderful place, set in a forest area that was to host the lunch break for Euro-Balade. We were served a first-class roast meal with drinks in very quick time, which gave the crews time to relax before embarking on Part 2 - Leg 3. 

The road book for the second half was given to us as we departed from the Lunch Out Control. We chose to drive a short distance and then park up for Hilary to make her highlighting marks on the junctions. We were still being guided round by tulip diagrams, but there were now no distances between the tulips, so care had to taken not to miss a single slot. And, to prove we had followed the organisers’ required path, there were code letters to be recorded on the time card. These were stuck to give-way signs or road name signs. The route took off in a southerly direction, crossing the main N58 and then into France at Warneton (Wasssteen). 

This small corner of France, bounded by Comines in the north, Bondues in the east and with Quesncy-Sur-Deule in the middle, is just a maze of small country farm roads - ideal country for a motoring event! Near Le Colombier, Leg 3 came to an end with an afternoon drinks’ break and a short 15-minute rest halt in another very nice hostelry. Although we were not using miles or kms on this section, our Brantz was showing 49.81km and we had to cope with finding 88 junctions during this distance. 

Break over, it was time to set forth on the last leg of the day. The bad news was that the rain had started; the good news - no more clues to find as the last time card had been handed in - so sit tight and enjoy the ride! For us, this did nearly finish the event when we met a very large tractor and trailer on a particular tight bend - with more ‘modder’ to cope with! Fortunately, we came to a halt with just inches to spare - no harm done then! Hilary did remark that we could have driven under the tractor - but the trailer may have been a problem! 

Whilst we were having fun on the last leg, Vincent and the team were using the time to calculate the results. We passed through the village of La Daquerie and then, at Tulip 11, there was a triple caution given! It was a straight to ‘T’ and then left, but if you missed this and went straight on, the ditch was big enough swallow a car! Another maze of roads took the route round Verlingen and onto Frelingenhien, where we crossed back over the border into Belgium. The autumn colours in this area were of particular note; even in the rain they were quite breathtaking. Re-crossing the main N58, the route continued to the west for a last loop of roads round Ploegsteert, to finish back at the start venue and the last drinks’ break. 

Within a short time of the last car finishing, the results were announced and we were very pleased to have finished in 18th place and given the award for the crew who had travelled the furthest distance to the start. Congratulations to the two organising clubs and the marshals that helped such a marvellous event take place. We would recommend other UK crews to take a trip across the Channel and try one of these events: they are extremely good value and only one hour’s drive from Calais. For an entry fee of just €70 for a crew of 2, we had the event, superbly accurate road book, rally plate, breakfast, lunch and vouchers for 4 drinks each. 

On top of this is the warm Belgian and French welcome that we received free of charge!

Our sincere thanks to Peter Fieldhouse for proof reading and editing our report.

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Hilary and Mike Stratton plus Dippy - Car 24