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2014 The 5th Eurobalade - 18th October

THE 5th EUROBALADE - SATURDAY 18TH OCTOBER 2014

Having successfully run this event together over the last four years, the Legend Car Organisation France and Kemmel Historic Comite Belgium once again teamed up for this rather special cross-border event, attracting a very good entry of 67 cars, the oldest being a Mercedes 170 of 1950 vintage with the newest being a 2005 Morgan. Unfortunately, we were the only UK crew on the start list – but we still flew the flag with pride!

As in the past, (this was our 4th attempt at this tour), the route would be half in France and half in Belgium, with the small town of Ploegsteert once again acting as the start and finish venue, the town square making an ideal place for all the classic cars to assemble and the Café Hostelerie de la Place providing all the other facilities needed for the event. 

Documentation and a tasty breakfast of croissants and pastries started at 08.30 hours and then there was just an hour before the first car would leave, giving us time to mark up the first half of the road book. As we had discovered on our previous outings on this event, the French Road Book is of the Tulip style, but no distances are shown, just every road junction. So great care must be taken not to miss even the smallest slot, although no through roads, private drives and gravel tracks are excluded.

At 09.30, the beautiful rally-prepared BMW 00 car left the start on what can only be described as a fantastic summer morning (but this is October - crazy weather!), the other cars then being released at minute intervals, with our start number being 20. Leaving Ploegsteert in a westerly direction, we were soon driving on the small quiet country roads of Heuveland and picked up our first code letter. There were 3 types of codes to be recorded on the card, the organisers having fixed letters to the Give Way signs and Road Name signs and, an innovation this year, the card being punched by marshals or ourselves at check points. Ah - memories of early RAC rallies where navigators went into controls and punched their time cards!

Continuing to the west, the route passed through La Crèche and traversed the main A25-E42 Autoroute, followed by a crossing of the main TGV Nord-Europe railway line, where we were treated to the sight of one of these magnificent leviathans silently slicing its way through the countryside at great speed. Just south of Hazebrouck, the route turned to the north for the first refreshment stop of the day at Borre after 44.6kms of driving. To start Leg 2, there was a printed map section to follow that used the maze of roads between Borre and La Buis, finishing just short of the D916. In this section the organisers had used a route description commonly found in the UK - LWAT (long way at triangle) – and we were very pleased to be one of only 10 crews who got this code board!

It was now back to the tulip diagrams that took us across the D916 to the west with more crossings of the TGV lines and then north-east towards Steenvoorde. The route then crossed the autoroute again, passing Winnezeele, to the lunch halt at the nearby L’Oasis Restaurant, this leg adding another 46.18kms to the total. A generous 1.5hr break had been allowed here, which gave the entrants time to enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the sunshine. A splendid 3-course meal of soup, chicken and dessert plus drinks and coffee were served by the efficient waiting staff.

At the appointed hour, the Belgian road books were issued - this time showing mileages and kilometres, with us choosing to set our Brantz to the latter as we find these more accurate. Leg 3 would be 46.6km long and again would use the intricate small roads that abound in this area. In order to make sure crews adhere to the correct route, we now have to record the first three letters of some of the road names which are identified as black squares in the road book, whilst, in addition, there are photographs of parts of buildings and signs that will be passed on the route and have to be recorded on the card. We do have problems with these - but it is part of the fun! The route circled Houterque, then onto Krombeke and Vleteren, where the roads are a delight to drive - lots of junctions and 90’s to keep both crew members occupied. After some designer 3-ply roads of concrete strips with a grass section in the middle, we arrived at the Eurokart Indoor Race Circuit on the outskirts of Poperinge for the afternoon drinks’ break, during which we were entertained by the kart racing taking place – different!

Break over, it was time to tackle the 53.04km of Leg 4 of the tour. Leaving Poperinge behind, we crossed the border into Heuveland and passed through some delightful forest roads with stunning views. Passing round Westouter, we headed for the hills, giving us yet more outstanding vistas on this glorious sunny day. In the Rodeberg area, the route climbed through the vineyards to Loker (yes - vineyards in Belgium!) and, still climbing on the cobbled roads, we passed the 1914-18 French War Monument and into the Kemmelberg forest - a superb area for all sorts of leisure pursuits. A descent was made of the famous Kemmelberg Hill Climb course and on past the Hollemeersch Hotel - the home of the KHC Gapers Tour events. At the top of the hill, the route turned left and gave phenomenal views across the valley that saw so much action in the 1914-18 war. The route then continued from the hills to Witjschate before the final few kms back to Ploegsteert for the last control and a welcome beer!

The results were soon announced and the awards presented, with us finishing 15th overall and again being awarded the trophy for the crew who had travelled the furthest distance to the start. Congratulations to both organising clubs for a superb day’s motoring - for an all-inclusive fee of €70, this tour was indeed very good value. We recommend other UK crews to make the effort to cross the channel and try one of these tours - you will certainly be a given a very warm French and Belgian welcome!

Our sincere thanks to Peter Fieldhouse for all his help in editing and proof-reading our report.

For more information on forthcoming Tours log onto www.classictourdiary.co.uk

Hilary and Mike Stratton plus Dippy - Car 20