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THE GAPERS HISTORIC TOUR - 27th MARCH 2014

Before we start our report on the 13th running of The Gapers Historic Tour, we would like to say a few words about a wonderful old car museum we discovered during our weekend in Belgium. The name is Bossaert and it is located on the main N8 road which runs from Veurne to Ypres, the address being Tempelare 12 B-8647 Reninge www.oldtimermuseum.be The museum is privately-run and was started in the 1960’s by the Bossaert family. It has a magnificent collection of over 95 cars and 25 motorcycles, with many unique models all tastefully displayed in a large hall. A visit here is well worth the journey. We even found a Time Control board there from The 3 Castles Trial! - now how did that get there?

Now to the Tour. A full entry of 150 cars assembled at the usual start venue of the De Hollemeersch in Dranouter. This hotel is close to the Kemmelberg sprint course and sits high on the hill, overlooking the valley that played a large part in the World War 1 activities. After a filling continental breakfast, there was time to mark up the very comprehensive road book with instructions in Dutch, French and English. Even the distances were in kms and miles - a lot of attention to detail here. As with other Continental events, there were 12 pictures of signs or parts of buildings that had to be recorded on the time card in the order they were passed. Also, at certain junctions a solid black box is shown on the tulip instruction - here the first 3 letters of the road name are also to be recorded. Cars with more than two people on board do have an advantage with the extra eyes!

The first car left Main Control 1 at 09.15 hours, heading in south-westerly direction, taking in some very testing and interesting roads. A new feature for the route this year was that 70% of the tour would take place on French roads. Passing through Loker, Rodeberg and Westouter, we headed for the outskirts of Poperinge - better known to the English soldiers as Pops. From here, we were crossing the French-Belgian border with constant regularity with road names changing from Weg to Rue - all good fun! From Boeschepe in France, the roads became hillier and this gave us some stunning views of the countryside - even the odd WW1 concrete pill box still sitting by the roadside! The route now ran along a very nice ridge road before dropping down on the D318 into the small town of St. Jans Cappel, where the sports hall was used for the first drinks’ stop of the tour.

Back to the action and more changes of country took place as we passed through Meteren - a very good job there are no longer any border crossings to be dealt with - our passports would have been worn out by the end of the day! Next on the agenda came La Rouge Croix, which was followed by some very interesting 3-ply roads that were very reminiscent of Wales. The next place of note was Hondegem, which then led the route to the lunch halt at Hazebrouck. The chosen watering-hole was a huge bowling alley with a superb function room and, at midday, the French staff served a fantastic cold buffet lunch to all the competitors and organisers with military precision.

In order to keep convoys of cars to the minimum, the team issued each crew with a time when the second part of the roadbook could be collected - another great idea! With that marked up, we left Hazebrouck behind and continued in a northerly direction via Les Cinq Rues. Still heading north via Terdeghem, the roads became very challenging - with countless 90 degree bends. A short hop back into Belgium at Watou and – yes! - you have guessed - right back for another crossing to France at Houterque.

From here we passed through the village of windmills that were very scenic in the afternoon sun. More Welsh-type 3-ply roads brought the route to a short run on the main N308. Near the village of Proven, organiser Vincent had set up a control to collect our time cards. So, no more clues to look for now and we can enjoy the roads and countryside to the next drink stop at Poperinge. The local sports hall was used for this rest break, which again was very suitable for the large entry. There was an enforced break until 16.30 hours here, as one of the chosen roads was being used for a cycle race - but no problems as the rest in the sun was very welcome!

From Poperinge, the route headed due south and into the small town of Kemmel, which was soon followed by the return to start hotel. At 18.15 hours the awards were presented and we had managed to finish 34th out of 150 and picked up the award for the furthest-travelled competitor. Congratulations to Vincent, Dirk and all the members of the Kemmel Club for putting on another fantastic tour! A route of 170 km with 289 tulip diagrams on very quiet country roads in both countries was just the right recipe. The roadbooks and paperwork were first-class and distances matched our Brantz meter to the hundredth. For an entry fee of just €70 for a crew of 2 that included the tour, souvenir rally plate, drinks, breakfast and lunch, we considered this excellent value and would recommend other UK crews to take a trip across the Channel and sample one of the Kemmel events.

More information can be found on www.kemmelhistoric.be and www.classictourdiary.co.uk

 

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

 

Hilary and Mike Stratton plus Dippy

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