On Thursday 9 June 2016 a number of members started their trip to Reims a day early by staying at the Holiday Inn in Folkestone, in order to be closer to the Eurotunnel on Friday morning. I worked in the morning but finished at midday. My wife, Jackie, had also worked a half day at home and was ready for the off when I returned. We had packed the previous evening. We loaded up the car and, as it was a nice afternoon, Jackie suggested we drop the hood. I’m glad she did as, upon doing so, we encountered a problem with the passenger side window. It went down halfway, stopped and wouldn’t go up or down no matter what I did.
Obviously this needed to be resolved before going off to France, so en-route I called into Grange Motors at Brentwood. Mick Burgess on the service desk pulled out the stops and got his technician, Dean, on the job almost immediately. It was discovered that the wiring loom behind the door panel had got caught up in the window mechanism and cut some of the wires, including the window winding power. Thanks to Grange Motors we were soon back on the road to Folkestone.
On reaching the perimeter road to the Holiday Inn at Folkestone, there is a Tesco filling station. It was deemed appropriate to fill up with fuel as we had heard that there had been petrol shortage in France, due to labour disputes. On topping up and paying at the kiosk, the attendant asked “Are you off to Reims too?” I was surprised. However it became evident that fellow members staying at the hotel had done the same and, as they were all classics, they could not help but be noticed.
That evening, we all walked off to the Britannia Inn in Cheriton, for an evening meal. The landlord, Nigel Cooper, had prepared our food request and laid on a super dinner for us all. Some members stayed on for some evening drinking and Nigel volunteered to transport some back to the hotel in his car, only he ended up undertaking four trips. This was a really good start to our long weekend break.
On arrival at the Eurotunnel terminal on Friday morning, we encountered problems inasmuch as we had been issued with 7-digit codes for the automated entry system, but 8 digits were needed to enter the site. However, we all eventually met up inside the site. John & Lynn Squibb were the last to arrive, but encountered problems with their car. It appeared they had trouble with their fuel pump and unfortunately were unable to continue with us. The breakdown service had to be called out to transport them back home.
Arrangements were made to have a vehicle escort to the train and we lined up all together in one of the lanes. A very impressive Jaguar lineage which other travellers experienced and commented on.
Having reached France, the drive down to Reims was warm and sunny and we had the hood down all the way. We had arranged to stop off at a fuel station and picnic area just off the motorway, about an hour into our journey. By this time it was lunch time anyway.
On arrival at the hotel, we were met by Véronique Garcia from the Mercure sales department. We were let into the underground garage complex, where bays had been marked up with the club logo for us to park our vehicles.
Saturday was a free day for members to do their own thing. Word had got around that there used to be a racing circuit at Reims: the Circuit de Reims – Gueux. The 7,826 metre long circuit, which drove through Gueux, was first used in July 1926 for the second Marne Grand Prix organised by the Champagne Argonne RAC. Six years later, the French RAC used it for the ACF Grand Prix and the first official World Championship Formula race took place in 1950. The circuit was in use up until 1972. Many famous racing drivers raced at this circuit including Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark and Graham Hill, to name just a few.
A number of members took their cars to the remains of the circuit which is now a public road. The pits still have names above them, but only one manufacturer’s name remains: Jaguar!
One other aspect of the Circuit de Reims – Gueux, is that a plaque was erected there by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust in 2006. The text reads: “Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton driving a Jaguar D Type won the 12 hour race on 4th July 1954 gaining a maiden victory for the D-Type. Duncan Hamilton and Tony Roult came in second in another D-Type while Roger Laurent and Jacques Swaters driving a Jaguar C-Type came in third. During this period a number of well known drivers including Stirling Moss, Ivor Bueb and Mike Hawthorn also won victories on this most famous circuit. This plaque was erected in September 2006 by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust to acknowledge the drivers’ achievements.”
On Sunday, the group met up and had a guided coach tour of Reims, followed by a trip to Taittinger champagne house, including a tasting. From there, we went on to have lunch at a restaurant in the town before visiting the Reims car museum where over 200 cars, motorcycles and other vehicles were on display. The museum which was once a factory, is the home to a survivor of the S.C.A.R. Automobile plant based at Witry-les-Reims, as well as many other prestigious names. We finally ended up at the Reims Cathedral for our final guided tour. On Monday half the group stayed on for a further day while the other half hit the road and headed back to Calais, stopping off at Eurocity for topping up the drinks cabinet at home. An enjoyable weekend was had by all.