Brooklands team joins in the fun at French Grand Prix Retro rally

Martin Gegg visits a captivating event in the Loire Valley town of Puy Notre-Dame

The 22nd Grand Prix Retro Le Puy Notre-Dame, showcasing pre-war vehicles, took place over the weekend of July 21-22, and UK participants included the Brooklands Museum Motorcycle Team, who sponsored the transport of museum motorcycles to the idyllic town of Puy Notre-Dame, nestled among the vineyards and sunflower fields of the Loire Valley.

In the gathering gloom, this was what the motorcycle paddock at Le Puy Notre-Dame looked like.

I decided to go along after hearing about this delightful excuse to tear around the roads of the little French village, where apparently the locals don’t worry about noise until late into the evening and are quite happy to have the village roads closed for two-and-a-half days.

The proof of this statement is the fact that this event has now been running for 22 years.

Jim Anderson (left) sits astride the 1926 348cc Rex Acme/Blackburne that was ridden by David Whitworth in pre-war races at Donington and Brooklands. In his hands, the bike made a name for itself as a giant-killer, and after the war it was ridden by the late ‘Titch’ Allen in a number of events and sprints, including achieving a standing quarter in 18.01 seconds in 1972. Ian Dabney said the French were particularly impressed with the age of the machine, but Jim revealed that the relatively small tank and thirsty Blackburne engine led to him running out of fuel on the second run. On the right is Ian Dabney on a 1938 Brooklands 350cc OK Supreme/JAP that was restored from a pile of bits by a member of the Motorcycle Team at Brooklands Museum. The unusual blue colour is correct for racing OK Supremes.

On the Friday evening, the village hosted a street party for participants, and next day the entrants with road-registered machines took part in a 30km tour of the wine region with a stop for lunch.

One of my compatriots, VMCC Abingdon marque specialist Bill Whiteley, emulated the racers of the past by riding his 300cc 1930 Abingdon King Dick both on track and back to his base 13km along the road. Just two weeks before, the little AKD had been just another static exhibit at The London Motorcycle Museum.

Read more and view more images in the September 2018 issue of OBM – on sale now!

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