Date: 17 September, 2017
Location: English Channel - Cote d’Azur (France).
The Blue Train Challenge is a new Endurance Rally Association event from the same creators of the successful Flying Scotsman and Alpine Trial. Designed for vintage motoring enthusiasts with both pre-1948 vintage vehicles and early post-war ‘Rivera Sports Cars’.
The Blue Train Challenge aims to recreate the series of record-breaking attempts that took place in the 1930s – a time when motorists raced either their own or sponsored vehicles and aimed to beat the famous ‘Train Bleu’ on its journey across France. The Blue Train Bentley’s (two Bentley Speed Six’s) owned by "Bentley Boy" Woolf Barnato were often involved in the races.
Day One: Deauville to Cannes
The journey starts in Deauville, before heading south to Calvados and then heading to the Alpes Mancelles – which draws more comparisons to the Cotswolds than the Alps!
Motorists will then carry on to Le Mans before speeding south again to the Lorie Valley before ending the day’s travel at Fontevraud l’Abbaye – which was once the largest abbey in France, founded by Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aqutaine.
Day Two: Fontevraud to Vichy
Motorists will follow the rivers Vienne and Creuse across the barren heart of France. There will then be a place to stop for lunch before heading East to the Northern edge of the Massif Central, which has dramatic volcanic peaks and meandering roads.
The twisting roads here provide the first real challenge to the motorists before they slip into the Spa Town of Vichy for a welcome meal and place to stay at the Hotel Celestins.
Day Three: Vichy to Lyon
Day three’s run is relatively relaxed in comparison to the other days, so motorists will be primarily exploring the woodland heights of the Monts de la Madeline before crossing the Lorie again and heading into the hills of the Beaujolais.
After lunch, the route crosses the Saône before motorists can enjoy their break at a motor museum in an 18th Century Chateaux before an untimed run leads them to their overnight hotel stay.
Day Four: Lyon to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Once clear of Lyon, there is a climb to Mount Pilat as well as the remote hills of the Ardèche - which has been primarily regarded as the heartland of French motorsport for years.
Motorists will then cross the mighty Rhône, south of Valence before entering the Drôme – which is a landscape flanked by hills, vineyards and lavender fields. In the south is Mount Ventoux – which feature staggering views from its 2000m summit. The Alps are to the North and East whereas the glistening Mediterranean is to the South.
Day Five: L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to Cannes
Day Five features the final push to the Cote d’Azur. Villages lie across the Southern edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse, before participants’ push on across the Durance, Lac St Croix and into the Grand Canyon du Verdon – which is second largest in the world!
Then motorists will finally veer over Plan de Canjeurs, which will reveal the more familiar Southern landscape of France until the journey reaches its end in Cannes.
54 participants have already been confirmed with a vast number of Bentley’s and Alvis’ competing in the rally.