Competitors make their way through the Auvergne with a lunch stop at a famous chateau and timed laps at ‘the most beautiful circuit in the world’.
After the relatively flat but fast 499km from Paris to Vichy on day one, day two sees Tour Auto running 347km through the rolling hills, vast panoramas and forests of the Auvergne.
As always it’s an early call. The first runners left Vichy at 07:00 (and don’t expect to finish before 17:45).
Instead of hitting the brand new A719 autoroute west to Clermont Ferrand – the day’s final destination, just 72km away – the cars head straight up into the Massif Central by the nearest back road (see map notes below).
Mid-morning was the first Special Stage along the closed D101 north west from Montbrison above the Le Vizezy river.
(The special stage maps are not published until 17:00 the day beforehand.)
Lunch was at Chateau Parentignat outside Issoire, notable for housing the world’s largest collection of 17th and 18th century French masters.
It also features as a stop of the Route of Auvergne Chateaus.
The timed test this afternoon was on the Circuit de Charade, former host of the Grand Prix de France, last held there in 1972 and won by Jackie Stewart.
The hilly 4km track – cut down from its original 8km – has been described as ‘the most beautiful circuit in the world’. It was also the location for some of the filming for the movie Grand Prix, and gave its name to the Daihatsu Charade…
Hopefully the competitors are doing better than us at map reading. Maybe due to a difference in the road numbers between Google Maps and the local maps the organisers are using, the route doesn’t seem to quite match up in places today, particularly that outlying stretch down to Vollore Ville. It’s basically sound though. Meanwhile, we can absolutely vouch for the landscape of the Auvergne. Not spectacular like the Alps, but from the top of the Massif Central plateau the views stretch for miles. By coincidence, we stayed in Ambert once. Hotel cost €60, just across from the market square. The traders woke us up at 05:30 I recall and we had runny cheese for breakfast (and lunch):