Andrew NoakesBy Andrew Noakes

The 17th Guild EuroClassic took place in Normandy from 7 June to 10 June. 

And finally...

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A word about our partners who made the 2018 Guild EuroClassic such a success:

DFDS Seaways for providing the channel crossings between Newhaven and Dieppe that made the event possible

Michelin for their excellent maps of Normandy

Veloce Publishing for providing copies of Julian Parish's book The Essential Guide to Driving in Europe

the staff of the Forges Hotel in Forges-les-Eaux where we were based

and the Guild members without whose efforts the event could not have happened: John Griffiths (and wife Peggy) who spent three days in France researching the driving routes and putting together the road book, and EuroClassic organisers Peter Burgess and Julian Parish who put an enormous amount of effort into planning, preparing and delivering a superb event.

Thank you to them all!

Sunday 9.20am

A V8-engined Triumph TR7 burbles past the hotel as we pack for the final time, ready for the journey back to Dieppe and then the DFDS ferry home.

Paul Buckett's been fixing a smal hydraulic leak on his DS, and dispensing fascinating facts at the same time. If you take the hydraulic valves apart and warm the internals in your hand, he says, they won't fit back together – because the tolerances they are machined to are so fine. The machine tooling for some of the hydraulics must have been sourced in the UK or US because, even though it is a French car, valve dimensions are in inches!

Saturday 2.45pm

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Martyn Morgan Jones' very tidy Porsche 944 Turbo leads the line-up of cars at our final stop, the Bois de Moutiers which features a house created by the famous English architect Edwin Lutyens and grounds laid out by the equally illustrious garden designer Gertude Jekyll. Some of us take a guided tour of the house, while others opt to wander around the gardens, which have the biggest rhododendrons most of us have ever seen. 

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Saturday 12.15pm

There's a parachute club at Dieppe-St Aubin airfield, and as we head north from Val Ygot two of its members are drifting gently into a nearby field with nothing but fresh air and ripstop nylon for support. Lunch is at the Piment Bleu on the D75 at Varengeville-sur-Mer, which has a shop selling local arts and crafts as well as serving an excellent apple and walnut tart.

Saturday 10.05am

John Colley Ferrari F355 GTS

Wouldn't be a Guild EuroClassic without a Ferrari playing up, and John Colley's F355GTS is suffering from a high idle speed. Crud in the mass air flow sensor seems to be the culprit, and John soon has it cleaned out to get the Ferrari back on the road.

There's a surprise extra stop on the morning's run, at Val Ygot. Here, on the quiet D99 between Pommeréval and Bellencombre, lies one of 400 launch sites for the Nazi V1 and V2 rockets in World War 2. Val Ygot launched V1s, which were fired along an inclined ramp by a mixure of hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate, which generated enough force to accelerate the two-tonne rocket to nearly 100mph in just 42 metres. After that the on-board ramjet took over for the flight to Britain. At Val Ygot the launch ramp has been restored and there's a V1 rocket on display, alongside preserved buildings and installations. It's a poignant reminder of the remarkable techology and industry that was expended on the war, by both sides.

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Saturday 8.58am

Crews are assembling for today's programme of events. First a scenic drive north through Pays de Bray and Forêt d'Eawy to Le Piment Bleu at Varengeville for lunch. Then a visit to the gardens and park at Le Bois des Moutiers this afternoon. It's a grey start but we're hoping rain stays away.

Friday 4.15pm

GOMW Harrington Alpine

Last stop of the day is at Château Gaillard, a fortress built by Richard the Lionheart on the banks of the Seine. The sun has broken through now and it's a scorching afternoon, so the climb on foot to the chateau is a hot one - but the views over the river are worth the effort.

Another 30-mile run takes us back to Forges-les-Eaux. Matthew Carter's Alfa SZ passes a perspiring jogger, who turns and looks back in disbelief at the brutal Zagato shape: clearly it's the first time he's encountered Il Mostro in the flesh. Back at base we're ready for this evening's Gala dinner.

Friday 12.30pm

Lunch in the town of Lyons-la-Forêt, where every building seems to be of a different style and every other one seems to be a café. On the way we seem to pass through the village of Rappel several times.

In the courtyard of one hotel just off the main square there's a tidy 1930s Peugeot, complete with characteristically French yellow headlamps:

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Friday 10am

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After a 27-mile run in the early morning mist through gorgeous Normandy countryside and lots of interesting little villages - and one or two wrong turns - we arrive at the château and gather everyone for a group picture.

It's a fascinating place, and we have a guided tour to explain it all. An archive picture on display reveals the cars the owners drove during the 1960s – a Renault Dauphine and a BMW 507. Some of us content ourselves with a walk in the formal garden and a look inside the enormous brick-built dovecote, while others tackle the 107 steps leading to the top of the 12th century octagonal tower where Jeremy Clarke captured this unusual view of the EuroClassic cars:

GOMW Citroen Mercedes

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GOMW Alfa SZ Jaguar Rolls-Royce Citroen Mercedes BMW Porsche

Friday 8.45am

GOMW Peter Burgess Julian Parish

EuroClassic participants assemble in the hotel car park for a briefing on the day's programme from organisers Julian Parish (left) and Peter Burgess (red shirt, right) before it's time to hit the road to Château Vascoeuil.

On the way our convoy passes by roadworks at Mesangueville, where workmen interrupt their vital task of leaning on shovels to gawp at the passing classics.

Friday 7am

Breakfast on day two, where one of us points out that for the individual teapots provided, one teabag is enough - only to be told 'no, one egg is un oeuf'.

The weather is looking good (though there are forecasts of isolated thunderstorms this afternoon):


Thursday 9.33pm

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EuroClassic participants have been reflecting on day one over a buffet dinner at the Forges Hotel and looking forward to tomorrow's programme, outlined by co-organiser Julian Parish (above). There are scenic drives to two châteaux lined up, plus a lunch stop at the beautiful 17th century town of Lyons-la-Forêt. A bientôt!

Thursday 7.48pm

Jeremy Clarke turns his back on his TR6 for a moment to admire a line-up of fine Guild EuroClassic machinery:

Thursday 5.35pm

Matthew Carter snaps his Alfa Romeo SZ alongside another Italian classic, John Colley's Ferrari 355GTS:

Thursday 5pm

Guild of Motoring Writers Martin Derrick Bentley Azure

Martin Derrick's Bentley Azure rolls onto the Forges hotel forecourt and that's all 22 cars accounted for. Co-organiser Julian Parish gives out the last welcome pack – which includes a copy the latest edition of his Veloce book, The Essential Guide to Driving in Europe, and chats to Soheila and William Kimberley about the town of Forges les Eaux and this evening's dinner.

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Thursday 4pm

Guild of Motoring Writers EuroClassic route book

After what the route book says is 38.6 miles – plus one or two navigational SNAFUs for those of us not paying attention, so call it 40 – we get our first look at our base for the next three days. The Forges Hotel in Forges les Eaux looks out over gardens, pools and a golf course, and there's a casino next door to tidy up any spare Euros we might be left with.

While some of us enjoy the gardens and others head for the pool, in the hotel car park Volkswagen's Paul Buckett has his head under the bonnet of his Citroën DS20 Break. "I had a spark plug pop out on the M25 and I wanted to check the other three," he says. He'll be done by dinner, no doubt.

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GOMW Forges Hotel

Thursday 3.30pm

Our hotel is a 90-minute drive away, through verdant Normandy countryside. Quick stop en route to take on "l'essence" for Clive Harrington's Harrington Le Mans Alpine. "Now can I work the machine?" Clive muses, eyeing the pay-at-pump terminal. No problem!

Thursday 2.15pm

The Channel is millpond-smooth for the four-hour crossing, and when we arrive at Dieppe assembled hacks marvel at the manoeuvring skills the ferry captain displays to insert the massive vessel into the tight harbour.

As we hit French soil just after lunchtime there's good news: the sun's come out.

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Jeremy Clarke Instagrammed the view from his Triumph TR6 as he waited to board the ferry this morning. That's the Calibra V6 from Vauxhall's heritage fleet ahead in the hands of Jim and Annie Forrest:


Allons-y! All aboard #gomw #guildclassic

A post shared by Jeremy Clarke (@lawsonclarke) on

Thursday 8.52am

Thursday 7.15am

Guild of Motoring Writers EuroClassic rally plaque

Cars and drivers are arriving at Newhaven, where the Guild EuroClassic boards a DFDS ferry to Dieppe for the first leg of the trip. In pole position is the Porsche 964 cabrio of Guild member Ian Donaldson and wife Jean, who arrived good and early: "They had to open the port for us," says Ian.

Co-organiser Peter Burgess appears in his tidy Lotus Elan and hands out route books and rally plaques for the cars, and it's soon time to bid farewell to a chilly and overcast Newhaven.

Tuesday 4.10pm

andrewnoakes32By Andrew Noakes
Guild Chairman 2016-18

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Over the past few months I’ve had a number of conversations with motor industry PRs which have underlined how they still find cuttings of journalists’ work very useful. Not bits of paper, obviously, but links to news and feature articles you’ve written, or scans of printed work. What I’ve been hearing is that many press offices have had to cut back on media monitoring as a result of budget cuts, and often found the coverage of these cuttings’ services to be patchy anyway. So cuttings supplied by journalists do an important job in informing them of coverage and demonstrating the scope and influence of a specific writer.

Some journalists are very good at regularly sending cuttings of their work to press offices to let them know about coverage. Many of us, me included, wonder where they find the time to do it. So as a response to all this we’ve introduced a new service on the Guild website to make life easier.

If you are logged in to your account you will see a Links and cuttings option in the members' area which will take you to a simple form. All you do is provide a link to your article online, or upload a PDF or a scan of it, and tick the press office(s) you want to send it to. Push the submit button and the system does the rest, automatically sending your article to the right contact at the press office and providing you with a short link to your article (starting…) which you can share with anyone or use on social media.

The form also gives you the option to update your Guild profile with the link to your article – which you need to do regularly to prove you are still eligible for membership.

andrewnoakes32By Andrew Noakes
Guild Chairman 2016-18

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Barely half an hour after I was confirmed as Guild chairman at the Annual General Meeting in May, I was on the receiving end of one member’s opinion that at Guild events you always see the same faces in attendance.

Perhaps not “always”. A few years ago Bentley hosted our AGM in Crewe, and in addition to the stalwarts who can usually be relied on to turn out the event did attract members who were pleased they could attend because the north of England venue was convenient for them. Just a few weeks ago, at our spectacularly successful Big Day Out track day at Castle Combe, there were plenty of less familiar faces among the regulars (and more than a few non-members).

Moving set-piece events like the AGM around the country helps to give more Guild members the chance to attend, and your committee is already cooking up plans for new types of event aimed at a wider range of members’ interests.

But can we do more to ensure the widest possible participation in Guild events? Your ideas are welcome.

andrewnoakes32By Andrew Noakes
Guild Deputy Chairman

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As we waited at Dover for the P&O ferry that would take us to France to begin the 2015 Guild Euro Classic, organiser Paul Harris appeared with rally plates and information packs for all the participants. We all knew he hadn’t been well, and someone asked how he was. “I’ll survive the weekend,” he said, with a rye smile.

What a weekend it proved to be. Some stunning cars, a warm welcome wherever we went, magnificent Champagne scenery, and the odd goblet of the local product, all enjoyed in a convivial atmosphere.

And there, at every location we visited, were Paul and Ann in their white ur-quattro, making sure everything was running smoothly and everyone knew where they had to be. Ferry, road routes, hotel, food, parking spots. In Epernay, a formal procession of the cars through the town which Paul briefed the drivers about (above) with military precision. There were excursions and notes about places of interest along the route, even a quiz at the end – it was all organised faultlessly, and that was largely down to the immense effort Paul put into it. The ‘Classic’ was a huge success.

When Paul said he’d see out the weekend we all chuckled politely at the joke, but there was more truth in what he’d said than any of us wanted to admit. His battle with cancer had taken it’s toll, and the trip to France couldn’t have been easy. Just hours after we all got back, Paul was taken seriously ill and admitted to hospital.

He died yesterday.

Those of us who knew Paul as a friend or a colleague will remember his unflappable dignity and unfailing politeness, the determination to do things right, but also to have fun doing them. He did all of that right to the end.

jasoncraig 32 0384by Jason Craig
Guild Associate member and 2012 MSA Motor Sport Journalist of the Year

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Some people say papers and broadcasters are only interested in motorsport when things go wrong – like the terrible loss of rally driver Simon McKinley at this weekend's Clare Motor Club hillclimb.

But there was good news this weekend too. At Rally Argentina Kris Meeke became the first British driver to win a round of the World Rally Championship in more than a decade. Ironically, the last person to do that was his mentor Colin McRae, back in 2002.

I am hoping the events in Argentina might be a force for good, not just for Citroën driver  Meeke and his co-driver Paul Nagle (celebrating above), but the British and Irish press as a whole.


Meeke wins for McRae

“Everything was fine until we got the end of the last stage. Once we had crossed the line, I was overcome with emotions. It’ll take time for it to really sink in. I didn’t start the rally aiming to fight for the win. I just wanted to have an error-free rally. The seven-week break really helped me. From the shakedown onwards, I felt full of confidence. It was a really difficult race but the DS 3 WRC is a solid and reliable car. All the other guys had problems and we secured a one-two finish. Mads had a fantastic rally as well. I have to thank Yves Matton, who believed in me. He gave me a great opportunity and he has been supportive throughout. This is just the first step in me thanking him for that support. I hope there will be others. This one is for Colin McRae.”  

Lots of positive things have already been reported and said about Meeke’s maiden victory, but the one that stood out for me was made by the man of the moment. Asked at the post-event press conference how he felt after years of trying, the Ulsterman said: “I feel like a 21-year-old again.” And just in case you were wondering, Meeke is actually a happily married 35-year-old.

The significance of the comment is that winning has rejuvenated Meeke and his love for a sport that has been less than kind to him. Going by the news feeds that followed his popular win on Sunday afternoon it’s having the same effect on the media.

Argentina was truly memorable for British motorsport because as Meeke celebrated on the top step of the podium with a tear in his eye, the young Welshman Elfyn Evans was beside him. The M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver secured his first ever top-three finish in the series in South America.

New Zealand ’01 was the last time a pair of Brits shared the podium. Good things come in twos.

On the back of these fantastic achievements my hope now is that the national press has turned a corner as far as their interests in rallying go.

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