Grand Prix Bugattis star at La Vie en Bleu

| 28 May 2012

Prescott hillclimb was awash with Gallic machinery for the sixth La Vie en Bleu on 26-27 May, with everything from vintage cyclecars to a new electric Renault Twizy at the hugely popular French-themed meeting.

A raft of sports cars and single-seaters gamely tackled the famous Gloucestershire climb on the British-focused first day, as Lotus Elans and Elises lined up with TVRs, Cooper-JAPs, Austin-Healeys and MGs.

The TVRs in particular went down well with the enthusiastic crowd, their mixture of rumbling soundtrack and precarious handling providing compelling viewing.

Fastest time of the day went to Tony Wallen, who set a rapid 41.14 secs best in his Ford-powered Lotus 69 Formula 3 car.

A healthy Latin contingent included the Ferrari Owners’ Club, which turned up in force with numerous F355s, 308GTBs, a Dino and a 430.

Meanwhile, a Bugatti Veyron demonstrated its ability to spin all four wheels at will – not always a good idea as it proved after a minor off on the second corner (fortunately without damage).

A static display of Type 51 Bugattis gave a flavour of what was to come on Sunday, when ripping calico replaced V8 roar with a glorious turnout of Molsheim’s GP cars.

The Light Car Section of the Vintage Sports-Car Club brought a fascinating gaggle of mainly Gallic vehicles including a beautiful 1934 Sandford three-wheeler, a Vernon Derby, several Amilcars and a 1920 Tamplin.

Mike Bullett marked a double celebration with his Bédélia, one of two at the event. “The car shares my birthday,” he enthused. “I was 77 yesterday and it was 100.”

He’s owned the JAP-powered tandem two-seater – with the driver behind the passenger – for more than 20 years: “It was extremely troublesome for the first 10 years, but now we’re getting it tamed.”

The Bédélia features variable-tension belt-drive plus wire-and-bobbin steering, which historian David Burgess-Wise once likened to the reins of a horse. ‘The Bédélia is probably the supreme example of a blind alley,’ he wrote.

There were plenty of younger rarities to be found among the Alpine, Citroën and Peugeot club displays.

An outstanding Renault Heritage group included Alasdair Worsley’s 750 (built under licence by Renault in Acton, London), Martin Aldridge’s Frégate saloon and Graham Jackson’s R12 Gordini, which proudly bears the signature of Renault legend Jean Ragnotti.

“It was rallied extensively in its early days, first by Pole Marek Baranski, and came second in class on the ’78 Welsh International,” he explained. “There are probably only one or two on the road in the UK.”

Parisian Fifi la Mer (below) provided the perfect soundtrack as she sang contemporary French tunes – Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose, of course – accompanied by the 10kg accordion that she happily lugged around in the 25ºC heat.

There was even a Can-Can troupe, which drew a big crowd for its Sunday lunchtime performance. Magnifique!

See here for more info about Prescott.