Photo Album: 24 Hours Offroad France

Last weekend we had a chance to hang out in the paddocks at the 20th edition of the 24 Hours Offroad France (link to the 24 Heures Tout Terrain site in French) in Chevannes about 40 kilometers south of Paris. This event is a little different than those we usually cover on the blog. There was no truck category, but many of the people there also participate in desert rally-raid so we thought it might also be of interest to our readers who share that passion too.

The highlight for us was having a chance to meet René Metge, three-time winner and director of the original Paris-Dakar Rally and currently organizer of the Africa Eco Race. Despite his legendary status in the rally world, we were impressed by his down-to-earth demeanor and approachability.

One of our friends, Sylvain Mauttret of LM 4×4, was race manager for the only all-woman team in the race. Cécile Douchez, Nadège Oboeuf, Adeline Jallet and Nathalie Lecoultre took turns in the cockpit of their Nissan Patrol, placing 31st out of 66 vehicles finishing the race.

Radio/TV personality and producer Jean-Luc Reichmann, who is also Nathalie Lecoultre’s husband, stayed close by to support the team. We didn’t bivouac at the race, so we didn’t see any of the night action, but every time we went by the tent, he was always there following closely and waiting to take pictures with his iPhone when the car came in for a pit stop or driver change. We didn’t speak with him, but he seemed very gracious, kindly signing autographs and posing for photos with everyone who asked.

On Saturday afternoon one of the cars, a Nissan Pathfinder, caught fire. We didn’t see or hear exactly what happened, but we were watching the race from the paddock and saw the smoke directly in front of us on the other side of the track.

Although it seemed to take a long time, the firefighters arrived quite quickly, and the fire seemed to die down. An announcement over the loudspeaker informed everyone that the driver had gotten out of the vehicle and was ok.

We thought everything was over, but about 10 minutes later, the fuel tank exploded.

For security reasons, the race was suspended and the circuit neutralized for over an hour.

Later in the afternoon, we got a few pictures of the car being towed back to the paddock.

On Sunday, we found it on a trailer parked behind the tents.

The course was an 11 kilometer dirt track.

When the race was over, we were surprised to see the track, which after 24 hours was no longer just a dirt track but was covered with a layer of rubber built up from the thousands of passages of 4×4 tires.

Out of the 90 cars that started the race, 24 were forced to abandon, including the team of Jean-Louis Schlesser’s buggy. When we arrived on Sunday morning, the car was one of the first things we saw in the parking lot behind the paddocks.

One of the rear wheels had come loose during the race, and the A-arm was torn off.

Here are some other photo highlights of the race.

As often happens, a professional photographer sees we’ve spotted a good photo opportunity and horns in to get his shot.

Between the track and the parking lot, a miniature course had been laid out for radio-controlled 4x4s.

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