Journees d’Automne Is a Favorite Event
Story by Matthew Lange, Photography by Lucile Pillet
In my travels I’ve been to many great classic car events, including the Goodwood Revival, Le Mans Classic, and the behemoth that is Monterey car-week. I love all of those events as each, in there own way, brings something unique to the classic car hobby. However I think my favourite event of all is the much smaller, more intimate Journées d’Automne (Autumn Days).
The Journées d’Automne takes place on the third weekend in October with a straight forward format: a track day is held on the Saturday, with a drive on the scenic back roads taking place on the Sunday morning. Entry is limited to eighty cars.
For the last few years the Journées d’Automne has made its home at the Circuit Des Ecuyers about thirty kilometers west of Reims in the heart of the Champagne region. This is a beautiful part of France with rolling hills and numerous vineyards producing the sparking wine that the region has become so famous for. It also has some excellent country roads ideal for classic cars to stretch their legs. The circuit itself is tight and twisty and a suitable challenge for drivers and entertaining for spectators.
The cars taking part this year were an eclectic mix of pre-1980 cars that ranged from MGBs to pre-war Bentleys. The mix of cars also meant that you were treated to the sight of Bugatti Type 35s on track at the same time as a very enthusiastically driven Alpine Renault A110 and a very fast Porsche Carrera 6. The circuit remained open all day except for lunch (this is France after all) and everyone was free to spend as much or as little time on the circuit as they chose. When not out on the track there was the opportunity to browse some wares from event sponsors Chapal, Briston, Cadot, and Ruby. At the end of the day a four-course dinner was served, followed by prizes at the nearby Château de Nesles.
For me though, Sunday was my favourite part as the cars gathered around 9:00AM in Fére en Tardenois’s main square. After a breakfast of pastries and strong French coffee provided by the organisers, the cars set off on a road route for a morning drive. The 127km route this year took everyone north through the valleys of the Aisne river. Mid-morning and everyone stopped in the centre of the medieval town of Laon for refreshments before heading to the beautiful Château de Courcelles near Soissons for lunch and the conclusion of the event. The route is challenging in places but very enjoyable especially because there was very little traffic on the roads at the time. This year also had the bonus of some weather more commonly experienced in August rather than October, with clear skies and temperatures touching 23c.
The icing on the cake that makes this my favourite event is the people, both the organisers and those invited. Everyone is incredibly friendly and there is a real international mix, with cars coming from France, Belgium, Switzerland, and a growing contingent from the United Kingdom. Language barriers are soon broken down as everyone speaks the common tongue of old cars anyway.
Huge thanks to Etienne Raynaud for the invite.