Le Vendôme 80 Was A Weekend Of Wedge Supercars, Boomboxes, And Everything Eighties
Photography by Romuald Clariond
A few weeks ago, I received a call from my friend Cédric Vaslin, manager of Collection Privée Automobile in the South of France. He was ringing to offer me a spot in Le Vendôme 80, a road rally exclusively for 1980s cars, driven by people who dressed the part. In the sense of period-correctness, it is similar to the Goodwood Revival. In every other, it is not—there is nothing twee to be found in these scenes, and the only tartan to be found was in the interior of a GTI.
The whole thing took place over two days, with the rally traveling from Place Vendôme in Paris, to Vendôme itself, a small town southwest of the city, not far from Orléans. Emmanuel de Brantes had the idea of a rally to promote “French excellency,” but seeing as he’s not that much into the automotive scene, he teamed up with Stéphane Ratel—who very much is—to organize the first edition in 2019 through his company, SRO.
Covid put the kibosh on any attempt last year, but this year it took place during the last weekend of my 30s—what better way to celebrate a milestone in life than time-warping back to childhood? As a product of the 1980s myself, I jumped at Cédric’s offer to join the rally. The two of us have always had fun together with cars, so the idea of sharing his Nissan 300ZX Turbo for the weekend was easy to wrap my head around. In pursuit of more friends and more merriment, I called another friend, André Lotterer (you may know him from his Le Mans wins, or from his film on Petrolicious), to tell him about it. I was sure he’d love the concept, and I was right—his friend Carl Gurdjian had already told him about the rally, and after we talked he entered with his fiancée, Ania Porzuczek, in his tastefully modified Audi Sport Quattro.
After a drive from Côte d’Azur to Paris and a good night on Île de la Cité, it was time to set off from Place Vendôme the following morning. We parked the Nissan before going to registration nearby, where we caught up with even more of our buddies, Jean-Pierre Gagick, Matthieu Lamoure, and Calim Bouhadra, who were driving with their wives Laetitia, Maïa, and Anna, with a BMW 635 CSi, a Ferrari 412, and one of the most certifiably ’80s creations out there, a Vector W8! We departed Place Vendôme in the early afternoon, and on the way out of Paris we found ourselves in a convoy that included a Renault 5 Turbo 2, Lamborghini LM002, and a BMW M1. In other words, not a bad start to a good weekend.
We made a pit stop outside of the city and found ourselves joined by a Ferrari F40, 512 TR, and the white Lamborghini Countach driven by organizer Stéphane Ratel along with Juliette Joffre. We stuck together from that point forward, driving mostly in the rain as we headed to Les Sources de Cheverny, which would be our home base for the weekend.
We arrived just before the concours d’élégance, which took place in front of a jury made up of Emmanuel de Brantes, singer & actress Lio, and jewelry designer Laetitia Crahay. Far from the rigid judging of typical concours, this was a much more laid back and strictly for-fun affair. Case in point, the team that really nailed it for the crowd was Aby Hay and Lucy Hart, who put on choreographed performance of “It’s Raining Men” next to their brown Renault 5 Turbo 2 that they had driven from the UK, dressed like they’d just left the set of Flashdance.
After the “concours,” we had a nice dinner at the hotel where I managed to catch up with Aymeric Poujol, a fellow car nut I had met a few years ago on another rally—for this one, he was driving an Isdera Imperator 108i Series II along his wife Anne-Sophie. The following morning, after a breakfast of champions (lots of coffee and not much else), we embarked on the most eventful day of the rally towards Château de Valençay. Along the way, we had to find four spots showcased in the road book, and take funny photos there. Driving amazing cars and taking none of it seriously; what a way to spend some time. I enjoy escaping from reality at prestigious events and whatnot, but having fun with friends in cars trumps everything else.
During lunch, as I’m asked about Discotheque Le Laser logo that I wore on my T-shirt and stuck on the back of our Nissan, I explain to my table that Nick, a friend of mine, runs a blog about that imaginary nightclub from the ’80s in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. I also have him to thank for printing the vintage-style NISMO shirts that we wore in the 300ZX Turbo. André loved the concept of an imaginary nightclub of the past as well, and should have received a sticker from Nick by the time these lines are released. He’s really into everything ’80s, and he and Ania had a suitcase full of outfits scored from a vintage shop in Aix-en-Provence, with some items from their own collections; André was rocking Ania’s dad’s Carrera Porsche Design sunglasses, and his own dad’s Heuer Audi Sport watch, for instance.
In the afternoon, we made our way to Château de Chambord for a visit, where cocktails were awaiting us on the huge terrace between the towers, followed by another one down the stairs in the garden before we enjoyed dinner inside. Our meal was followed by a party with the decade’s most popular and best music (not one in the same, in most cases), emanating from the main speakers and many a boombox shared among friends.
On the final morning, we checked out from the hotel after a few hours of sleep, and made a loop towards the finish in Vendôme via the beautiful home of Le Fresne. We had our share of driving fun on the little countryside roads, but perhaps it’s better to not go into too much detail on that… I’ll just say that Cédric’s turbo Nissan surprised me!
After a brunch at Vendôme’s city hall, it was time to head back to the French Riviera. Cédric was just a blast to rally with that whole weekend, and I couldn’t have wished for someone else to have spent the majority of it with. In addition to the friends who make fun times into true memories, I’d like to thank Emmanuel, Stéphane, Valérie, Sophy, and the rest of the SRO crew for organizing this special weekend—count me in for the next one!