Any pretrol head fears winter break. Obviously, after a breathless motoring season, this period is a synonym of nothingness and boredom. Of course, it allows you to share some good moments in family. But after Christmas time, week-ends appear much longer.
It also offers the opportunity to spend time in the workshop, in order to prepare the upcoming season. However, you manage to fixe mechanical issues by the end of January. Once the cleaning job done, the only thing to do is to seat behind the steering-wheel and dream of better days.
The road seems very long until March. As a consequence, it becomes necessary, if not vital to find something to do. Classic car shows are always a good idea, but soon not sufficient. You start to look on internet for events but the classic car scene looks desperately calm and empty.
But, you remember someone recommended you the Fagnes Hivernales. The registration from is still available on their website. You register.
Les Fagnes Hivernales : a week-end lost in the Belgian Ardennes.
Fagnes Hivernales take place each February, in the Belgian Ardennes. This year, we took the start in Malmedy. Spa-francorchamps regulars may recognize the town situated near the famous racetrack.
For the others, including our cherished texans redneck readers, let’s do a bit of geography. Belgium is a small country located between France and Netherlands, mostly renowned for its beer and its chips. Ardennes are a mountains chain, covered by a vast tall fir forest, situated in the East of Belgium. Fagnes constitutes the north region of the Ardennes, shared between Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. Mostly constituted of moors and forest, it is (very) sparsely populated, and offers a dream playground for any road trip lover.
I know, you would have chosen national geographic if you wanted to discover Belgium landscapes. So, let’s go back to cars.
The 60th Fagnes Hivernales, a fantastic prewar rally
The Royal Veteran Car Club Belgium is a club pretty active on the prewar car scene. The Fagnes Hivernales constitues one of their major events and appears to be an institution. Indeed, it celebrated its 60thanniversary.
As it name indicates, the rally takes place in the north part of the Ardennes descrive above. It is a vast area which allows intinerary changes each year. The scenery is high level, alternating between wild countryside and dense forest, always with a lot of elevation.
The program was particularly exceptionnal this year, as the organizers proposed two different trips. A small one for the veterans (the cars, not the drivers). And a longer for the most recent cars.
This encouraged 5 brave pre-1905 owners to come. Among their drivers, the Mahy family was well represented, father & mother driving a Cottereau 1902, son and daughter-in-law being at the wheel of a stunning Humbrette 1904.
Vincent, the son, kindly took the time to explain me how his purple bolide works. He has to manually pump oil each 4 or 5 kilometres in order to lubricate the engine. His father went to England by road from Belgium in order to participate to the London Brighton with his Cottereau. It must be quite an adventure!
Les Fagnes Hivernales is also a reconstitution of the good old days traffic
Thirty courageous teams participated this year. The road book was organised in a manner that fastest cars met 5 or 6 times slowest ones. This allowed few overtakes on the road. As a consequence, the rally looked like a goold old day traffic reconstitution, with all sorts of machines on the road. Despite only convertibles were eligible. I believe a such animated rally is a good thing for the veteran drivers. Indeed, they probably have the felling to be fully included in the event.
A motorbike completed the grid. A nicely preserved Prailet & Antoine monocylinder, from 1923. Its driver, who wore clear gears and helmets, looked terrific at its wheels. He managed to follow the whole big trip.
On the other hand, Luc, a dutch participant, entered a stunning white Talbot London registered PL2, with an extensive race history, including a Le Mans participation as a practice car in 1930. Its 6 cylinder 2,3L engine, was able to deliver 93 BHP with a 10:1 compression set up. It ran several times brooklands, finishing two times first, and three times second !
To finish, on of my favorites will remain a fabulous black Hotchkiss AM80. This is why it is present twice in picture in this article. Will you recognized it ? And what to say about this majestic green De Soto Six fitted with whith pneumatics ?
Contact, Moteur, et santé!
During the whole week-end, I’ve been particularly impressed by the seriousness of the organization. The road book, written in 3 languages, indicated us the most traffic less and exotic roads of the area. Our trip was punctuated of mechanical pauses where foods and drinks were provided by volunteers. And at mid-day, a lunch was held in the middle of the campaign. People set a fire for the occasion. People in a big tent prepared a meal for the occasion.
On the evening, friendship was the master word. Before to drink the champagne, the formula “contact, moteur et santé” (ignition, engine and good health) was repeated by the whole group, giving to the event a feeling of family reunion. I have to say, that for our first participation, we have been warmly welcomed, with no gates or closed groups. It is for sure, a must-go event.