When I was in the classic car garage of Edward van Zanten (Peugeauto) for the first time in 2018, I noticed the beautiful photos and prices of this classic car event in Greece in a display cabinet and on the wall. When I asked about it and Edward enthusiastically told his story, I never expected that a year and a half later I would have participated myself with the 203
Since I don’t have a tow bar and the car train from Dortmund to Verona only runs until September 15, the only option was to drive to Greece. In order to get to the boat in Ancona (Italy) which sails to Patronas (Greece) we had to drive 1,580 kilometers crossing 6 different countries.
With the participation of the Tour du Péloponnèse 2019 we covered an additional 1,295 km in 7 days on this beautiful and largest peninsula in Greece, mainly on the back roads. This wonderful tour ended in Athens for the award ceremony and a gala dinner. And then of course we drove back to the Netherlands again at 90 km per hour.
But I was not the only peugeot who has made this trip from the Netherlands, because of the 55 teams, no less than 10 came from the Netherlands. And what makes it extra unique is that 6 of them participated in a Peugeot and we were the best represented brand after Alfa Romeo with our lions.
The boat to Ancona left on Saturday 28 September, but it is a kind of tradition that many participants from various countries in Europe meet each other on Friday in Bologna for dinner. Most people drive the distance to Bologna in 2 days, so they left on Thursday.
Fortunately, we had the luxury that the trip to Greece was also our holiday, so we left on Sunday and drove in a wonderfully relaxed manner and visited beautiful places such as Metz, Nancy, Mulhouse, Lucerne, Como and Bologna and took beautiful roads instead of the highway and non-stop driving.
The boat trip to Patras takes 22 hours and we also met many of the Italian participants. The arrival day (16:00) is really just to drive to the first hotel and have a bite to eat first. Then the tour starts with a welcome speech with a short explanation, after which the cars are registered. In addition to the necessary papers (insurance, driver’s license, etc.), the technical condition of the cars is also checked and whether other requirements are met (fire extinguisher, first aid kit, safety vest, warning triangle, etc.).
You can also register as a team for an extra price. The offer to drive in team Peugeauto before we left and get the car technically checked by Edward (and free use of his facility, tools and expertise) is of course a yes straight away. Besides the Peugeauto stickers on the car also look super cool off course!
I thought my car was in reasonable order, but the check showed that the silent blocks of the steering rod were broken, so they were replaced. My almost new front tires were slightly cupped and the car had to be aligned. To keep an eye on the engine during the race, Edward has fitted an oil pressure gauge and temperature gauge. It also turned out that the radiator had some blockages in the channels and it was replaced by a revised one with a new cooling block. To create extra cooling, an electric cool fin was mounted.
On the last day of racing is the famous night stage. In 2018 (in a VW beetle of the organization) we made a navigation error due to lack of light (and experience). So this year light was one of the top priorities, so I bought a 2nd grill, to which Edward welded lamp mounts and arranged the wiring so that within a minute I can change between my original grill or the rally version.
Monday was the official start in Ancient Olympia, where we arrived better prepared this time. Good pens, markers, a good calculator and distance app (since we don’t have any mechanical measuring equipment). Furthermore, 2 timers, reading light and the USB port was already built in, so the dashcam could also run for reporting.
During the day there are 3 to 4 special stages, where you have to be at a certain time with the help of the road book. In the morning during the start you will receive a form with information about where on the route this stage is located and what time you have to start there (self-start).
In the example below you can see in the third photo that we have to start a special stage exactly 12 minutes after the start somewhere in box 148. As soon as we get the start signal, we start our timer so that we know when to start the self-start.
If you don’t start 1st, the self-start is easy to recognize, because there are usually already some cars waiting for their time to start (in case you miss the sign and the line on the road). 1 minute before the start we put our front tire on the line on the road and wait until the timer shows 12 minutes and start driving. The assignment is to drive 38km/h and later on switch to 41km/h.
I start driving a little bit harder in the beginning and when we average 38.0 km/h, I drop back in speed and keep the throttle constant. My navigator monitors the speed on our free (and allowed) app (not too accurately) and indicates if I’m going too slow or too fast.
Seems easy, but it’s not at all. Because the special stages are often on real off-road roads and of course often uphill with many hairpin bends. You have to slow down for that and your average drops back. If it goes up steeply my 203 with 45 horsepower will take a long time to get up to speed again, if we lucky to reach it at all.
There are marshals in unknown places, which know exactly what time you have to pass them based on start time and average speed. Every second too early or too late is a penalty point. And this is what the competition is all about.
And then I am not mentioning that slow bus in front of you , sheep crossing, wild dogs sleeping on the road. But luckily our 203 has a luxury, because the year of manufacture is linked to a correction factor based on age for the penalty seconds. So for us 0.59. If a lion from 1972 is 10 seconds late, it will lose 7.2 and we will only lose 5.9.
Edward and Ton eventually won the race with their Peugeot 504 and the other Peugeot teams were very proud of that, of course.
I can describe here how fantastically beautiful the roads are that we have driven and what special places we have been to. But I think the pictures speak for themselves. As a driver, I enjoyed a little more than my navigator, who of course paid particular attention to the route book and the distance and time indicators. But fortunately long stretches of road enough to enjoy the various views, hairpins and beautiful slopes and even beautiful forest routes. Arrival is usually around 5 pm, so plenty of time to discover the villages where we stayed before or after dinner.