If ever they remake the film Monte Carlo or Bust, they should transpose it to Angoulême. By the looks of the town, this weekend’s car rally is just about the only thing standing between it and bankruptcy.
Today marks the start of its three-day annual Circuit des Remparts. The chance to hurtle around the twisting roads of a hilly town in a sports car will draw many a car enthusiast to the Charente capital.
Similarities exist between the event and the better-known Monte Carlo grand prix.
One of them is that both routes include some frightening hairpin bends. The course in Angoulême hasn’t changed since the rally was first staged back in 1939. Held entirely within the confines of the town walls, it is a challenge for even the most experienced of drivers.
Tonight things kick off more sedately, however, with the Concours d’élégance, a parade of some of the most beautiful cars to compete in this year’s event.
Tomorrow there’s a drive around the region, before the race proper on Sunday.
The races in both Monte Carlo and Angoulême draw thousands of visitors. Arguably, however, Angoulême needs these paying guests more desperately. I was there last month and the town is decidedly down at heel. It’s clear some money has been spent in recent years to improve the centre but the result is patchy.
This rally should help give Angoulême’s coffers a much-needed boost.