There can be few if any more unlikely prospects for a racing car than the ubiquitous Citroën 2CV or Deux Chevaux. Known variously as an umbrella on wheels, an upturned pram or the tin snail, the 2CV was launched on the world at the 1948 Paris Mondial de l’Automobile. Between then and 1990 over five million, including over a million of the delivery van version known as fourgonnettes, were produced, with peak production reached in 1974 in the aftermath of that year’s oil crisis.
Sensibly accepting that racing a 2CV against other makes made little sense, Citroën instead promoted the model through a series of enduro rallies or ‘raids’ such as the 10,000-mile Paris-Kabul-Paris in 1970 which reportedly saw 500 of the little vehicles taking part. In 1972, supported by the Total oil company, Citroën introduced the new discipline – probably the wrong word as it turned out – of 2CV Cross with an event held in a quarry at Argenton sur Creuse in the Indre region of France. This quickly led to the establishment of a national championship which continues to this day.
The first 2CV Cross to be held in the UK was organised by the Hants and Berks Motor Club on open heathland at Blackbushe in 1975, again with support from Total. The 700-yard course was laid out by bulldozer, a process repeated annually for two further years, and the event counted towards the international championship. The first 2CV Cross in the north of England was also in 1975 on the 20th and 21st September when the Lancashire Automobile Club, in conjunction with the Clitheroe and District Motor Club, used a 0.45-mile course set out in Salthill Quarry near Clitheroe. There were separate races for 435cc and 602cc cars with practice on Saturday morning followed by several heats and finals for each capacity before a mixed final and, at the end of the day, a ladies’ race. Sunday saw more heats and finals and finished with a ‘Superfinal’ for qualifiers from both days.
Racing was frenetic all weekend and more than one attempt was made to put an ‘upturned pram’ the ‘right way up’ with spectators having an excellent bird’s eye view of proceedings from the top of the quarry. Looking at the photographs of that weekend 45 years ago it may come as a pleasant surprise to learn that Salthill quarry is now an attractive SSSI-designated nature reserve. As well as the current flora and fauna to be seen here, fossils are to be found from the carboniferous limestone deposits which date back some 340 million years to the mid- to late-Mississippian period.
Photo and text by Peter McFadyen. See his website: http://petermcfadyen.co.uk
There is a 2CV 24 hour race each year, Snetteton and Anglesea have been its venues. I managed to roll our entry with only just over an hour to go back in 2005. Good fun, we got the car back on its wheels and finished 19th from memory…
I raced a 425cc engined car in two events! Didn’t do too well!!