Unfortunately the Sabra/Sabre Champagne 2000
International Weekend coincided with the French fuel blockades.
On the Friday before leaving we finally decided that there was no
way we could be sure to get to Reims, let alone back again.
The Sabre 6 seems to have a very short range.
Frantic email and telephone exchanges resulted in the venue
changing to - you guessed it - the Clio just outside Bruges!
Thank you again Alain and Cecile for looking after us so
splendidly at such short notice.
Apart from Tony and me, five other parties intended to
join us; one from France, one from Luxembourg and three from Belgium (us
Brits were to be very thin on the ground).
By Friday the French and Luxembourg contingents had to back out
for various reasons so we joined Jef and Els Neefs, Jacques Vandervelde
and Andre and Carine Delouvroy-Santens, all Sabra owners.
Jef and Jacques brought their Sabras but Andre's was not quite
ready. As previously
reported we travelled by Sabre 6 kindly loaned to us by Jerry Cuningham.
Jef, Jacques and Andre
thought it very amusing to be attending an "International"
meeting with only four parties in their own country.
I think André lived no more than about 50 miles away.
We met up
at the Clio at midday on Saturday.
Whilst we had prepared an itinerary for the weekend in Reims,
this was of little use to us now. So
a quick role reversal saw our guests become our hosts and for the rest
of the weekend they planned everything.
Following lunch in the pretty village of Damme (well
known to all you lnternationallers) we drove to Zeebrugge where we
visited the impressive and unique exhibition of sand sculptures on the
beach (see photograph). We
then returned to the Clio where we enjoyed a wonderful fondue meal
prepared by Alain and Cecile.
On Sunday we made a reasonably early start and Jef led
us on an excellent tour through the countryside to the south of Bruges.
This included an extremely moving visit to one of the World War
One cemeteries followed by a fabulous lunch at a countryside restaurant
near Ypres. The weather was
excellent on Sunday and we were able to eat outside and enjoy the
picturesque scenery. Tony
enjoyed Moules Naturel and I had Shrimps.
Jacques remarked that these were very typical
Belgian dishes. (When
in Rome etc.)
Following lunch we headed into Ypres where, just by
chance(!) the Classie Marathon was to start that very afternoon.
And who should we bump into in the main square alongside the
rally start rostrum but Geoff Cooper who was competing in his trusty
straight six Coupé. Actually
Geoff had been trying to persuade us to see him off for weeks and the
change of venue had made this practical.
Hopefully Geoff will be writing a fuller account of his rally
exploits but to summarise, he had his best result ever in this rally
finishing 13th overall from 160 starters and comfortably winning his class. This sort of
exposure is very important to the well being of the marque
and the Club. Indeed, whilst competing in a sprint at Brooklands a few
weeks later we were approached by a fellow competitor who was sprinting
in a TR4. He had also
competed in the Classic Marathon and was very interested in the Coupé
as a suitable car for classic rallying.
The weekend provided a good opportunity for Tony to
study closely a couple of very original Sabras (see photo).
Jacques' and Jef's cars were made in Haifa, Israel from kits
shipped out from the Reliant Factory.
I had always imagined these would have been identical to the
Sabras and Sabre 4's fully assembled at Tamworth.
Yet there are interesting differences (for some reason this
paragraph is reminding me to look for Tony's anorak now that winter is
with us). The Haifa Sabra
wheel arches are flared and rounded whilst the Tamworth cars are
non-flared and squared at the rear.
Also the Haifa cars use the Austin A40 rear light clusters whilst
the Tamworth cars use more exotic Alfa Romeo units. In these respects the Haifa Sabras are more similar to the
later Sabre 6's. Does
anyone know of any other differences?
It was now
getting late and we sadly had to leave our hosts to catch our Eurotunnel
train. And what did we find
when we got back to England? Another fuel blockade!!
Anyway, we had a fabulous weekend in Belgium, and will certainly
meet up again with our new Belgian friends in the future, perhaps in
Reims or perhaps on next year's Swiss international.
Jacques and Jef are threatening to muster many more of the Sabras
hiding in Belgium. Thanks
again Jacques, Jef, Els, Andre, Carine, Alain and Cecile for being great
hosts at such short notice and Jerry for the extremely generous loan of
his excellent Sabre 6 which didn’t miss a beat all weekend.