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“Instead of going to the beach, instead of going to the restaurant, we go to the stock car”: the joys of family car crash races

You have to concentrate to count the number of laps and rolls of Anne-Kelly Guinet’s green and yellow Mégane coupé number 177 among the herd of old jew’s harps that turn, push and bump on the oval track, raising clouds earthen. Bumper against bumper, door against door, here are already returned on the side or the roof. Welcome to stock car enthusiasts. Uninterrupted humming that drown out the noise of crumpled metal sheets, whistles from the race marshals, spitting sound system, waving flags, aroma of grilled sausages from the refreshment bar. Around the track, the procession of spectators, who had come in large numbers, held their breath.

No need for the California sets and the Nissan Skyline GT-Rs of Fast and Furious to attack the retina, the eardrums and the nostrils. The scene takes place on the edge of fields and pavilions, in Abrets-en-Dauphiné, in the Isère countryside. The stars are production cars good to sacrifice, not conforming to the highway code, which offer themselves a last lap. We find there antique French cars, Peugeots, Renaults, Citroëns, the cars of M. and Tout-le-Monde, which tell of lives, joys, credits. The pilots will tell you that they offer them “a last life, a beautiful death”.

At each race, the same “great thrill” Anne-Kelly Guinet, 33, runs through each race, looking like a feminine Michel Vaillant in her overalls, face smeared with dust, blond locks escaped from the helmet. In civilian life, she is a mail carrier, increasingly difficult working conditions, and the mother of two daughters, whom she raises alone. But tonight, like a hundred other pilots, she’s here to “the spoiler” : twenty-five rounds of caroms and spins and “bangers” at nightfall (crossing in eight passing in the middle). All the blows are allowed – or almost –, provided that the attacks are carried only on the back. “It’s impressive, but it’s not too dangerous”reassures Alain Polaud, of the Red Cross, as the cars collide. “From the little trauma”, abounds Doctor Philippe Gonod, who has never had to evacuate a driver in a dozen races. The watchword is simple: the show. Under the podium, the “pointers” note the number of laps (speed category), rolls, suffered or provoked (show category), and points for each rider. Rounds last three to four minutes. Maximum authorized speed: 50 kilometers per hour. No money at stake: the first fifteen in the ranking will receive medals, lots of charcuterie, shopping and restaurant vouchers, tickets to the Walibi amusement park…

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