For half a decade, Alsace found itself at the very epicenter of the World Rally Championship with some of the sport’s most astonishing storylines written in France’s eastern corner.
Who could, for example, forget local hero Sébastien Loeb clinching titles seven and nine in this part of the world.
But with Loeb having turned to the World Touring Car Championship, the WRC round created in his own backyard disappeared.
The rally world’s spotlight was switched off and Alsace fell in apparent darkness.
Or did it?
Actually no. And if you’re in and around the Molsheim region this week, you’ll be reminded that the sport remains well and truly alive in this part of the world.
The Alsace Rallye Festival runs out of the Bas-Rhin town across Thursday, Friday and Saturday and includes some of the sport’s finest machinery from down the years. But it’s not a rally. It’s not a competition. It’s a festival.
On Friday and Saturday, roads will be closed to allow for a demonstration drive.
The drivers? WRC royalty in the shape of Stig Blomqvist and Mikko Hirvonen.
“It’s really nice to be going to the event,” said Hirvonen. “I was supposed to go in 2020 and 2021, but the pandemic decided otherwise!
“The organizers have done a great job to get me the chance to drive a Ford Focus RS WRC 01 again – it’s been a long time since I drove this car and it will be really nice to have my friend Andy Hayes co-driving. Andy and I worked as Craig’s [Breen] gravel crew. Craig will be in our thoughts for the weekend.”
Hirvonen will be reunited with his former team principal at Citroën, Yves Matton. Matton’s MY Gallery outfit will supply the Focus for Hirvonen as well as a stunning ex-Freddy Loix Toyota Celica GT-Four – the car the Belgian drove to seventh place on the 1997 Rally Australia.
Matton himself will drive a Porsche at the event.
The Alsace Rallye Festival fits Matton’s MY Gallery perfectly – both only deal in genuine cars. Replicas and lookalikes, no matter how convincing, won’t be welcome this week.
“MY Gallery,” said Matton, “is about creating a gallery of rally cars from 1987 to 2017 – the cars we sell are cars with history and sold as close to technical conformity as possible from that era.
“First and foremost we are competition car enthusiasts who want to show the high quality of cars we have to preserve the legacy of rallying.”
If you’re in and around Alsace this week, you know where to go. And you can find out more about MY Gallery here.