SNETTERTON, England (Reuters) – Roaring engines and squealing tyres – though not especially great speeds – were the ordre du jour at a 24-hour endurance race in Britain celebrating one of history’s quirkiest cars – France’s Citroen 2CV.
Twenty-four competitors drove their famously ramshackle but durable 2CVs 706 laps around a three-km circuit with the highest speed recorded at just over 64 mph (102 kph). Team Lion 1 came first despite undergoing three engine changes and 24 pit stops.
Saturday’s event at a racetrack in the eastern English province of Norfolk was the 26th such annual event in Britain.
The 2CV was conceived in the 1940s as an inexpensive vehicle that would tempt French farmers away from using a horse and cart. The model number stands for “deux chevaux-vapeur” – or “two steam horses”. They were in production from 1948 to 1990.
Though the appeal to racers of a car that in advertising campaigns was likened to a tortoise for its slowness and low fuel consumption is not immediately obvious, competitors said the 2CV had unique characteristics.
“They are absolutely fantastic,” driver Simon Clarke told Reuters. “I’ve driven a few things over the years and the one thing about these is, because it’s all low-powered, straight-line speed is nothing special but, cornering speeds, you won’t corner anything with road tyres on it any quicker.”
The 2CV is distinctive for its exterior-mounted headlights that resemble frog’s eyes, its raised rear end and its pronounced lean on curves thanks to its super soft suspension.
It has a small but dedicated following, with a 2CV enthusiasts club boasting 2,700 members worldwide.
Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; editing by Mark Heinrich