Ladies, Start Your Engines!
Clock in for this springtime rendezvous as the Rallye des Princesses Richard Mille revs through the French countryside in a glamorous display of women, cars and watches, writes
The 18th Rallye des Princesses Richard Mille rendezvous in early spring calls for a glamorous celebration
The sight of gaily coloured classic sports and road cars flanking the Place Vendôme is one that incites fond memories. This was the starting point of the 18th Rallye des Princesses Richard Mille, a women-only rally that will take five days, five legs, 20 regularity tests, and 1,600 kilometres down south from Paris to Saint-tropez. The women’s sporting attitude combined with excitement, conviviality and glamour pervades the scene— evidence that modern women and dream cars go hand-in-hand. In the grand tradition of European road racing, 90 vintage machines crewed by female driver and co-driver pairs will make their way through handpicked routes covering the picturesque French countryside, majestic Alpine passes, and the Mediterranean coast. This is a race based not on speed, but on strict timekeeping and mileage tracking, putting all on an equal footing, whether they’re driving a Porsche 911 or a Renault 4CV.
Participants are not allowed to use the GPS, instead they have to consult a roadbook which contains directions on the route they must follow, and the assigned speed they must adhere to. This is especially crucial as they complete dedicated regularity tests, as a mere second too fast or too slow results in penalties; all while factoring in extra difficulties along the way, such as sheep blocking the road, a traffic light or a local farmer’s plodding tractor. Therein lies the challenge of the rally, as each team is judged on their ability to maintain the set average speed (between 40 and 50km/h) and their ability to navigate with skill and accuracy, all at the right pace. The days are long, each leg ranges between 261 and 372km, with the longest being the 430km leg between Vichy and L’alpe D’huez, climbing inclined roads, going as high as 1,860 metres. Even so, the rally is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of France, as well as the camaraderie and kinship that result in the women bonding over delicious local food and sharing stories of their mishaps and adventures along the way. According to the rally’s founder, Viviane Zaniroli, “The capacity of these women to express their daring and fighting spirit alongside joie de vivre commands both respect and admiration. My goal is precisely to showcase all their many qualities. At the end of the race, no participant is exactly as she was, nor entirely different, but all are princesses forever!” Capping off a week of challenging and densely packed stages is an awards ceremony at Saint-tropez, held on the Moorea beach in Ramatuelle. And this year, once again, the Rallye des Princesses Richard Mille lends its support to Parti des Enfants, a collective dedicated to children suffering from illnesses. If there’s anything that proves it, these races only serve to amplify that the fairer sex are also as passionate about automobiles and complicated, mechanical timepieces as men. Richard Mille has been a partner of the Rallye des Princesses for three years now, and for the 2017 rally, valued friends of the brand who participated in the race each wore a watch from the Richard Mille’s ladies’ collection and drove in six Porsches. The brand has long considered the affinity between women and time, and for that matter launched a ladies’ model very early on in the brand’s development. It continues coming out with new women’s collections, running the gamut from glittering jewellery tourbillons to more technical automatic watches with date,
function indicators and specific straps, as well as cases that appear in ceramic, titanium, and the ultra futuristic Carbon TPT. “I enjoy the fact that our ladies’ watches are very technical in spirit on the inside, regardless of how many diamonds, or the beautiful lines they may possess,” says Richard Mille. “In this way the ladies’ watches are akin to classic cars, because they have the elegant sexy lines of beautiful bodywork, then underneath the hood it is all about technique, power and precision. And that is not only our idea of the perfect ladies’ watch, it is also our idea of the perfect lady.” Rated as Europe’s number 1 women’s motor sport event, the Rallye des Princesses Richard Mille has been a resounding success for the past 18 years as women from all over the world come together to partake in this glamorous springtime affair and the values that this event brings together: sportsmanship, friendship, perseverance, tolerance, and emotions. It’s the adventure of a lifetime for free-spirited women who love both sophisticated luxury and friendly competition, amid the grandeur of elegant hotel stays and lovely luncheons along the journey. Can we sign up for the next one now?
FLAG OFF The rally is off to a great start, as the route takes the driving crews on a picturesque journey across French countrysides
The rally is in five stages, and is inclusive of hotel stays at the end of each leg, for the crew to get a good night’s rest and plan the next day’s journey