If you cannot afford the $325 it costs to be a spectator at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the best way to see the cars — and in many ways even if you can pony up that ticket price —is the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance held the Thursday before the concours.
The tour starts and ends at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, and includes a coastal caravan along famed 17 Mile Drive. But it leaves that protected property to venture out on public roads, not only those on the Monterey Peninsula but down the PCH to Big Sur and back.
Except not this year. Not with the Soberanes, Chimney and other fires bringing hell to an otherwise heavenly land and sea scape. When the wind is right, ash from the fires even falls like a very gentle snow on Pebble Beach.
This year, concours organizers had to revise and abbreviate the route, limiting it to around 37 miles and avoiding major roads that might be needed by the dozens of firefighting crews in the area.
“We are very sensitive to the limited resources of our community and responsive to its needs, so we have been working closely with CalFire, the California Highway Patrol and other officials to find the best possible route for the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance,” concours chairman Sandra Button said in a news release.
“Thankfully, we can still offer our entrants the opportunity to take their cars out on the road… and we are committed to sharing these cars with the public, without fee, on Ocean Avenue in Carmel.”
Not only can people park along parts of the tour route and watch the cars at speed — well, with the restrictions this year, speeds averaging only around 30 mph — but they can get up close to the cars when the tourers park along Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea on their annual lunch stop.
Because of the changes, and because “we know that some cars (particular race cars) may not function well on this abbreviated route and may have to withdraw because of that,” organizers said, “we are removing the normal judging advantage for the concours gained by cars that complete the tour.”
To encourage concours entrants to participate in the tour, that participation usually is used as the tie-breaker should two or more cars tie for a judged award on Sunday. Judges vote Car A and Car B as equal, but Car B did the tour and Car A did not, Car B is best in class — or best of show.
With that advantage erased for 2016, there was speculation that very few car owners would risk their valuable, in many cases one-of-a-kind automobiles, by venturing out on public roads.
But the car owners were undaunted as more than 120 of the 200 or so entries took part in the tour.
Here is our photo gallery, by Dirk de Jager:
Photography by Dirk de Jager