1990 turned out
to be something of a watershed year for the Le Mans team. There were good and
bad reasons for this. Robert Peel had been devastated by the death of his
young daughter, and had far more important things on his mind than a motor
race. Jayne had presented me with a son James, in November, 1989, and the
world of sports car racing was in a state of considerable turmoil.
James was already a source of inspiration to me, but the fact that he
was only a few months old presented me with a dilemma. I really wanted to go to
Le Mans (as I always do!), but I realised that perhaps now was not the
best time to leave Jayne on her own to cope with the children. In the end, as
always, it was Jayne herself who relented and said I should go - I'm afraid I
didn't need asking twice!
As for the sports
car scene generally, well, things were pretty much in a mess. The ACO
was at war with the FISA, and the resulting truce left us with two
carbuncles on the Mulsanne Straight - chicanes! The race was now also a
non-championship event, and Mercedes decreed that they would not race if there
were no championship points at stake. So, as in 1988, that left Porsche and
Jaguar to battle it out.
Well, it was
rather more than the sports car scene in general that was in a state of flux in
1990. The Tourists were also in some trouble. The result was a very
streamlined team for La Sarthe in 1990, but nevertheless a strong one.
Myself, Ian, Martin and Alan made up the single car entry
for the trip south to la belle France, Ian having collected me from the railway
station in Southampton, as, at this time, we were a one-car family. The arrangements
this year were somewhat hastily made, with the result that when Ian was able to
get around to making them the usual options were
closed to him. Thus it was that we found ourselves boarding the boat from
Portsmouth to Le Havre, on a dull, grey Friday afternoon.
It was, by far,
the smallest "team" that we had mustered in five years, and I was initially
unsure how the week-end's entertainment would be affected by this. It soon
became clear however, that a smaller group brought with it a number of distinct
advantages, not the least of which was that we were able to travel around in
just one vehicle. While waiting at
Portsmouth to board the ferry, Alan and Martin went off in search of tickets.
(You may be surprised to learn that at the beginning of the Le Mans week-end,
tickets for the circuit and the grandstands were often on sale at the major ferry
ports). They managed to find a vendor selling tickets for the Dunlop Grandstand
at the Dunlop Curve. Three of these (very expensive) tickets were
purchased prior to boarding the ferry for France.
grey Le Havre, after yet another uneventful ferry crossing, we made our way to
the Hotel Mercure, where we would be staying the night. We had eaten on
the boat going over, so we didn't take an evening meal, but instead wandered off
to see the city, and to have a beer or two. After exploring a
place which frankly had little to explore, we headed back to the hotel for a
good night's sleep. Once again, as in 1988 in Domfront, I shared with Martin.
The accommodation was good, with en suite bath and toilet and a TV, which we
watched for some time before eventually falling asleep.
On rising we took
a particularly good breakfast in the hotel, and assembled outside for the
standard team photograph. (Of course, another of the advantages of having a
team of only four, with two to each room, was that you could be pretty certain
of everyone getting their act together (even Alan!) and rising at a reasonable
time, ready for the journey down to the circuit. That was rarely the case with teams of seven, eight or more!).
The morning had
dawned much brighter than the day before, and we drove to the circuit in
blistering sunshine. Some way out of Le Mans we purchased some lunch in a
small village along the route, which was already jammed with British-registered
cars and motor cycles. We bought pizza, pastries and beer to eat when we reached
Apart from the
purchase of the grandstand seats, we had also managed to buy our garage rouge
ticket in Portsmouth at the same time. This year however, that ticket was
rather more special than in years before! This was a garage rouge reservé
ticket, which brought with it a numbered bay in a rather more up-market parking
area, which, although situated a little further from the track, did mean that we
could park at our leisure, without having other cars "attached" to our front and
rear bumpers! The pizza, pastries and beer were consumed with all speed,
whilst yours truly got well into the atmosphere of the week-end with more team photographs.
We arrived in
pretty good time, with the result that for once, I was prepared to join Ian on
his annual "annoy the French spectators" walk through the tribunes opposite the
pits to get a good spot from which to watch the parade. At this time (it
was about 2.30 by the time we were in situ) the crowds weren't yet dense enough
to persuade me that it wasn't worth the effort! (I also had thirteen hours on
my tod at Le Mans in 1989 still on my mind, and I was fairly keen to enjoy the
race in the company of the others this year!).
I was able to get
a pretty good set of photographs of the drivers this year, for the first time
since 1986. Once again though, as with my shot of Derek Warwick in 1986, fate
conspired against me so that my picture of the Jaguar drivers taking a
collective bow in front of the tribunes was again marred by shoddy camera work!