was a big year of change for the ACO. Like many others, I suspect, I
was gobsmacked when I arrived at Le Mans and saw the new pits complex and
grandstand. I had seen pictures of it of course, but the sheer size
of the new complex still came as a surprise at first sight, having been so
used to the old overcrowded pits and pit balconies for so long.
several times before, the Tourists stayed at St. Symphorien on Friday,
travelling to the circuit after lunch at the Hotel de Paris in Cilez on
Saturday. The 1991 team (no photo this time!), consisted of Ian,
Martin, Alan, Richard, Mike, Robert (Ian's son) and myself.
didn't get onto the tribunes until near the end of the driver parade, but
I was (subsequently) very pleased to grab this shot of the drivers of the
31 Mercedes. Note the cheerful wave from a rather youthful looking
Michael Schumacher, who was sharing the car with Fritz Kreutzpointner and
another F1 driver-to-be, Karl
Wendlinger. (Whatever happened to
Fritz? - I'd love to know!). (N.B.
I now know what Fritz was doing - he was racing
a MAN SuperRaceTruck in the European
Championship - I know because he told me when
he signed my guestbook on 3.10.01!!).
was a race in which Schumacher showed just how good he was, and while car
problems (and a spin into the barriers under the Dunlop Bridge for
Wendlinger) saw the Mercedes finish 7 laps adrift in 5th place, I well
remember Ian Titchmarsh saying on Radio Le Mans that it surely wouldn't be
long before Michael made the move up to Formula 1. Little did we
know what was in store!
saw the beginning of the new sports car engine formula, running with 3.5
litre normally aspirated engines. The two new Peugeots didn't
exactly cover themselves in glory in the race, but their day was still to
come. It was quite early in the race, while we were still watching
from the tribunes before moving off elsewhere, that I heard the French
commentator shout "feu!" - I quickly turned and took the shot
below of the fire in the Peugeot pit. Not quite in focus, but not a
bad "grab" shot.
disappointment of 1991 was the performance of the Jaguars. Running
bigger engines, they couldn't match the pace of the Mercedes, and although
they eventually finished 2-3-4, it was the reliability of the splendid
orange and green 55 Mazda of Herbert, Gachot and Weidler which won the
day. (It's interesting to note that, even though the weight
regulations were in favour of the Mazda (rather than the Jaguars), the
winning Mazda actually covered three laps more than the winning
Jaguar from the previous year. No room for sour grapes there!).
it happens, the Mazda victory seemed to go down particularly well with
most people. Yes, it would have been great to see the Jags win
again, but it also seemed that, for some reason, most people (except the
German fans, I guess!) seemed glad that Mazda had managed to put one over
the mighty Mercedes team.
brought with it another special moment for us. During the weekend,
Mike (a Le Mans newcomer, who has never been with us since!), kept telling
us that he had an invitation to some hospitality event. He produced
a rough looking piece of photocopied paper as evidence of this, and the
rest of us (seasoned Le Mans veterans, of course!), thought it was
dubious, to say the least!
Mike persisted, and more to humour him than anything else, we wandered
around to the outside of Tertre Rouge on Sunday afternoon, only to find
that he had been absolutely right! We were welcomed into the garden
of a house a couple down from Tertre Rouge corner itself (you will
recognise those very familiar trees - a Le Mans landmark in
themselves). After being plied with champagne and bacon croissants,
we were then able to watch the race while leaning on the armco at the
bottom of the garden!
was great stuff, and although the marauding gendarmes moved us away a
couple of times, I was able to get some good shots of the cars as they
came around Tertre Rouge and headed on down the
Mulsanne. It was a
brilliant opportunity and we were all very grateful to Mike for it (if
feeling just a little sheepish for doubting him in the first
place!). If anyone can get me an invite back there for this years Le
Mans, perhaps they would let me know......?!
very good Le Mans was had then by all the 1991 Tourists and we finished it
off with a good meal (and sleep!) at Concale on Sunday. Little
did I know then the problems that I would face in getting to Le Mans in