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Le Mans 1993 - The Tourists' Story


Sunshine, more sunshine and the return of GT's!  Those of us who had stuck with Le Mans in 1992 and saw a (relatively) tiny grid but a surprisingly good race between Peugeot and Toyota were eagerly looking forward to 1993.  Not only would both of those works teams be returning, but we also had the re-birth at Le Mans of what the purists might call "real" cars.  Of course, like all good ideas, the concept of true GT racers, based on the kind of road going sports cars that you or I could go out and buy (if we had the money - I wish!) would, like most other concepts, end up being debased in time by the likes of Nissan and Porsche in particular, but the thought of a full grid of cars at Le Mans in 1993 really was a thought to savour.

After Pierre and I were left as the "Terrible Twosome" in 1992, I was concerned as to whether there would be a full Tourists effort in '93.  So concerned, indeed, that to be on the safe side, I booked up again with Chequers, or rather, Motor Racing International, as they were now called.  Of course, inevitably perhaps, Chief Tourist Ian decided to plan a trip anyway.  So it was that in 1993, the Tourists met at Le Mans by two different routes, Pierre and I on the MRI coach, and Ian, wife Carol and Martin on the road in Ian's BMW.

Pierre and I had again invested in grandstand seats, this time in the main ACO stand opposite the pits (although it has to be said that I was disappointed to find myself on the bottom layer of that famous box of chocolates!).  Pierre and I had a good introduction in the MRI marquee, listening to the perenially unlucky Perry McCarthy over a glass of wine.  We just about caught the end of the supporting Venturi race and then headed off for our first attempt at a rendezvous with Ian, Carol and Martin.

We missed them at that stage (I don't think they had even arrived at the circuit by that time) and instead took up our seats for the driver parade and the other pre-race activities.  Being up in the grandstand certainly gave a different (and for the photographer, a much better) perspective on the cars lining up on the grid.  I was, as I had been in '92, very taken with the striking Toyota TS010's, which looked absolutely marvellous in their now uniform red and white livery.  They sounded even better than they looked!

Before long, the 1993 race was under way and it was clear that the Peugeots and Toyotas had no opposition (whatever did happen to that gorgeous looking Allard J2X which was at one time going to be driven by Henri Pescarolo and Jean-Louis Ricci?).  There was a good battle looming in the GT class, with the three (soon to be just two) Jaguar XJ220C's fighting it out with the 962 engined Porsche Turbo S Le Mans.  Sadly (or was that fortunately?), Walter Rohrl tripped up over a backmarker and was put out of the race.  If anyone wondered what happened to the car......!

Pierre and I eventually met up with the other three at the champagne stall (where else?!) at 6 o'clock.  It was hot and sunny, I had a glass of champagne in my hand and I was at Le Mans.  Bliss - pure and simple!

As the afternoon turned into evening, with the Peugeots starting to give the Toyotas another lesson in reliability, we all squeezed into Ian's 3 Series convertible and breezed our way out to Le Belinois at Monce en Belin, the restaurant which the Tourists had first frequented three years earlier.  We had a great meal although it was spoiled a little for me by a blinding migraine!

After that, we parted company with Ian, Carol and Martin, who headed back for some shut-eye.  In fact, if I remember rightly, they were staying at Le Cheval Blanc in Le Grand Luce for the first time.  As you will see if you read elsewhere on my site, places such as Le Belinois and particularly Le Cheval Blanc were to become regular haunts for the Tourists.

Pierre and I then wandered the circuit for a while (Pierre putting up gamely with my stopping every 50 yards to set my tripod up again!).  We eventually made our way back to the MRI coach with some thoughts about having a couple of hours sleep.  After about 10 minutes, I realised I simply couldn't sleep at Le Mans (too many good things to miss!), and I headed back to the ACO grandstand to take some light-trail shots.  As it was virtually empty by that time (about 1.00 a.m.), I could pick whatever place I wanted!  Pierre joined me about half an hour later.

By the early hours, our thoughts had turned once again to food (no wonder we are the shape we are, eh Pierre?!).  There were, of course, many stalls selling merguez and saucisse, frites and all sorts of other delights (see below), but we decided to take a meal at the MRI marquee - salmon for Pierre and steak for Aysedasi!

As dawn rapidly approached, we made our way down to the Esses and watched the race from the hillock at the bottom of the hill down from the Dunlop Bridge, before returning to the main spectator area and watching from the Dunlop Chicane and then the tribunes opposite the pits.


Ian and Martin returned to the circuit at about 7 o'clock and Ian kindly took the four of us out to Arnage and Indianapolis.  Astonishingly, this was the first time I had been back there since 1986!  By this time, of course, Peugeot had the race all but sown up, as did the Nielsen/Brabham/Coulthard Jaguar in the GT class.  After a couple of hours, Ian and Martin disappeared back to Le Grand Luce (leaving Pierre and I very happy to wait in the sunshine at Indianapolis!), to wake Carol from her slumbers.  When they returned we indulged in a very pleasant lunch of kebabs and omelettes and frites.

Our final port of call together was back to the Village and then back to the ACO stand where Ian, Carol and Martin were able to borrow our tickets to get a view of the action from there.  After a few more glasses of champagne, we parted company, Pierre and I taking up our seats in the grandstand for the finish.

Once the race was over, it was back to our MRI coach for the trip back to Caen and then the Sunday night crossing to Portsmouth.  We had a great time at Le Mans in 1993, but it certainly made me more determined than ever to ensure that we had a "full" Tourists outing in 1994!