I suppose the
main thought for me in my final preparations for Le Mans 2009 was the hope of
somehow appeasing the French weather-Gods following the rain of 2007 and 2008!
We were definitely due some serious sunshine....
As has tended to be the case for
some years now, the core of this year's team of 10 Tourists remained the same from 2008,
with Ian, Martyn, Alan, Jeff, Nick, Jeremy and myself all returning for more.
Of the remaining three, two had been to Le Mans before, Terry making
his fourth visit (1989, 1995 and 2000) while Jim was back for the seventh time,
the last being two years ago. (These figures are only based on the Le
Mans I have been to since 1986). The only Le Mans 'newbie' in 2009 was
Jeremy's pal, Phil who would be making the trip to La Sarthe in style in
Jeremy's Aston. For the full 'roll' of Tourists since 1986, click the link
The 2009 Le Mans itinerary started
in identical fashion to last year, calling for a rendezvous at Chief Tourist
Ian's home in Southampton, followed by a quick walk down the road to the local
pub for dinner. Jeremy and Phil had gone on ahead and would meet us on the
ferry in Portsmouth. After eating (and enjoying the company of former
Tourists Chris and Richard), we had a quick walk back to the cars to stow away
our bags and head off to Portsmouth for the 11pm ferry to Caen.
The wait on the quay was
relatively short, during which time we admired the exotic cars making the trip,
including the fantastic Bentley that won the race in both 1929 and 1930 in the
hands of Woolf Barnato. Rebodied after the 1930 race by Barnato for racing
at Brooklands, the car was now US-owned but was being brought to Le Mans for
some pre-race display lappery by a very lucky Bentley employee!
After a brief stop to give the
bored customs man another tick on his five-bar gate we made a very speedy entry
onto the ferry - no more queues for us! - so that we had not only located our
cabin but had beers in our hands within 20 minutes or so of getting on board....
Although the Normandie was typically late in setting off we knew that any lost
time would easily be made up during the night crossing. By half past
midnight it was time for the cabin 6301 crew to head off for some shut-eye
before being woken by the dreaded Brittany Ferries opera at 6.30 (French
With a weather forecast that
suggested no rain now at all until late on Sunday, it was good to wake up to the
confirmation of blue skies after a reasonable sleep during which Martyn, Jim and
Alan greatly enjoyed my snoring.... The exit from the ferry was pretty
quick and we were soon on the road in search of breakfast. There being no
other plan, we decided to repeat our 2008 visit to the Pegasus Bridge at
Benouville to enjoy croissants and coffee courtesy of the very convivial Madame
Gondrée at her now legendary café.
We left Benouville at around 8.15
and were quickly on route to the 77th running of the World's Greatest Motor Race
- as Radio Le Mans commentator John Hindhaugh said last year - 'You can disagree
- but you'd be wrong'...... My sentiments exactly!