The 2010 story really begins with the post-script to the 2009 edition.
Having decided immediately after Le Mans 2009 that it was time to do things
differently, I began to try and work out exactly how to approach Le Mans 2010.
There had been some suggestions that one or both of my sons might want to go with me
and maybe some of their mates, however this raised the prospect of the dreaded
'c'-word (I mean 'camping'....!) and I really didn't want to go there at all. I
had in mind the possibility of driving over myself and taking a room at Le
Cheval Blanc for a few nights, simply because I knew it well and it was easy to
to and from the circuit from there, but the reality was that by mid-January, I'd made no
plans at all
and was becoming concerned about what I was going to do as I read on Ten Tenths about others having
their ticket allocations confirmed by the ACO and their arrangements all in hand.
But all this turned around
on 14th January, when out of the blue James (Bentley03 from Ten Tenths) asked me on
the forum if I had made any plans. I said I hadn't and thus began a to-ing
and fro-ing of messages between us. Inside a day I went from having nothing
planned at all to having a whole trip sorted, running from Monday to Monday -
transport, accommodation, the lot - now that's what I call landing on your feet!
In fact, the trip soon changed to Sunday to Monday when the ACO brought
scrutineering forward by a day. What this meant though was a long, long
trip away. After 24 years of long weekends, suddenly I was faced with
eight nights in France, and an additional night away from home as I needed to
stay with my sister near Portsmouth on the Saturday night in order to get to the
ferry terminal to meet James for the 8.30 am ferry on 6th June! My wife
Jayne was wonderful about it - she didn't really want me away for that long, but
she knew just how much this trip meant to me.
So, to finish the
2010 story introduction, so to speak, I guess this was all a bit of a leap of
faith after so long following a particular Le Mans 'formula'. Although I'd
known James on Ten Tenths for a number of years and met him at the Ten Tenths
meetings at Le Mans, we hadn't really spent much time in each other's company,
save during the two pit visits that James organised for us in '08 and '09.
Bearing in mind that the two of us were likely to be spending a lot of time
together over the course of more than a week, I knew how important it was that
we got on OK - but somehow I also knew from the very start - even when we were
just discussing the plans by email - that this wasn't going to be a problem.
Travelling to Le Mans with a fellow sportscar and Le Mans addict felt like an
obvious recipe for success! And when James made it clear that his primary
motivation was to see as much of the practice and racing as possible - it was
music to my ears! We would in fact be joined on the Wednesday by a third
team member, Tony, who James had met a year or two earlier at Le Mans.
Tony was a friend of James' cousin Julie, who would also be arriving with her
husband Andrew at some point later in the week.
OK, so enough of
So my 2010 story
actually starts as I leave my sister's house near Portsmouth on the early
morning of Sunday 6th June. I'd agreed to rendezvous with James at the
ferry terminal at 7 am and my brother-in-law Colin kindly got up early and
chauffered me there. James arrived bang on time and after loading my bags
into his Toyota, we were soon off and booked into the line for the 8.30 fastcat
to Le Havre with LD Lines. Travelling only two-up was really useful, as it
meant that there was no shortage of baggage room in the car's large boot, so I
could bring along an extra bag devoted entirely to camera, video, radio and
other accessories. We were soon onto the boat facing a relatively quick
trip over to Le Havre. The boat was far from full and although there was
some evidence of Le Mans-bound travellers, clearly the vast hoards of Brits
would be leaving Blightly in a few days time.
Our exit from the ferry was swift following our arrival at about
12.45 French time. The beauty of it was that we had absolutely no need to
rush at all. We had a leisurely drive during which 'Doris' (James' satnav!)
took us 'off piste' for a number of miles through the beautiful French
countryside before aiming us back to the autoroute towards Le Mans. I
can't speak for James (as he was driving), but for me it was a blissfully
relaxing way to start a Le Mans trip and I kept reminding myself that I normally
wouldn't be leaving England for another four days.
It also goes to show that you don't have to drive at breakneck
speed all the time to get to places quickly. We arrived at our hotel not
far from St. Saturnin at about 3.15 but as we weren't able to access our rooms
immediately, we decided to hop back into the car and head into Le Mans to see
what was happening at scrutineering, brought forward to Sunday/Monday this year
instead of Monday/Tuesday (and hence our departure on Sunday instead of Monday
as originally planned). But when we got there at around 4 pm, it seemed
that the whole of France (and all of their family and friends) were packed into
the square - of course, it didn't help that the Peugeots were on display either!
After walking around the entire scrutineering area - which James
explained had been moved from the much larger area previously used - we came to
the conclusion that we just weren't going to be able to see anything worthwhile.
A good indication of our lack of success is the fact that I didn't take a single
photograph - with crowds at least 7-8 deep around the area in which the cars and
drivers were being displayed, there was no chance. After just 20 minutes,
we decided enough was enough and headed back to the car. After all, we had
the whole day here on Monday to enjoy.
And we were both pretty tired anyway after an early start that
morning. So it was back to the hotel to get into our rooms. They
were very nice, just right for one person with en suite loo and shower and TV.
I have to say that my first thought was that, compared to Le Cheval Blanc, I
wasn't really used to this level of luxury! With so much longer in France,
it was nice to be able to make an extremely comfortable camp, put away some of
my clothes and just chill out.
The need for food soon beckoned though and James and I decided to
hit the 'Buffalo Grill' for dinner. In all my years going to France, I've
never eaten in a Buffalo Grill - despite having passed hundreds of them on the
road - but I put that right in 2010! The food was perfectly good and the
beers we had with it extremely refreshing!
So, with day 1 out of the way and hoping for some good sleep
after an early night, I was really looking forward to the trip into Le Mans