So as 4 pm arrived, we went up the banking at the
ACO Espace Club to watch the cars come out on track for the first time. As
always, my camera was immediately into action but all was not entirely well.
Regular readers will remember that I had serious camera problems last year.
When I came home, I started investigating replacing both my camera and my zoom
lens. I had a stroke of serious good luck when fellow Ten Tenths member
Gordon Streeter managed to source me a Canon EOS 40D at an incredible price and
I was able to give it a good 'run out' at the Silverstone ILMC race in
September. But the problem I'd had at Le Mans persisted so I knew finally
(as I guess I had all along) that it was the lens that was at fault. At
this point I invested in a discounted 55-250IS lens. OK, hardly high end,
but just about within my limited budget! I tried it out a few times at my
son's inline hockey matches and all looked very good, but this week at Le Mans
was the first serious test for both camera and lens.
I'd taken a few shots before I noticed that each
one had what looked like a hairline on it. I cleaned off both the camera
mirror and the focusing screen and although I managed to dislodge said hair,
despite all my efforts, it just wouldn't go. Eventually after I took a
lens tissue to the camera innards, I finally got rid of the damned thing - I was
very relieved! You can see what I mean in those first shots - I've not
bothered to edit the 'hair' out....
After spending a while at this point we decided to
move on down the inside of the circuit at the back of the Esses (next to the
Bugatti circuit) and went under the tunnel and out to the outside of Tertre
Rouge. I didn't take all that many shots from here for the simple reason
that the fencing is so intrusive there to allow you to capture anything
spectacular - or even reasonable. I was actually itching to get over to
the inside of the circuit where I knew I would find a good vantage-point above
the fencing - but I also knew that this was a four-hour session, so there was no
rush at all and it was good anyway to be able to spend some time familiarising
myself with the cars I last saw in the town on Sunday and Monday.
We did eventually make that journey through the
tunnel and settled ourselves in up on the bank where I took hundreds of shots
plus plenty of video. I'd been determined to get some decent footage this
year, having got so little in 2011. We were joined briefly by two
Tenthers, Simmi (Rich) and Truckosaurus (Guy), both of whom would be joining us
at Audi for the first qualifying session in the evening.
Many, many photographs later the session ended at
8pm and it was incredible to think that we'd actually been watching the cars
already for longer than two full Grand Prix and yet it had seemed to fly by.
And in those four hours I'd taken 650 photographs. I think it was this
year that I finally shook off the old 'film' mentality and I was completely
comfortable with the practice of just leaving my finger on the shutter button as
I panned the cars around Tertre Rouge.
We now had two hours to kill before the first
qualifying session started at 10 pm and the first thing all of our minds turned
to was - food! We were starving and made our usual bee-line for the
eaterie down below the hillock at the bottom of the Esses where we all indulged
in that most quintessential of Le Mans circuit meals, the sandwich Americaine
merguez - a magnificent creation, a large baguette containing two super-spicy
merguez sausages and then stuff full on top with delicious frites! You
can't get to the bread or the sausage for at least 10 minutes as it takes all
that time to dig through the chips to find them! OK, possibly not the
healthiest of meals, but boy does it go down well when you're absolutely
Our meal whiled away a good half hour or more but
we were in no rush. We were due to rendezvous with Teresa from Audi at
9.45, so we eventually meandered back up the inside of the circuit and set off
through the Village in search of Audi's 'Fan' area.